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The ‘MIRE’ of Ghana’s Industrialization

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I ndustrialization is recognized as a shift from agriculture to manufacturing which is a key to development: hardly any country has developed without industrializing. This phenomenon has been so striking as to induce some economists to hypothesize that the manufacturing sector is the ‘engine of economic growth’. Development analysts have linked many developed countries to the boom in industrialization in those countries.

The emergence of manufacturing led to dramatic changes in the structure of the world economy and to sustained increases in the growth of labor productivity and economic welfare (Maddison, 2001 and Maddison, 2007). In fact, the industrial revolution started in Great Britain and the country became the technological leader in the world. It was the exemplar for other countries.

Manufacturing became the main engine of accelerating economic growth in the nineteenth century. In Ghana, there are still very strong proponents who believe industrialization still holds the key to the country’s development, even though many industries have collapsed after the reign of Ghana’s first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who believed in industrialization as the gateway way to economic development.

In recent times, various economic activities have influenced the crippling of many manufacturing firms in the country and as a result, the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has renewed its calls on the need to develop Ghana’s industrial sector, citing it as one sure way to address the numerous challenges confronting the economy.

According to the association, successive governments, have over the years done little to improve upon the industrial policies and initiatives instituted by the first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. President Mahama, at the 2016 State of the Nation Address on the floor of Parliament, on February 24, 2016, highlighted some government interventions to develop the private sector.

One key intervention is the establishment of an EXIM Bank to provide funding to exporting businesses. But the President of the AGI, James Asare Adjei reveals that the lack of clear-cut policy guidelines toward meeting the objective of improving economic growth was conspicuously missing.

“We had wanted to see specific action plans or initiatives which were either undertaken previously or to be undertaken to ensure that we achieve that level of industrialization that we are yearning for as a country.

But it looks like there were no clear cut action plans or detailed strategies which would really let us know that we are moving from point A to point B within this specified period of time and I think it is necessary for private sector growth”.

The AGI President in acknowledgement of the President’s effort to have given support to certain sectors of the economy– the pharmaceutical and the poultry, believes that some support could have been extended to other key sectors of the economy like the aluminum industry, textiles and of course agriculture which is the backbone of the economy.

He noted that, though certain areas of the economy were touched it was too narrow broadly spread and he felt that this should be expanded in the very short term.

James Asare Adjei, on the issue of manufacturing industry’s contribution to GDP, assented to the continuous decline the industry is experiencing and attributed it to the collapse of State Owned Enterprises.

Furthermore, he also noted that there are myriad of other problems that are contributing to the industry decline such as energy unavailability, high cost of credit, unavailability of market, technical challenges etc. which all counts to the bleak nature of the manufacturing industry in the short term.

Notwithstanding these challenges, he disclosed the opportunities that abound in the medium to long term by virtue of availability of raw materials in the country, the availability of skilled and cheaper human resource and the establishment of the Ghana Export and Import Bank stated by the President of the Republic in the State of the Nation address.

He also cautioned that for the manufacturing industry to gain its desired momentum, the government and populace must be able to curb the influx of cheap products penetrating into the country.

The Scope OF Ghana’s industrial Policy

Like any other country across the globe, Ghana also, has an industrial policy which has been instituted for about five years. The question that begs asking is: what is the scope of Ghana’s Industrial Policy? He explains “Ghana has an industrial policy which was launched in 2011 and was supposed to be implemented over a five-year period which will then create the enabling environment for businesses particularly industry and manufacturing to be robust.

There are about four thematic areas where the policy will enhance productivity– increase production particularly in the productive sectors of the economy, create market access, make funds available for local businesses to retool and expand.

There is also what is referred to as the private sector support program which is to be the rolling mechanism by which the industrialization policy will be implemented. It is also in the policy that there should be a one billion Ghana cedi fund set up to roll out the industrialization policy.

As we speak now, probably six years into its launch, we have not seen much activity targeted at implementing the policy. Although, certain areas of the Industrial Policy have been implemented, we have not seen a full roll out of the policy.

Let me also mention that, the policy gave birth to EDAIF which is meant to support companies that are into exports, and of course, there have been a number of streamlining which are all geared towards supporting the full implementation of the Ghana Industrial Policy.

If we had really seen that consistent roll out of the entire four thematic areas which will culminate into actually providing the needed conducive environment for industrialization, then we would have seen its effectiveness but at the moment, we cannot see its full effect on the Ghanaian economy.”

The Minimal impact of the Services Sector despite boost in growth

Current surveys suggest that Ghana is churning out about 200,000 graduates every year from all the tertiary institutions within the country. The bitter truth is that majority of them do not get jobs at least in the first two years after graduation and this has continuously generated heated debate among Ghanaians; educationists, employers and others.

The Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) for instance says that the country is sitting on a time bomb following the alarming unemployment rates. Some have also described the situation as a security threat to the economy.

But it appears little has been done by successive governments regarding the need to improve the industrial base which will ultimately reflect in other critical sectors like agriculture. Although the Services sector is seen to be booming, its impact is not sustainable as the needed channels for job creation are unavailable– the industries.

To make the services sector more viable, we need to develop the chains of production: agriculture – manufacturing – services. But in the absence of these processes, the boom in the service sector would be referred to as leap-frog investment approach. “I refer to the boom as leap frogging into services instead of going through the normal process of agricultural to industrialization or manufacturing then into service.

Now, what we have done is we have moved from agricultural-based economy straight into a service-based economy. Well, one will say once we are getting the level of growth or the employment creation in the service sector, there shouldn’t be any problem.

But the challenge is the service sector cannot create the needed employment.” He further observed, “Services account for about 52% of the GDP in the economy while Agric.

has also dropped drastically from over 50% to about 18% (which it is expected to be the backbone of the economy).

Such sort of reduction should have been complemented or traceable to the growth of the manufacturing industry but that is not really what is happening.

So, what we are looking forward to is a systematic and conscious effort to grow the Industrial base of the economy such that as our Agric. products are harvested, we will be able through processing, to add value and then also make sure that we can gain a lot more from our activities”.

Why the Boom in the Service sector and Decline in the industrial sector?

It is not far-fetched to notice the reason for the boom in the services sector as about 66% of tertiary intakes study humanities leaving just a handful of the remaining intake pursuing technical education to become the man power for the industries. It is noticed that the main cause of this decay is the education system which has lost its primary focus of positioning and training the right man power for the sector.

Also, job rewards and satisfaction have skewed towards the service sector as graduates within this sector in the shortest possible time take home huge returns as compared to their counterparts in the technical environment and as a result most of the youth are all desiring to venture into more appealing, comfortable and attractive job markets such as the service sector.

This issue needs to be carefully addressed to rebalance the career pursuit of the upcoming generation to curb the preferential selection of careers else a time will come when middle manager manpower for the industry will be no more and all products shall be import-dependent.

“I think that the government or the country should have a very consistent deliberate policy direction in trying to build technical competencies of our higher education that is why AGI was very much in support of government’s initiative in converting polytechnics into technical universities– that is probably a very high form of training for middle level man power”.

In converting the Polytechnics into Technical Universities, he cautions government not to convert all Polytechnics at once but should do them systematically and in stages and moreover, government should consider building capacities, both technical resource; by way of laboratory and equipment’s and also in human resource; in terms of lecturers who have industry experience.

Once all these things are in place, the institutions will run effectively and not be mere masquerades.

Strategic Positioning of Local Industries

In spite of all these challenges, local industries also face stiff competition from other competitors outside of the West African sub region as well as the global market. Recently, industries involved in the production of cement, rice, poultry among others have raised huge concerns at the impact of foreign companies who are exploiting the Ghanaian market as a result of ECOWAS or World Trade liberalization policies.

An example not far-fetched is Nigerian cement manufacturing firm, Dangote Cement which is giving local manufacturing firm such as Diamond cement a stiff competition both in the wholesale and retail space.

This, James Asare Adjei believes, is however surmountable if local manufacturers could hinge on some of the opportunities available to them as local industrialists; import substitution, efficient operations, synergistic decisions as well as bilateral trade conditions. According to him, “All is not lost. Hopefully, as we look beyond the challenges existing, we should be able to make some in-roads.”

He suggested that what industrialists needed to look out at was import substitution; if the raw materials can be gotten locally, there’ll be no need to import them. For that matter, if raw materials can be obtained locally, government should slap deterring tariffs on those who import such materials. Continuous use of the local raw materials, in fact, will enhance local content initiative.

Secondly, he informed that it is also very important that businesses needed to be efficient in their operations. He advised that where one found himself in a high cost environment, what is very important is efficiency of operation and then also being able to take advantage of economies of scale because the higher the production output the lower the cost and hence one can then compete effectively.

The third suggestion he proffered, is the synergistic approach where businesses can come together to perform bigger tasks together. He admonished that autonomous operations aren’t doing the industry players any good when they can capitalize on synergistic approaches such as jointventure, collaboration alliances etc. to form bigger alliances and fight the competition.

He acknowledged that Ghana holds that opportunity especially considering the country’s location. Lastly, he added, “Ghana and for that matter industries in the country, can take advantage of a lot of the bilateral and multilateral agreements that are available to the country.

For example, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which offers a huge market for Ghanaian products provided these products can meet the various quality requirements and standards. Also, there are ECOWAS protocols such as ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) being one of such instruments that Ghanaian industrialists can take advantage of.

So, all these schemes are available to us such that we can leverage on such opportunities for us to be able to grow our businesses.”

Empowering the SME sector for explosive growth

The industrial economy equally comprises Small and Medium Enterprises. It is acknowledged worldwide that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of economic development and industrial growth, solving the twin problems of unemployment and poverty. They are said to account for about 90 per cent of all the companies in the world.

SME’s cut across various sectors including the manufacturing, service and business enterprises among others. They also contribute immensely to innovations, productive employment including self-employment and optimum utilization of latent resources. They usually operate on a relatively small scale and as such, hire from as low as three persons to as high as about a hundred staff.

In Ghana, nonetheless, this sector plays its vital role as an important economic dispenser. SMEs in Ghana have also been noted to provide about 85 per cent of manufacturing employment, contribute about 70 per cent to Ghana’s GDP, and therefore have catalytic impacts on economic growth, income and employment. This reveals that if this sector is supported and well streamlined, it will grow phenomenally to become the engine of growth as expected. “The SMEs can really spur economic growth when given the necessary support.”

Aside being important sources of employment and income in the country, SMEs with their flexible nature have a better adaptability to changing market conditions, making them better suited to withstand cyclical downturns.

Challenging business climate for SMEs

Despite their immense contribution to the economy, SMEs are faced with some challenges which impede their ability to record the impressive performances expected of them as players of Ghana’s economic development. Key among these challenges is the high interest rates. This has and continues to be the bane of quite a number of SMEs.

Not only are they unable to access credit, but the huge interest is equally a “turnaway” for them. The worst “culprits” of the high interests are definitely not commercial or traditional banks but the Microfinance industries that promise unrealistic interests on deposits and yet slap customers with high compound interests on credit they offer.

Also, the volatility of the cedi for a greater part of 2014 through to 2015 impacted adversely on operations of most SMEs. This was evident as cost of imported raw materials for instance went up making it difficult to plan and prepare for the growth of one’s business.

“I think the challenges faced by the SMEs are no different from what other businesses are facing. SMEs are very vulnerable and for that matter are unable to really stand the shocks of economic turmoil.

They also cannot stand the shock of depreciation because as an SME, it is impossible to access bank hedge for your transactions and as a result may have to contend with the challenges of unpredictable currency. So anytime there’s depreciation, especially those SMEs whose activities are import based, they lose a lot”.

He also added that SMEs faced the challenge of succession planning such that if the owner ‘manager’ is not there that becomes the end of the business. Solving these issues will definitely require commitment from both government and the business or industry players.

While the commercial banks or financial houses ought to diversify their portfolios to ensure easy, hustle free access to loan by SMEs, the government should also revise its taxation regime and allow for incentives such as Free Zone Board, operating duty free ports, as well as reducing the bottlenecks in the clearing processes.

Potentials of the SME Sector

The SME sector of the economy holds a huge potential for the economy. Currently, studies show that this sector contributes about 22% or more of the total employment in the economy. Countries like India and China have a well-developed SME sector and as a result that sector generates massive job opportunities for its populace.

“Well the SMEs hold a huge potential for the economy as they account for about 92% of the entire economy of businesses in the country and studies show that SMEs contribute to about 22% or more of the total employment in the economy and that is huge. So, if we can nurture SMEs and support them, they are going to be phenomenal and then really be growth oriented.” Mr.

Asare Adjei in acknowledging the huge potential the SME sector possesses proposed that the support that should be extended to this sector shouldn’t be skewed to only finances but also technical to aid them acquire the right governance structure, develop a good succession plan and resource prudency planning to enable them grow into bigger corporations.

Achieving the industrial goal… way forward!

Industrialization is a core function of development and must be the priority of any government. It may appear that the battle is not yet over in attaining an industry driven economy as Ghana traps itself in another wavering sector that is tagged: the Dutch disease– where its current development is hinged on the oil and gas discovery. This may be another regrettable strategy to developing the economy.

To reconnect to industrialization, there should be a deliberate and concerted effort on the part of the government to support the manufacturing sector to grow. The respective roles of the government, relevant institutions, business organizations etc. should be brought to bear in achieving this feat.

Role of Association of Ghana Industries…

This private sector advocacy group made up of over 23 sectors plays a strategic role by connecting prospective investors to entrepreneurs and business opportunities in Ghana.

Being in existence for about 58 years, the AGI has and continues to provide technical and financial support to its members to spur economic growth. “The AGI has developed a strategic plan over a 5 year period, 2016-2020, such that we will look at key thematic areas of the economy trying to link up with international institutions, to make sure we strengthen our advocacy drive and create development in terms of solving some of the problems we are experiencing.”

In addressing issues of funding for its members particularly those in the manufacturing sector, the Association is setting up an Industrial Development Bank which will provide access to credit at very concessionary rates of not above 10%.

Nonetheless, AGI says it intends to roll out programs it refers to as “competency based institutions” which aims at bringing industry close to academia so that graduates will not be found wanting upon completing their education.

Role of government on industrialization

Although, we practice a democratic system where governments are changed every four or eight years (depending on the number of times being re-elected into government), industry growth cannot be an area that can be compromised.

Every government in power should focus on industrialization by making industry development a priority on its agenda such that it can be able to select champions in the economy, look at key sectors in the economy and support and grow the economy. James Asare Adjei believes that for industrialization to kick in, the input of the government plays an important role.

He considers the government to play the lead role in providing the needed mechanisms for industrialization to private players. Moreover, he desires government to focus on a plan that tackles each sector per time to provide adequate maximization of resources. For example, Malaysia focused on oil palm and we can testify to that.

We have economies like Ivory Coast focusing on cocoa and coffee and they are doing marvelously well. At the moment, they are doing soya beans and they are making a lot of in roads. “So, what are we focusing on? The government needs to focus on key industrial sectors and grow them and I think as we do that we will have a resilient economy.”

Opportunities for existing businesses and budding entrepreneurs

The cedi volatility, high cost of credit, among other pertinent challenges, may be opportunities for enterprises to take advantage of and realize their full potential.

These could involve resorting to the stock market to raise equity or equally visit the alternative stock market where businesses can list and be able to raise interest free capital. For the youth and new entrants, “The worse risk you can take is to take no risk at all… There are a lot of funds available for youth empowerment that they can tap into and start something on their own.

They should not be too much fixated into getting the non-existent jobs but be able to create something and then be proud to be an employer through the efforts of their ingenuity.”

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Business Interview

Expertise and investment– grounds for the “year Of return, Ghana 2019”

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Since the abolishment of slavery in 1833, descendants of Africans, who were uprooted from the continent and forced in labour on sugar and cotton plantains, in Europe, North America, the Caribbean and South America have traced their roots back to the continent.

Two African countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone, were actual destinations for ex-slaves from the Americas who wished to come back home to the continent as well as people rescued by the British Navy from slave ships en route to the Americas. 

Today, there are millions of African descendants who have made Europe, North America, the Caribbean and South America their home. Despite that, most of them still seek their roots on the African continent and are becoming more and more aware of their status as members of the African diaspora.

A significant part of the diaspora are also people who emigrated to North America and Europe seeking better lives and education as a result of conflict, poverty, lack of economic activity and political instability. These are emigrants who also do return or seek a return back to their homeland.

Various Governments’ call on the Diaspora

Several presidents of Ghana, from the days of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, a returnee himself who led the fight for independence, have tried to lure the members of the diaspora back to the continent and Ghana. In his maiden independence address, then–Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah sought to frame Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world coming back to Africa.

“Nkrumah saw the American Negro as the vanguard of the African people,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research at Harvard, who first travelled to Ghana when he was 20 and fresh out of Harvard, afire with Nkrumah’s spirit. “He wanted to be able to utilize the services and skills of African-Americans as Ghana made the transition from colonialism to independence.”

Even long before the attainment of independence and Gold Coast becoming Ghana, the political leaders of the Gold Coast reached out to the African Diaspora. There are letters from people like Casely Hayford, who was a major political leader in the 1910s and 1920s, to W.E.B DuBois and to Marcus Garvey.

But for a couple of decades now each president of Ghana has introduced a series of aggressive moves to bring their growing population of the diaspora back home. Even though these moves have been well planned, success has been mixed at best.

In 2000, when John Agyekum Kufuor became the President of the country, he appealed to the members of the diaspora to come back home to help develop the country. Also in 2000, the Parliament of Ghana passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they so desire.

That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”

At the time, Ghana has undertaken the first transfer of power from one civilian government to another with the ruling party also changing. That significant move positioned Ghana as the beacon of democracy on a continent that was ravaged by wars, poverty, economic paralysis, corruption and mismanagement at the highest levels.

The push to bring back Africans in the diaspora yielded some positives. Some Ghanaians in the diaspora did come home and helped the government undertake and establish some critical governmental and economic institutions.

A quick mention can be made about Nana Osei Bonsu, the current CEO of the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF) who came back to Ghana at the urging of President Kufuor. His expertise was leveraged to create the Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF), the first public sector led private equity/venture capital fund in the country.

Also, Rita Marley, the wife of Reggae Legend, Bob Marley, relocated to Ghana and is currently staying in the country. There are also recorded settlements of people from the Caribbean who now reside in Cape Coast in the Central Region and even as far as Techiman, in the newly created Bono East Region.

Then in 2007, the Joseph Project, which was led by the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey when he was the Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, was launched to mark the 50th year of independence, and to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery and to encourage Africans abroad to return.

Similar to Israel’s policy of reaching out to Jews across Europe and beyond following the Holocaust, the Joseph Project is named for the Biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt but would later reunite with his family and rule Egypt. It was seen as a medium to bring together, more closely, people in Ghana and brothers and sisters in the diaspora and establish Ghana as the true gateway to the homeland for Africans in the diaspora.

Since then various presidents have used other means to bring back diasporans back home. President John Dramani Mahama and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current president, have granted citizenship to members of the Caribbean community in the country. The current majority owners of Republic Bank come from Trinidad and Tobago, a Carribean country.

These moves are seen as measures to attract more of such personalities and institutions to help contribute significantly to economic growth and development.

Ghana sets the stage for The Year of Return

In September, 2018, when President Akufo-Addo was in the United States, he proclaimed 2019 as the ‘Year of Return’. Officially titled ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’, the proclamation was read at a ceremony at the United States National Press Club in Washington DC to formally launch a program of activities marking the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans from Jamestown, Accra to Jamestown, Virginia in English North America in 1619.

But before that in 2013 the United Nations declared 2015–2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent to “promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent.” The theme for the ten-year celebration is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

The ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ has therefore coincided with the biennial Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest), which is held in Cape Coast, home of Cape Coast Castle and neighboring Elmina Castle—two notable edifices recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as World Heritage Sites of the slave era.   

The launch, attended by the cream of African American community, including members of the United States Congress, civil rights groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), black clergymen and the business community, was organized by the Ghana Tourism Authority, under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Office of Diasporan Affairs at the Office of the President, the PANAFEST Foundation and the Adinkra Group, an event group based in the US.

The Proclamation recognizes Ghana’s unique position as the location for 75 percent of the slave dungeons built on the west coast of Africa and the current President’s policy making it a national priority to extend a hand of welcome back home to Africans in the diaspora.

As well as taking note of the fact that “Ghana has more African Americans living in the country than any other African country,” the proclamation also expressed happiness about Ghana’s Right of Abode immigration law that grants freedom to persons with this right “to live and to come and go into and from the country without let or hindrance”. 

Another factor influencing the Proclamation is the 115th US Congress Resolution (HR 1242) establishing the 400 Years African American History Commission to commemorate the anniversary.

Speaking at the launch, President Akufo-Addo recalled Ghana’s early Pan African leadership role and pledged that “under my leadership, Ghana will continue to ensure that our hard won Pan African reputation is not lost. Making Ghana the focus of activities to commemorate the landing of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies in North America is, therefore, a huge opportunity to entrench Ghana’s leadership.”

“In the year 2019, we open our arms even wider to welcome home our brothers and sisters in what will become a birthright journey home for the global African family,” he said.

The President eulogized the role played by the late Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, who, as Tourism Minister in the Kufuor administration, launched the ‘Joseph Project’, symbolizing an arm of brotherhood inviting back home, descendants of Africans who were enslaved and, therefore, find themselves in North, Central and South America.

Mentioning the late minister’s wish to see the ‘Right of Abode’ immigration program become law and his (Jake’s) determination to grant easy visas to Africans in the diaspora, the President declared: “I pledge the determination of my government to grant these wishes.”

Mission of the new Diaspora Affairs in the wake of events

In an exclusive interview with Akwasi Awua Ababio, the Director of Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President (DAOOP), he noted that the Year of Return seeks to make Ghana the focus for millions of African descendants reacting to their marginalization by tracing their ancestry and identity. By this, he said, Ghana becomes the beacon for African people living on the continent and the diaspora.

“Ghanaians in the Diaspora, serve in building bridges between their country of residence and Ghana by providing market access, sources of expertise, knowledge,” he said, adding that the objective behind establishing the office at the Presidency, emphasizes the importance the government places on the contributions Ghanaians in the Diaspora make to the economy.

Established in February 2017, the Diaspora Affairs office’s mission is to efficiently harness, mobilize, and steer Ghanaian resources in the diaspora for political inclusion, economic and socio-cultural development. “Our mission is achieved through a multi-stakeholder coordination approach, involving government ministries, Ghanaian associations abroad, the private sector, non-profit organizations and international organizations,” he added.

With decades of experience working in the diaspora himself, Mr. Ababio, alongside his colleagues who in total have more than 50 years’ experience in the diaspora, is expected to leverage his expertise to oversee the strategic use of a comprehensive database for diaspora resource mobilization and utilization.

He added that this government has appointed more diasporans to strategic government institutions including regulatory authorities, public companies, ministerial positions, agencies and committees than any other. In business, he noted that hundreds of diasporans are coming back home to set up businesses or take strategic positions in existing businesses and seeking to take these businesses further.

“We are gradually importing the attitudinal changes we have experienced in the diaspora here so that people will change their ways. Most diasporans who have returned are already impacting the small communities in which they live. For those who lived well-organized lives in structured and clean environments, they are doing same here and their neighbours, who are indigenes are following suit,” he said.

Stressing his commitment to the cause, he assured that Ghana fully engages the diaspora and leverages the pool of talents and investment potential for the development of the country while employing policies and comprehensive strategies that will exponentially grow Ghana’s diaspora remittances beyond the currently stated US$3billion.

He pointed out that the office has reviewed the old Diaspora Engagement Policy, and transformed it into a comprehensive document which is currently being reviewed by stakeholders such as diasporan associations in the UK, USA, Europe and other parts of the world, missions and trade unions. The policy document, he said, was aimed at encouraging Ghanaians in the diaspora to bring their technical skills, money and investment opportunities back home to complement growth and development.

“The policy document covers all aspects and concerns by diasporans and will become the guiding principle and the policy that every government will work with relative to diasporans affiliated to Ghana. This document will harness the potential out there as willed, therefore, take this nation forward,” he added.

Stressing government’s recognition of the contributions of Ghanaians in the diaspora, he pointed out that having this policy document is a major shift in the approach to the members of the diaspora. “This time, we are changing a lot of things. Almost every initiative we are undertaking this year in respect of the Year of Return is going to be institutionalized and held either yearly or every two years. For instance, the Homecoming Festival will be held every two years even after 2019.”

Since the launch of the Year of Return, Mr. Ababio added that his office has received well over 100 proposals from individuals and corporate organisations to organize events around the Year of Return. “This means there is a bigger impact we are looking at here when it comes to tourism and business development. Since the announcement by the president, hotels have seen significant bookings with a lot of people coming to Ghana,” he averred.

Impact of The 2019 Homecoming Summit

In July, the Diaspora Affairs office organised Diaspora Celebration and Homecoming Summit to lure investors who will help the state realise the Ghana Beyond Aid vision. Mr. Ababio shared his optimism about the enormous impact the celebration and summit would have on the country’s GDP.

With more than US$3billion remitted to Ghana annually from around the world, Mr. Ababio noted that government intends to reduce the cost of remittances by some 9 percent in the coming years so as to attract more remittances from abroad to fuel economic growth.

The global average cost of sending US$200 remained high, at around 7percent in the first quarter of 2019, according to the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide database. Reducing remittance costs to 3 percent by 2030 is a global target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.7.

He explained that government is working with the African Development Bank and the World Bank to craft measures to make the cost of remittances cheaper for Ghanaians abroad. “When the figure comes down we believe it will encourage more remittances. We want it to come down by 8 to 9 percent. The World Bank, however, have a rate they are working with,” Mr. Awuah-Ababio stated.

The four-day event recognized and celebrated the immense contributions to nation building by the Ghanaian Diaspora. It also highlighted past contributions but focused on present contributions as well, whiles furthering the advocacy for political, economic, and all other systems and policies that would facilitate future contributions by the diaspora.

“This event addressed how economically, we could take advantage of people from the diaspora. A gentleman who attended the meeting approached me afterwards to discuss how to establish a medical facility in Ghana. His dad worked decades as a medical doctor in Europe. This is an example of someone taking advantage.

“When we talk about the diaspora, we are talking about people who can help us move Ghana Beyond Aid. Just look at how much they remit annually. We even have young people who do not remit money but have ideas that can help transform the economy based on their experiences living outside Ghana,” he stressed.

He assured that Ghana has prepared the grounds well enough for the diaspora to come in and make the most of the opportunities here. “We know the diaspora can be helpful because we cannot continue to depend on aid. This year’s PANAFEST comes with an investment forum to attract investors,” he revealed.

Strategic Partnerships to champion the course

The Diaspora Affairs office has formed crucial partnership with other state institutions, regional, district and local assembly institutions, Ghanaian associations abroad, international organisations and NGOs to promote the interest of Ghanaians in the diaspora, explore more meaningful ways the diaspora could contribute to Ghana’s socio-economic development and creating awareness about the negative effects of irregular migration.

Mr. Ababio explained that there is a steering committee that coordinates all activities in relation to the diaspora. This steering committee has him as head or chairperson and well represented by the private sector, tour and tourism representation, CSOs, diasporans and others.

“This committee brings people into meetings for purposes of organising events and summits. Then there is an operational committee which has all government representatives including ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Tourism, Finance and others. This is for purposes of engagement and organisation,” he detailed.

Due to the extensive nature of operations which take planning to the local level, assembly men and women and chiefs are all engaged. “During PANAFEST, we got the active participation of the Chief of Assin Manso. In Cape Coast, the Chief is a key consultant in making sure PANAFEST was a success,” he noted.

World’s traffic soon to be directed to Ghana

Apart from the huge numbers who will be coming through the various entry point, the countless activities will generate significant jobs and revenues for the people of Ghana. “For example, the global pageant, Miss Heritage, was switched to Ghana as host country due to the Year of Return activities. What we want to do is direct the world’s traffic to Ghana so that our black family will have the rebirth and reconnection with the motherland,” he concluded.

In the upcoming months, various events shall be holding to continue The Year of Return celebration and so everyone can join in the festivities after carefully identifying which of the events suit their time.

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