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Harnessing the Experiences of Ghanaian Professionals in the Diaspora for the Socio-Economic Stability of the Emerging Ghana

By: Kwaku A. Danso, PhD


Part One

(Paper Delivered at The Launch of United Movement for Change, UMC. Saturday, Oct.30, 2010 At the British Council, Accra, Ghana)

1. Introduction - p.1

2. The Danger of Independence -History of Scholarships and Migration - p.4

3. Ghana's Investment in Education -p.6

4. The Discipline, Motivation and Love - p.9

5. Net Return on Investment -Parent-child Relationship -p.10

6. The Role of Leadership - p.12

7. Bringing all Together to build our Nation out of Love - p.12

8. References - p.14

1. Introduction -

Mr. Chairman, Honorable Members of the Diplomatic corps, Nananom, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to meet you all here today in the quest for change and a better Ghana, Africa and world.

I must admit that many years of feeling homesick had led some of us to spend too much money on American telephone companies. I felt better when in 1980s or so I called the AT&T Director for Africa operations, and I was told that for every call I made, Ghana Telecom got half of that money. With an estimated 3 million Ghanaians living abroad (aka GLAs), an average of $80 per month per person in calls to Ghana would lead to a revenue to Ghana Telecom of $120 million. Today that money goes to a company called Vodafone, with a small portion of the profit going to our government. Ghana could not manage a phone company set up by our first government.

A Host of the Double Critical Show on Asempa FM 94.7 asked on his show on October 26, 2010: "What is the use of all the Education we have received over the last half century after Independence?"; and I can add my own, "Despite almost all our Ministers, Chief Executives put in charge of affairs in Ghana, and the President, having lived overseas or visited many countries!"

Let me take some time to share some of the experiences of a typical Ghanaian overseas who left Ghana not as a refugee or for money, but as a student on Scholarship with a desire to study and gain valuable experience to return home and help his country.

My talk will be on what these Ghanaians living abroad constitute, and how they are a part of us, an investment we all made, and how we need to attract them back home, not by force or with sheer talk of patriotism, but as valuable human resources everywhere in the world. They need to be wooed and treated as we would treat our own adult children to come home.

According to Professors Todd Jick of UK and Maury Peiperl of the US (2002), of all the forces and factors changing the world today, three of them have been identified to be the greatest forces:

Customer Focus, Technology, and Globalization; and we must add

Culture as the 4th dimension, per Prof. E.T. Hall (1989).

If we are dealing with a global marketplace where our products and services are open to the market, how do we know the focus and needs of the global customers, and the needed technology applications that have been the core basis of modern world trade? How do we understand the cultural aspects, all of which have come to be called globalization?

Can we really make it without the 3 million estimated brains we sent, or left, and who have lived and gained valuable experience overseas!

A typical Ghanaian overseas - A typical Ghanaian overseas feels homesick but cannot say it since he is too busy to think about it. He is too busy studying to succeed, then too busy working and earning income to raise his family overseas and support family back in Ghana, and then too busy trying to prepare to return home by investing all his savings, a good portion of which may be lost to unscrupulous agents and even family members.

Some of us feel sad sometimes for not getting the opportunity to continue the work we started long ago or the ambition we had before leaving for overseas. In my case it was in teaching, or later and better still in contributing to the development of Electronics industry in Ghana after my studies.

The early to mid 1980s was at a time when Singapore and Taiwan and other South East Asian nations found the right formula and were actively courting their respective students and professional engineers to return home to take jobs and help their country's socio-economic development.

If you don't mind my using myself as an example, I had a chance to be active in electronics during the 1970s to 1990s to about 2003. This was during the boom in California. As an Engineer and later as Manager for ten American and International corporations, I couldn't help but compare every company to what could have been set up in Ghana. I was itching but was too helpless to see the decline of our nation as jobs vanished and opportunities were left for others. These companies I worked for included Intel Corporation, Texas Instruments, Agility Communications, and the German multinationals Siemens and Osram in the USA. All these companies have branches in South East Asia. Singapore and Taiwan started the search for participation in the electronics industry in the early to mid 1980s.

At that time when South East Asia found it necessary to get into the electronics industry, I was already a Manager in the electronics industry. I was well versed in more than 100 processes used to convert sand, ordinary sand called Silicon, into molten and purified Semiconductor, slice them into wafers, and by applying the principles of Chemistry and Physics, with different kinds of toxic liquids and gaseous chemicals, at different temperatures and at some steps exposed to and bombarded with high energy beams, convert these into electronics products. By 1997 the Semiconductor market had grown to more than $700 Billion (http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/bus/A0817010.html), with the US component having dropped to a mere 40% and the rest of the world taking their share.

Ghana could not participate because our government had changed hands, Nkrumah had been overthrown, and every vision and developmental plan he set out was considered Socialist and hence abandoned.

Despite this small regret of not being at home, I must say that some of my seed I sowed before leaving for American bore good fruit and yielded very well. Three of the students at the school where I taught in 1967/68 at Kumasi Academy were Presidential candidates in the 2008 elections, Hon. Dan Botwe, Ambassador Alan Kyeremateng and Hon. Kwesi Amoafo Yeboah. Could this possibly be reminding and alerting some of us of the possibilities that politics was perhaps a better profession? Remember the old Biblical proverb of Jesus that the first shall be last and the last first?

2. The Danger of Independence and History of Scholarships and Migration

The idea of winning a scholarship to study overseas is a dream that most Ghanaian children of the older or newer generation will welcome. Ghana was one of the lucky stars when I was growing up in the 1960s. Thinking about it, I think the Western and Eastern world saw the light and the bright star in us. Ghana was not only the Black Star in name. Ghana was led by a man who was described as the "show-boy", a man who had an aura and personality described by many around the world as charismatic, affable, of charming personality, and for the women as handsome. Our first Premier Kwame Nkrumah was described as a "show boy" but he was more than show. He did not need to pay anybody to "brand" Ghana. He coined the name, marketed it, and trumpeted the new Ghanaian and African with pride. He coined the term "African personality" - the personality of a people with proud history who could take and manage our destiny on our own. "We prefer self-government with danger to servitude in tranquility", he said.

It has taken over five decades, and surely the Independence of Ghana has led to the "the total liberation of Africa", as Nkrumah asked for. However, nobody will also doubt that we have had our share of danger. The danger has come in the form of the Mismanagement, Selfish and greedy leadership who exhibited very little if any concern and love for country, and in some cases actual sabotage and wanton destruction and theft of state property.

Even though we are not in servitude, sometimes one wonders if our independence is certain as our later Presidents' first agenda seem always to run to meetings with the World Bank and Western financiers, and a constant search for loans! Are we really doing well if a World Bank Report showed Ghana has over 40% of our College graduates overseas, and we are second only to Haiti!

What happened to Ghana and to Africa as a whole, a continent whose liberation was tied to that of Ghana, per our first President?

Why do we have Ghanaian and African inventors and geniuses in America and around the world, but cannot keep a Pharmaceutical factory open!

Why can't we keep an Electronics factory open when others were taking part of the $700 Billion industry in 1997.

The first danger was mismanagement. It comes from lack of discipline and a poor culture that fails to understand the difference between biblical meaning of "forgiveness", and enforcement of laws and rules, or simple discipline. It is exhibited by the inability to budget and live within our means, as well as the total inability to manage state-owned enterprises. It also shows in the deliberate public theft and misappropriation that have gone unpunished. It has also come in the form of lack of cognizance of our competitors in the global arena and hence inability to make better and more favorable strategic decisions and negotiations with foreigners. Perhaps the recent $10 Billion negotiations with Korea's STX may be cited as an example. Time will not allow us to go into that now. I did submit a joint proposal by GLU and UMC to parliament on what I considered a more appropriate utilization of the $10 Billion loan.

The second danger I see is lack of concern and love for country. To put it mildly, self-centeredness let some who assumed power or were elected, to focus more on what would benefit them and their party for continued power in the next elections, than what would make prudent business sense for the nation. There are many of the pre-colonial mindset, who think that government is not an organization to put one's best effort into. Many fail to realize government is our own creation! That's all we have to manage our affairs for us! That is all we have to manage the construction of roads, highways, design and build better speed bumps if need be, eliminate open gutters, or if they so choose, waste the money building new gutters. Government is needed by all of us for security and protection by the police and military.

Example of mismanagement and lack of love and concern: It has taken over 40 years before somebody finally noticed that 8 pesewas toll does not even pay for the toll booth operators. Leaders had no moral guts and open heart to tell motorists that it takes money to build roads, and hence impose a Motorway and Bridge toll and explain it to us! They rather get loans! The sad aspect - nobody cares enough to give a monthly or quarterly report on how much money we are collecting, what roads are being repaired or built with the tolls, to give motivation and hope for the tired motorists. A typical popular American highway sign goes: "Your Highway Taxes at work!". Where is ours?

The third danger I see is Actual sabotage of nation. It comes in where executives of government make decisions about purchases and spend the moneys of the state that they would not make had the moneys been their own, as well as engaging in intentional deal-making whiles in office. The latter has been described as corruption, whiles the former decision-making borders between unethical behavior, conflict of interest, and actual crimes. Anybody in office who takes money from corporations doing business with government and calls it "Consulting fees" cannot escape one or the other of such description. It is either unethical, conflict of interest, or pure public theft. Anybody who votes himself $50,000 for a vehicle and $30,000 for housing cannot escape this criticism either.

Now what has this got to do with Scholarships and Migration? The history of Ghanaian migration overseas started with international scholarships given to our students in the post-Independence era. In the 1960s, hardly did a day go by without the Daily Graphic reporting the departure of one or a group of our students leaving for Germany, Britain, Canada, the USA, Russia, Poland or other nations for study. One can only be grateful to the International community some of who are gathered here today, for the humanitarian atmosphere that reigned at the time, both in the Eastern block and the Western bloc of nations in Europe, members of the Common wealth nations, and the United States of America. In the early 1970s a Ghanaian Ambassador to the US who had been stationed in Germany before, told us in California that there were 3,000 Ghanaian Doctors in Germany!

3. Ghana's Investment in Education

If one estimates a mere $1,000 spent by government on one elementary and Secondary student per year, and $2,000 per student per year at University, it can be guesstimated that every one of us elites who went through Secondary Schools alone has cost the taxpayers of Ghana some $12,000 at the least to $16,000 in some cases in the old system from Middle School Form 3 through Secondary School Upper Six.

For those who accuse Kwame Nkrumah of misusing the moneys left by the colonial government, let us remember these numbers: 40,000 students per year comes to between $480 million and $640 million per year! One of the members of the Ghana Leadership Union Forum would definitely like me to remind all that Nkrumah did not actually inherit the reported $300 to $500 Million as a gift from Britain, but rather as a push by Nkrumah to retrieve as revenue a collection of unpaid taxes and royalties by the multi-national corporations in the Gold Coast.

Be it as it may, it costs a lot of money to educate our children and the responsibility should be on us to find ways to reap the benefits, and not be from moneys borrowed from foreigners. Similarly, the return and rewards should be ours, and not foreign nations. In Ghana we all know the rewards for having children, especially during old age. It is cultural in most societies for older folks to rely on their children. That is the humane thing to do in most civilizations. Why then would anybody send their children overseas and not think about them, worry about them and keep in touch with them?

In 1969/70 I wrote my first article for Graphic titled "Keep us Informed about our Dear Ghana". I visited the Embassy in Washington DC in the US in Summer 1970 and found the names of even those on Scholarship were not on the Embassy list. I strongly admonished them, and I have not stopped. Ghana Embassies used to have Newsletters sent monthly to all students. It is no joke if some of us say that the good days are gone. Can the generation behind do any better, especially if ours give up?

In the post-Independent era, and today, Ghana can boast of having raised children who have post graduate education, and have acquired skills and experience in all areas of knowledge, from Accounting and Management, Architecture and City Planning, Engineering and Computer Sciences, Medicine and Pharmacy, to Nuclear Engineering and Space Science. Yes, there are Ghanaians who are working in every aspect of life including Space flights in the US and other Western nations. Ghanaians can put together a team to manage the whole globe if we have to.

For a nation looking for global pride, image building, putting her best cloth on as they say in Ghana language, or "branding", what more than this collection of proud well educated and endowed people around the world! Are we taking advantage of this? No!

Now let me talk about Business, the Business of nations and the world.

The world is competitive. To do well or win in a situation of competition of markets and nations and people vying for the same resources, demands strategic analysis and planned action. According to many experts such as Harvard's Michael Porter, this demands taking into consideration one's strengths, weaknesses, and seizing opportunities and being constantly aware of threats. I hear these words used in Ghana but wonder if we really understand them. How many of us have faced real global competition in our jobs? Do we really understand the man on the other side of the table? Or we assume they are here to help us?

Effective competition by any organization is based on their assets and competencies, if you allow a little academic talk. My late uncle Kofi Asare told me when I was a little boy that if one is going to play football against Kotoko, one has to carry one 's feet. As a kid, I thought the players of Hearts of oak, for example, would actually put their feet on weighing scales. It took many decades before I understood this concept. An organization's or nation's assets are mostly her resources and collective knowledge base, alias competencies.

How does an organization really analyze her own strengths, weaknesses and that of others? By merely reading books and articles? It may help, but it takes more!

Does living overseas for long have invaluable assets and endow some of us with some specific competencies? Of course it does. A Ghanaian proverb suggests that if a frog comes from the bottom of the water and tells you that the crocodile is dead, you don't argue with him. Are we taking advantage of our natives overseas? Let us ask serious questions:

Will our culture stand in the way for us to sincerely analyze our weaknesses? There are many Ghanaians who will never accept that they have any weaknesses. Many of our contemporaries will never accept they do not know how to use the Computer or the Internet. I am setting up a school to train them, but it has to be under secret of night when the women and the youth are not watching. Why? That is our culture! However, this is a topic for another day.

The sad irony of life is that these people overseas have not returned home in as fast a pace as one would expect. I know the answers to these, since I have interviewed and talked to literally thousands of them through different forums over the years.








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