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15.09.2002 Feature Article

Ambassador Kyrematen's Puerile Offerings.

Ambassador Kyrematen's Puerile Offerings.
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A country's embassies abroad are only as effective as the governments, which they represent. Embassies have a relationship to the home government much like that of soccer goalie and his defense. A goalie is only as effective as his defense. A strong defense will make even a mediocre goalie look spectacular. They diffuse all the dangerous attacks leaving the goalie with easy pickings, which he can approach, in various spectacular dives, merely to look good. So it is with governments and their embassies. A government with a coherent plan of action and objectives can define courses of action for its missions abroad that will be geared towards the achievement of her stated objectives. It is against this scenario that the increasingly activist role that the Ghana ambassador to the US, Mr. Kyrematen, has adopted towards seeking avenues for development in Ghana must be examined. In the most recent past, we have seen him broker deals that will bring the near bankrupt K-Mart to Ghana to undertake the monumental task of turning our "Joromi derivative' and 'batik inspired' clothing into a North American sartorial staple. Again on August 10, at a Ghanaian economic forum in Washington that featured the Minister of Regional Planning and Development, Mr. Kyerematen listed a 'number of initiatives that the Ghanaian embassy has put in place towards aiding Ghana's economic development'. These include, according to Mr. Adu-Asare, a Ghana web columnist who attended the forum: 'an interactive website where Ghanaians world-wide can post profiles of their skills and professions'; the establishment of a 'Ghana bank in the US to facilitate money transfers';! and a program whereby 'Ghanaians living abroad may adopt the schools they attended for basic education, by making financial contributions." Further he announced plans for a community program in the US to transmit cultural ideas to Ghanaian young-adults domiciled in the US to aid their 'connection to the motherland'. It is obvious from his initiatives that there is a clear intent to encourage Ghanaian skills and funds to help the development process at home. What is not clear is what is the exact nature of this 'development process at home? Assuming one could recruit all the skill one needed among Diaspora Ghanaians, and assuming that one could even reward them with wages that might be comparable to what they earn in the US, what exactly will be expected of them in Ghana? Will they be expected to administer the same institutions that have ensured the underdevelopment of Ghana ever since colonial times, most of which have remained intact up till now? Or would they be given 'posts' in the same corporations that ensure the dependence status of our economy and its reliance on the export of a few materials in raw or semi-processed states? In short are we going to recruit Ghanaian professionals from the Diaspora only to let them administer an efficient neo-colony? Ultimately the last question raised above must become the fundamental consideration of any well-meaning government of Ghana. Do we supervise the neo-colony or do we radically alter the economic basis of our society into a self-sufficient economy? In order not to confuse our gentle readers, let us understand that a neo-colonial economy such as ours is best described as 'an agricultural country that cannot feed itself' and where the food producers are among the poorest of the population. Such an economy is subjected to a massive loss of national income through the value-added component that accrues to the industrialized nations that import and process its products. The institutions of such an economy, forged in the era of colonization are only meant to preside over the dependent economic reality. And the products of the educational system, mere servants of the same system. So as our president dutifully pursues his initiatives that will bring 'untold benefits' from the export of starch, cashew nuts and 'joromi' to the masses, and, as our flirtation with IT creates Ghanaians with a budding career in typing the names of traffic offenders from New York, into computers in an Accra office, we must not be surprised at the pitiable initiatives by our ambassador at strengthening the status quo. Mr. Ambassador, it would be lovely if every one adopted a basic school, and contributed some funds towards it. Maybe the rural schools will get better glorified holes in the ground to defecate in but what education will they receive? The same system that tempts the graduate to run from the country as soon as he is capable of understanding and reading a few English words? And sir, what if you succeed in 'transmitting cultural ideas' to connect people to the 'motherland'? We can bet that all that will be transmitted is the moribund traditional culture that presides over a vicious land tenure and production relations, which underpins the deformed agriculture that makes us an 'agricultural nation that cannot feed itself. But how can one blame the ambassador for his 'puerile offerings'. Present at that economic summit was Dr Nduom another of Ghana's ubiquitous PhD holders, who has been in the Ghana political scene for some time, at both district and National levels, now Minister of Regional Planning and development, who is wasting taxpayers money traipsing western capitals asking Ghanaians for solutions to Ghana's problems. You would think a whole minister would have a program of action by now, let alone a clue to the solution. But Ambassador Kyerematen was right in one respect, though. Mr. Adu Asare writes that Mr. Kyerematen 'invoked the concept of following a "big idea" such as how Japan made it to be a leading automobile manufacturing country and succeeded at it, with spill over economic benefits.' In reality Japans, 'big idea' was much bigger than that. They wanted to be better than the West at any and everything and rightly recognized that the superiority of the west lay in the advancement of technology and industrialization. So when the government of Japan armed the Mitsubishis, the Mitsuis and Toyotas with funds and protection to build heavy industry to out compete western companies, there was a clear vision of the 'big idea'. Today, Ghana stands at yet another crossroad, contemplating her own 'big idea'. Will this amount to a mere strengthening or stabilizing of the status quo, or do we have the "balls' that will one day see Mr. Terry Darko as a big manufacturer of busses, trains and mass transit systems for the African market, instead of his present position as glorified dealer of foreign luxury automobiles? Once our governments possess such 'big ideas', our embassies would become more efficient in putting relevant strategies into place.

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2002

The author has 34 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwesiYeboah

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