28.01.2003 Feature Article

Let's Upgrade Our Consulates

Let's Upgrade Our Consulates
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A Nigerian recently dared me to 'name one country in the world where there are no Ghanaians'. “Easy”, I said and proceeded to give him more names. “Azerbaijan, Greenland, Sao Tome….”. 'Are you sure…. How much do you want to wager?', he challenged again. Truth be told, I was not sure of my answers, and I did not bet even a cent. Yes, friends, countrymen/women, we are among the elite as far as emigration or sojourning in foreign lands is concerned. BUT, is Ghana maximizing the benefits that could accrue to her from her large army of “ambassadors”? More to the point, have successive Governments done enough to tap into or harness the enormous resources of Ghanaians living abroad? Efforts aimed at attracting skilled personnel or professionals to go back home are very laudable indeed. But what are we deriving from those whom we spent money to educate only to lose them through emigration? I wish to suggest, humbly that we can recoup our investment in them by making some small and innovative investments in facilities abroad. One such facility is a full-fledged consulate with paid Consuls in cities with large concentrations of Ghanaians. Ghana has been getting by with 'Volunteer Consuls' in most of these cities. Volunteers, we all know, render their services when time permits. Clearly, this is not enough. Visitors, tourists and prospective investors in need of consular services don't have the luxury of waiting for volunteers to show up. Paid staff would be available when needed. It is time for the Government to upgrade these services to full Consulate General status with paid staff. Another area worthy of exploration is investment in real estate properties of the size and shape like the Luna Ball Room or the Church of Pentecost, both in Toronto, Ontario Canada, These GHANA HOUSES, as I would call them, would not only serve as offices for the Consulates but also would be Resource/Tourism Centres readily available and accessible to everyone. They would contain Libraries stocked with books, brochures, video and audio- tapes and other paraphernalia about Ghana either for sale or for rent to anyone, especially tourists.

The GHANA HOUSES can also serve as Exhibition Centres at reasonable rates for Ghanaian Businesses who want to promote their products/ services abroad. This no doubt would be welcome relief for businesses who otherwise would have to pay much higher premium rates to rent hotels and convention centres.

They would also serve as Community Centres for fun-loving Ghanaians who shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars, pound sterling or euros every year to rent places for their weddings, outdoorings, birthdays, parties or funeral.

It was revealed recently that Ghana has only three (3) Trade Representatives abroad: Geneva, London and Washington D.C. Given the competitive nature of today's global economy, this is like a drop of water in an ocean—it barely makes any ripples. An investment in GHANA HOUSES will address this serious anomaly, as they would accommodate the offices of a lot more Trade Representatives.

This is a venture that the Government can either get into alone or go into partnership with resident Ghanaians in cities like New York City, Washington D.C. Chicago. Los Angels, Toronto, Montreal, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Hamburg, Tokyo etc. History shows that this type of investment would pay off handsomely in the future. For example, the property that currently houses the offices of the Ghana's Ambassador to the U.N in New York City which was purchased by the late General Acheampong's regime in the mid –70's for about $1M is worth about $60M today.

When conditions permit the Government to open and upgrade existing ones; and whichever way it decides to go regarding the investment in these GHANA HOUSES, let us remember that the key to their successful operations is PAID STAFF. We should not short-change ourselves anymore by going “cheap”-that is, relying on volunteers. What Ghana needs now are paid, motivated and dedicated people to promote her interests, not part-timers who may do it when they have the time.

Israel, Pakistan and India are the forerunners in this game and they are evidently reaping bountiful rewards. Let's start playing like them.

Edward Kofi Owusu (Abusuapanin) A Business Executive/Entrepreneur of Golden Stool Financial Services Toronto, Ontario, Canada Tel: 416-742-5333 Fax: 416-742-9992

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