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The race to the flagstaff house: The State of the Ghanaian Economy

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The countdown to the polls on December 7 has begun in earnest. Presidential hopefuls are travelling the length and breadth of the country canvassing for votes. These tours have been characterized by numerous promises, some pretty outlandish. Labor agitations are on the ascendancy, as one worker group after another make all sorts of requests on government.

Will the country’s economic underpinnings be able to support these worker groups’ requests, and which finances amidst mounting debt stock, would fund the numerous promises being hurled on electorates? In an interview with the Director of one of Ghana’s foremost research organizations, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) based at the University of Ghana, Professor Felix Ankomah Asante, dissected the critical issues surrounding Ghana’s economic growth.

The Waning Agric. Sector

It appears that Sub-Saharan countries are directly replacing agriculture with services as the largest economic sector without passing through the intermediate phase of industrialization and an expanding manufacturing sector, the experience of almost all successful economies. Moreover, a large part of the services sector in many Sub-Saharan countries consists of lowtechnology and low-value activities.

These trends are of great concern, since manufacturing has historically been the main source of technological learning. This trajectory has also played out in Ghana, where the Services and Industry sectors have outstripped the Agric. sector in recent years.

Commenting on this trend, Professor Asante asserts, that “governments must find a way of improving how Agric. is done in the country” if we intend to improve the lot of farmers. He bemoaned the low standard of living amongst peasant farmers, who form the bulwark of food supply in the country.

He warns, that the entire country’s food security is predicated on the goodwill of peasant farmers. He notes, that the labor force coupled with the purported investments by government into the sector, is not commensurate with the output.

Comparing Ghana to developed nations, he points out the absence of incentives to farmers, undermining the commercial drive and mindset that is required within the sector.

Diversifying the Economy

The recurring chorus in Ghana is that the country remains too susceptible to price cycles of specific raw materials on the international economy. Sadly, this chorus is hundred years old and has lived with colonial and all modern governments.

The call for diversification of our economy has been made by many Economists, as an avenue for the country to explore new market opportunities and to wean itself of the sole-dependency on traditional exports such as cocoa. The fact that as much as 83 per cent of all Ghana’s exports come from only three sectors– gold, cocoa and bauxite – which happen to be commodities with volatile prices on the world market.

A diversified export base can minimize volatility in foreign exchange earnings, which for small, open developing economies allows access to capital, technology, and critical intermediate inputs. For many African countries exports are concentrated in a narrow range of primary products that has remained much the same over the past 40 years.

The top five export commodities account for about 70% of merchandise exports in SubSaharan countries. Oil-driven economies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, among others, are making frantic efforts to strategically focus their attention on economic diversification.

The diversification agenda in principle is much supported. However, the approach is not strategic, as the Non Traditional Exports (NTEs) are made up of so many products.

“Where is our comparative advantage? Which agric. product should be prioritized?” Professor Asante questioned and also suggested that all these have to be supported by evidence-based research. Though, Professor Asante concurs with the rationale to diversify Ghana’s economy, he however notes, the approach being adopted via focusing on non-traditional exports (NTEs) is not very strategic.

A cursory look at the country’s NTEs reveals several products, which he feels fails to leverage the comparative advantage of the country. He contends that the country focuses on a few products, informed by empirical research.

This strategic focus, he continues, “will deepen the country’s competencies and expertise in relations to those products. This may even lead to agric-based services, where Ghanaian experts with the NTE sector are exported into other countries”.

The Enterprise Map of Ghana, which examines Ghana’s growth poles, exports contributors and profiles all major industrial concerns that contribute to the majority of Ghana’s exports, recommend that the country can only sustain its current growth rate of above 10 per cent for the next 10 years, unless it makes significant turnarounds in its policy environment.

This policy must enable local companies to integrate to the international supply chains and companies should continue to run their affairs properly. The country should use the cocoa, mining and now oil and gas sectors as growth poles to diversify the economy. This should have linkages with the rest of the economy and spur growth in other sectors and engender the springing up of several businesses, mostly indigenous.

Several countries had walked that path successfully including China, India, who integrated their manufacturing sector into the international value chain and “piggy-back on those to give international exposure to local exports.” Government through the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) set an ambitious goal under the National Export Strategy in 2013 to achieve a $5 billion target from non-traditional exports (NTEs) by the year 2019. According to GEPA, exports of non-traditional products from January to December 2015 amounted to $2.5 billion, representing an increase of 0.32% over the year 2014.

The figure represents just over half of the $5 billion target. The statistics indicate that the marginal increase in revenue from $2.5 billion in 2014 to $2.522b in 2015, was mainly due to increase in agricultural products exports, particularly cashew nuts.

Total earnings of the sector stem from three sub-sectors – agriculture, handicraft, and processed and semi-processed products like canned tuna, cocoa paste, shea oil, among others.

New revenue streams, more growth?

The next government will coincide with two new oil fields coming on stream, TEN and Sankofa fields. It is been estimated that these new fields will lead to an economic boom next year, as revenues pour in from the oil, and the gas is used to fuel the country’s power plants.

The ISSER boss, however, feels the impact on the economy will not be as high as experienced in 2011, “because the basic infrastructure for the oil and gas sector are already in place”. The TEN fields started producing its first oil in August this year, 2016. This milestone was achieved on time and on budget, three years after the plan of development was approved by government in May 2013.

The TEN project, which begins at a time Parliament has passed the Exploration and Petroleum Bill into law to streamline operations in the oil and gas sector, adds on to the Jubilee oilfield which began commercial production of oil in 2010.

The field is expected to produce about 300 million barrels of oil equivalent over its lifetime (approximately 20 years), 80 per cent of which is oil and 20 per cent gas.

Average annualized production in 2016 will be roughly 23,000 barrels of oil per day, with full production at 80,000 barrels of oil per day. Associated gas production at TEN is expected to be re-injected into the Ntomme reservoir gas cap until gas export begins. Gas export was planned to commence 12 months after field start up, with the Tweneboa gas reservoir coming on stream a further 12 months later.

However, plans to accelerate gas export are currently under evaluation as the fabrication of the gas export facilities has been completed early and can be installed by year end, allowing connection to the existing gas infrastructure early in 2017.

The TEN fields will drive economic growth in Ghana through the marketing of our crude oil and boosting gas supply to generate power for industrial and domestic use.

The fact that the TEN project has come on-stream, just six years after the jubilee field goes a long way to demonstrate GNPC’s commitment to ensuring that Ghana benefits from its oil and gas resources’ The country’s Sankofa-Gye Nyame field is on track to deliver first oil in August 2017 and first gas in February 2018 to augment thermal power generation that will ensure sustainable electricity production.

The Sankofa project is expected to deliver an additional 30,000 barrels per day of oil and 180 million cubic feet per day of gas to Ghana. Gas from the project is expected to help generate 1,100 MW of additional electricity and once on stream, it will produce enough gas to increase the country’s electricity supply by 50%. The US$7.9 billion ENI led project represents the largest-ever foreign direct investment into Ghana.

The World Bank put in place US$700 million worth of backstop guarantees for the project in August 2015. This was comprised of a US$500 million guarantee, supporting timely payments for gas purchases by Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), allied to a loan guarantee of US$200 million, allowing the project to secure financing from its private supporters.

Professor Asante advocates for the efficient spending of the revenues that will accrue from the new oil fields. He cites the thin spread of the revenues from the Jubilee field, as a cautionary example. His assertion is buttressed by expenditure analyses conducted from the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) as well as other civil society organizations.

Ghana has earned $3 billion from oil since the beginning of commercial production in April 2011. $1.2 billion of this amount was used to fund projects outlined in the budget. However, despite the prioritization of four critical areas, petroleum revenues has been spent on capacity building activities with donations to MUSIGA, and other contentious expenditure like the mass bus branding.

Prioritize oil revenues into Agric. sector

Professor Asante asserts that we need to invest massively in Agriculture, as the country has enormous comparative advantage as well as the large labour force in that sector.

He continued that, “the much talked about industrial economy requires an agrarian backbone to provide inputs”. Despite modernization of agriculture is a priority area under the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), the sector is still characterized by rainfall dependency and the predominant usage equipment of cutlasses and hoes.

Revenue expenditure within the sector has been largely inefficient. For instance, in 2014, GH¢170.62 million in oil revenues was designated for modernization of agriculture and 70 per cent of that was spent on construction of coastal defenses for fishing communities and construction and rehabilitation of irrigation dams. GH¢118.38 million of the allocated amount went into construction of sea defense walls in four fishing communities.

This nature of spending in agriculture modernization comes at a time when growth of Ghana’s services sector has outstripped agriculture and when agricultural productivity in Africa, is reported to still be lower than other world regions.

Democratic Rule, Manifestos and NDPC’s 40-year plan

Professor Asante notes that our democratic era since 1992 has been crucial to our economic development. Though he concedes that democracy is expensive, in terms of finances expended on different arms of government and the sometimes slow pace of decision.

He personally advocates for a “governance arrangement tinged with a little dictatorship”, though he doubts such a system would ever be practiced in the country. Regarding the brouhaha about political parties releasing their manifestos to inform the decisions of electorates come December 7, 2016, he offered a different opinion.

He notes that, “in nations where longterm development plans exists, manifestos merely offer tactical or operational plans to achieve the national goals therein”. He continued that “the overarching goal should be the quality of life”. This underpins all the critical needs of a people– education, health, jobs, shelter, food, etc.

Thus, he opines that “in the race to the flagstaff house, political aspirants need not promise to do anything outlandish, but rather focus on improving the quality of life of the people”.

It is that regard that Professor Asante agrees in principle with the National Development Planning Commission’s quest to design a 40- year strategic plan. He notes, “the final document should be concise and brief, and all governments must be compelled to operationalize their manifestos in alignment with the strategic plan”. He states that a “country’s developmental strategy/plan should go on irrespective of political ideologies”.

Fifth Eurobond & IMF Program

The government during the first week of August 2016 put on hold issuing a fifth Eurobond till the market conditions were right. The government stated it would continue to build on its dialog with international investors while monitoring the markets and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Board process with respect to the third review of the program and will issue new notes at the optimal time and the right conditions.

Despite receiving positive feedback from investors on the ongoing fiscal consolidation process Ghana was unable to convince investors to dish out cash at a rate lower than 10.75 percent obtained in the last Eurobond.

The international media reported that investors rejected the bond because of the deteriorating Ghanaian economy. They also cited government’s unrestrained election year spending for the rejection.

Professor Asante believes Ghana’s historical data and government expenditure patterns during previous election years underpin the fears of these international investors. He continues, “the constant labor agitations and the political expediency in sometimes executing infrastructural activities in ‘record’ time, also does not build investor confidence”.

On April 3 2015, the IMF approved a threeyear arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for Ghana in the amount of $918 million with zero percent interest rate and a repayment period of 10 years to support the governments’ medium-term economic reform program.

The program calls for a strong front-loaded fiscal adjustment; structural reforms to strengthen public financial management and enhance fiscal discipline; rebuild external buffers to increase resilience to shocks; and enhance the effectiveness of monetary policy by limiting its fiscal dominance.

The planned strong fiscal consolidation is expected to dampen economic growth and reduce inflation in the short term. Growth is however projected to pick-up in the medium term, supported by the expected coming on stream of additional crude oil production while lower inflation and interest rates, combined with a stable exchange rate environment will help support private sector activity.

Though, Professor Asante concedes the government had no alternative than to resort to the IMF, he feels “as a country, we failed to learn from history and conditions that led Ghana to previous IMF programs”. He admits, the employment freeze and the fiscal discipline aspects of the program seem to be working but for how long can we sustain this. However, he doubts whether the government will have solved taxing the informal sector conundrum before the end of the program.

Issues to focus on during Election season: The six strings to Ghana’s economic growth

Regarding the impending elections, Professor Asante enumerated a number of critical issues he wants political parties to focus on. The first is the need for sustainable, inclusive growth. According to the OECD, Inclusive growth is economic growth that creates opportunity for all segments of the population and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity, both in monetary and non-monetary terms, fairly across society.

It is about ensuring that the benefits of development reach the entire population, including the most vulnerable members. The United Nations Development Program chief economist, Thangavel Palanivel also states that though there are multiple definitions of Inclusive growth, there are some common features, namely, growth is inclusive when it takes place in the sectors in which the poor work; occurs in places where the poor live; uses the factors of production that the poor possess; and reduces the prices of consumption items that the poor consume.

In many countries, people have not seen their incomes rise for years. The gap between rich and poor has widened, with those at the top capturing the ‘lion’s share’ of growth.

Rising inequality in earnings and in wealth is a major concern, but money is just one aspect of people’s wellbeing. In just about every area, whether it is education, life expectancy, or employment prospects, success is determined by socioeconomic status, wealth and assets, sex, age or the places where people live.

In other words, inclusive economic growth is not only about expanding national economies but also about ensuring that we reach the most vulnerable people of societies. The “equality of opportunity” and “participation in growth by all” with a special focus on the working poor and the unemployed are the very basis of inclusive growth.

The second issue he cites is that the country’s economic growth should be employment-centred.

Presently, the country produces thousands of graduates annually, with very few being absorbed into paying jobs. Professor Asante notes that with a coherently designed strategy in place, the country can even export its human resources, as Cuba has successfully done in the health sector with their world-class doctors.

Today, unemployment seems to be the most serious development challenge confronting the nation, so much so that it has become the number one concern of Ghanaians that they want the government to address. In Ghana, the importance of employment is underscored by the recognition of the right to work not only as a basic human right but also as a constitutional right.

This right to work, however, is gradually becoming very difficult for both government and individuals to realize due to the rising levels of joblessness. A recent World Bank report on jobs in Ghana revealed that about 48 percent of the youth in the country, who are between 15-24 years do not have jobs. The report explored the opportunities for youth inclusion in Ghana’s labor market.

Third is the need for judicious management of the country’s natural resources.

He advocated the need for governments to think about future generations when resources are being utilized today. African leaders have consistently failed to prioritize development challenges confronting their countries so that revenue from the extractive industry did not just fill budget gaps but rather catalyzed specific development agenda.

The bane had been corruption and bad governance. Good governance on the continent had become a slogan much talked about but not delivered.

In Ghana, a large section of the populace were expecting the oil and gas sector to be the panacea for the economic challenges confronting the country, however, five (5) years down the road, it has become apparent that the sector alone cannot break the back of poverty.

The fourth issue is developing the country’s infrastructure.

The Government of Ghana is currently facing monumental challenges in infrastructure development, which are proving to be a constraint on growth and development. The provision of public infrastructure is one of the prime mandates of governments all over the world and Ghana is no different. Infrastructure (roads, power, water, sanitation and airports, among others) is a fundamental prerequisite for economic growth and development.

Studies across the world have consistently shown the close relationship between infrastructure and the strength of economic output. A study recently carried out by a World Bank team at the request of the Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of Ghana to address Ghana’s infrastructure deficit shows the country requires sustained spending of at least $1.5bn per annum over the next decade to plug the infrastructure gap that exists.

To close the infrastructure gap, Professor Asante advocates for a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach. A PPP has several advantages in the provision of infrastructure and services.

Principally, it enables the government to provide better infrastructure through the use of private sector financial, human and technical resources, thereby freeing government resources for other equally important uses.

Fifth is the critical role of science and technology to the development of any country.

He bemoans the sad situation where few of our tertiary institutions (mainly universities), offer science related courses. The few that offer science related courses (mainly public universities), he continues are also bedeviled with limited facilities and vacancies, thereby limiting their impact. This he says does not augur well for the economic fortunes of any country.

First world economies like USA, UK, and the Asian tigers have spurred on their growth rates through a relentless focus on science and technology. Science and technology has helped these economies to sustain their growth as well as improve efficiency.

It has also placed them in good stead to transition smoothly into an information society.

Lastly, there should be a laser – like focus on improving the country’s human capital and also increasing access to quality education.

The World Bank report on unemployment, recommended as one of the panaceas, the need to equip the youth with relevant skills through the educational system. Access to quality education is essential for development.

Not only does education provide children, youth and adults with the knowledge and skills to be active citizens and to fulfill themselves as individuals, literacy in particular contributes directly to poverty reduction.

It has been estimated that global poverty could drop by 12 % if all children in low income countries could read. Education also contributes to sustainable economic growth and to more stable and accountably societies and governments.

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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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