Why are many Ghanaians in the Diaspora?

Fri, 30 Dec 2011 Source: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

28TH December 2011


It is often said that now we live in a global village, and home is wherever you find solace and you can ply your trade to make ends meet. A cursory and perfunctory look at migrations around the world, will inform you that in the past, many Irish, English, Italians and Greeks emigrated in droves to the US. In my native Ghana, in the 50s, 60s and 70s, we could find many foreigners in our midst, notably Nigerians, Lebanese and Syrians. Matters in Ghana came to a head when a series of coup d’états spelt doom for many people, starting with the coup of 1966 which ousted our first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. In 1972, we had Gen Acheampong’s coup to be followed by the palace coup of 1978 which saw Gen Akuffo in power briefly, only to be replaced in June 1979 by J.J. Rawlings’ bloody coup. Then again there was the December 31st 1981 coup which ousted Dr Hilla Liman, a democratically elected leader. All these coups brought political and social trauma, mayhem and instability to our country, Ghana, hence the exodus of many Ghanaian professionals, fleeing to seek the Golden Fleece and greener pastures outside the shores of the once Gold Coast, now Ghana. Currently, there is no place on earth where you will not find Ghanaians, be they doctors, engineers, professors, nurses, teachers, taxi drivers, prostitutes, you name it. The favorite destinations of Ghanaians are UK, USA, Germany, Australia, Holland and within Africa, Nigeria, Libya and South Africa. I think it is high time our government conducted a census of Ghanaians in the Diaspora to quantify the amount of human capital we have locked up outside there. I am aware of our embassies trying to build a database of nationals wherever they are found. But then, some Ghanaians get lost in transit and they change their identities and nationalities. Some feign foreign accents and speak gibberish, with fanny dressing, and mannerisms. Yet, their physiognomy glaringly gives them away. I was astonished to hear that there are Ghanaian taxi drivers and waiters in Iceland and prostitutes in the Andes in the deep hinterland of Brazil.

Reasons why Ghanaians are in the Diaspora

1. Ostensibly, many undergraduates went out to pursue post-graduate studies as our universities in the late 70s became haunts of police and military assault and brutality. Besides, some of our lecturers and professors were mean and harsh, always putting down bright students. So many undergraduates vowed to go out to do post-graduate studies as the negative attitude of some lecturers put them off.

2. The extended family system puts a lot of pressure on young workers who find out that their earnings in Ghana cannot meet the unbridled demands from their immediate and remote family members. Hence, the only alternative is to join the exodus bandwagon.

3. Many young men, some of them with the barest of education, venture out to seek adventures, travelling like Marco Polo who journeyed to China in 1272 to the court of Kublai Khan to bring silk and spices to Italy.

4. Many Ghanaian girls are lured by unscrupulous human traffickers who entice them with stories of the Eldorado and eventually land them in harems and prostitution in foreign lands.

5. There are many Ghanaians who have acquired foreign tastes so much so that when inflation made it difficult for them to obtain their needs, they decided to vote with their feet to exit the Ogyakrom (Fire Town) poverty syndrome.

6. The explosion of the information super highway, ICT facilities such as the internet and cell phone, has drastically improved connectivity, networking and interaction between Ghanaians and outsiders.

7. Some Ghanaians went outside to seek political asylum, especially during the late 70s and throughout the 80s, when the military were in power. Some Ghanaians even claimed they were being persecuted for their religion and they forged newspaper cuttings to buttress their case.

8. It is fashionable among some known tribes that if one family member gets outside, he or she should move heaven and earth to bring over other family members, whether they are viable or not.

9. There are many pull (centripetal) and push (centrifugal) forces connected with Ghanaians in the Diaspora. One of them is the extent of corruption in our governmental agencies which puts off many an honest worker. Besides, there is a lot of tribalism, nepotism and homeboyism at many workplaces throughout Ghana such that many frustrated graduates see no fairness of effort and they parachute out into the Diaspora where they expect fair treatment. To their chagrin and consternation, they encounter a lot of racial bigotry and discrimination and they are caught between two stools, whether to return to Ghana or continue their sojourn abroad and endure the harsh and bitter winters, alien cultures and the hidden racism. I remember in 1977, there were severe droughts and food shortages in Ghana, which recurred in 1983, hence the terminology, Rawlings Chain, referring to many famished Ghanaians having their neck bones being quite pronounced and visible because of starvation.

10. The mad craze of materialism in Ghana whereby people show off their cars, clothes and mansions, drove many a guy to lunge into the Diaspora, some without any calculated plan. In those halcyon days of Agege (Nigeria) exodus, many returnees came home with a lot of gadgets to show off to their relatives and friends, who became convinced that the streets of Lagos and Abuja were paved with gold.

11. Many Ghanaians lack entrepreneurial skills, despite their sound educational qualifications. They only look for white collar jobs in the formal sector, which unfortunately cannot absorb the over supply of Ghanaian graduates. Thus the supply was far in excess of demand. Hence, the high levels of unemployment in Ghana forced many frustrated graduates to venture into the Diaspora.

12. There have been instances of engineers and economists finding jobs only in the classrooms as teachers in the classroom. What a sheer waste and misallocation of resources!

13. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, practisng of witchcraft, and inheritance or succession issues, such as being enstooled as a chief, are some of the cultural issues which have made some Ghanaians go into the Diaspora.

14. Many other Ghanaians in the Diaspora cannot come back to Ghana because they have no legal papers of residence where they are, and once they get on the plane, they cannot go back where they emplaned, or at the airport, they will be arrested for illegal stay or overstaying their welcome.

15. Some Ghanaians have been abused, exploited and short-changed and they have not been paid what is due them so they are stranded economically and financially. There are others on mortgage who have bought houses and paying for them through the nose.

16. Some Ghanaians are fugitives of the law in Ghana as they committed offences like treason, arson, libel, sedition, embezzlement, murder, drug trafficking, rape among others.

17. Others in the Diaspora have entangled themselves with foreign wives or they have sought foreign citizenship and acquired many rights such as pension, properties and voting rights. These have integrated wherever they are.

18. There are those whose children are enjoying the better educational facilities outside there in Canada, Finland, Sweden, Australia, South Korea, Japan, USA and UK and who think that they will only come to Ghana when their children are through school. But then, will the children agree to follow mum and dad home?

19. Many Ghanaians in the Diaspora who visit home frequently are put off by the noise, filth, traffic jam, heat, poverty, poor service delivery, corruption, incompetence and the sophomoric braggadocio, petulance and penchant of the Ghanaian for virulent and vituperative altercations.

20. Some relatives in the past received remittances for putting up buildings for Diasporeans which they squandered in an act of blue murder. Thus, some Ghanaians have vowed not to come home to roost as they have shown a clean pair of heals, fleeing from their own kith and kin who did not keep the faith.

21. It is believed that some diasporeans have been cursed or bewitched by their relatives not to return home so that they alone can enjoy the family heirloom or inheritance.


1. The Ghanaian Government should come up with a masterplan on how to accommodate our graduates who are coming out of our universities, polytechnics and tertiary institutions.

2. Government should work through the International Office of Migration (IOM) and other donor agencies such as USAID, JICA, DFID, SNV and NORAD to locate Ghanaian expatriates outside and help to relocate them to Ghana to help with nation building.

3. Ghanaians abroad should be bold to take the initiative and challenge themselves to go home for good. East, west, home is best.

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

Cell: +260979516604

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Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta