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20.12.2003 Feature Article

Creation of Kofi Annan Centers for ....

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Sustainable Resources Research and Development in Ghana For the past two decades, I have continuously advocated for the establishment of an indigenous Minerals Resources Research Center in Ghana without any success. It beats my wildest imagination why a country that prides itself as a mineral producing country would not find it important to set up an indigenous research facility. . I want to remind President Kufour that his previous business of brick manufacturing would not have failed, as his opponents are eager to remind us, if we had a mineral resources research center in Ghana.

South Africa has now become a haven of ideas for the Ghanaian elites in the mineral industry because of its technological and scientific advances in mining and metallurgy. Apartheid South Africa spent substantial amount of their national budget on home-based science and technological research. In mining the Mintek has always been at the leading edge of metallurgy. Even when white South Africans were ostracized during the apartheid regime, their scientists were given top billings at international scientific conferences because of their advances in home-based research and development. A South African, Dr. Christian Barnard, became the first person to perform heart transplant operation in South Africa.

The importance of indigenous scientific and technological research cannot be overemphasized and it has become an important criterion for capital investment purposes. No society can move from the primitive standard of living to an advanced society without indigenous or home based research facilities and Ghana will not be the first to achieve this feat.

The idea of golden age of business, adding value to locally produced goods, attracting foreign investors into the country, industrialization of the rural areas, gainful employment for all, improving the living standard for the people will all become empty slogans without indigenous or home-based research facilities in Ghana. Because Ghana will continue to depend on foreigners, continue to go around the developed countries to beg for loans and continue to rely on foreign experts to come and provide basic infrastructures like latrines for our people.

A well-focused research activity is an essential foundation for increasing and maintaining high productivity, using resources efficiently and strengthening the performance of any civilized society. USA is the most industrialized nation of the world today and enjoys the highest living standard because of its mineral and technological base. With only 5% of the world's population and 7% of the world's land area, she uses about 30% of the world's mineral production because of the abundance of research and development facilities. In contrast, Africa is the least industrialized continent of the world today, and enjoys the lowest living standard because of lack of technological base. With 8.5 % of the world's population and 20% of the world's land area and producing about 15% of the world's mineral wealth, uses only about 6% of the world's mineral production because of lack of research facilities for science and technology development. The total amount of money spent on R & D in the USA was on the order of $110 billion for the fiscal year 1985﷓86, which represented more than 10% of the national budget. The amount would probably be higher today. The federal government of Canada spent about $7.7 billion on scientific and technological activities for the fiscal year 2002-2003 which was an increase of about 3% over the spending for the previous year of 2001-2002.

Lack of indigenous scientific research and development facilities in Africa has contributed more toward lack of resources development than any other reasons that are usually given. In most cases, processes developed by foreigners for projects in Africa tend to produce raw materials to feed industries in the developed countries abroad. The establishment of the Resources Research Centers and the performance of research and development indigenously (home-based) in Ghana would go a long way to alter this unfortunate situation. The centers will be responsible for the definition of special technical and financial problems, work out solutions and clarify the needs to develop long-range effective programs and processes toward true industrialization.

Ghana is now positioned to utilize her untapped rich natural resources for rapid industrial growth and development especially in the field of mineral technology. The abundance of mineral reserves and the availability of trained professional personnel in the field of mineral technology make it imperative that Ghana embarks upon a serious program to develop these resources. I wish to emphasize that no mineral policy in Ghana would succeed and benefit the good people of Ghana without the establishment of an indigenous or home-based research facilities in Ghana.

The decade between 1963 and 1973 saw the exponential growth of the award of scholarship for Ghanaian students to go abroad to acquire advance degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering, business and economics. USA provided scholarships under the ASPAU and AFGRAD program, Canada had the CEDA, and UK had the UK Scholarship program and the Commonwealth scholarship program. Other countries such as Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, all had such scholarship programs. In addition, some of the foreign companies operating in Ghana had programs to sponsor Ghanaians to study abroad. The government of Ghana also had its own scholarship programs that sent several Ghanaians abroad to acquire advance degrees. Majority of the recipients of these awards did not go back to Ghana after completion of their degree programs but decided to stay in their host countries. This has been described as the brain drain. It is important to note that these Ghanaians that benefited from these awards are now approaching their fifties and looking forward to retirement from their chosen careers. Creation of centers for resources research and development will be a special avenue to attract these qualified and experienced Ghanaians into the society.

A model for creation of such resources research centers that will not require substantial funding from the government is readily available. I will be happy to provide a model for the establishment of a Mineral Research Center in Ghana that will not require substantial funding from the government. and offer my assistance for the establishment of the center.

Recent discussions on the topic of modern versus traditional, the research findings on “atadwie” the discussion in Ghana about special assistants to the government, expatriate consultants, golden share of Ashanti, the shea butter body lotion, are all issues that justify the establishment of indigenous or home-based research centers. I wish to remind readers that discussions and views expressed on various forums regarding the solutions to problems of national development will amount to nothing without indigenous research and development facilities in Ghana.

My personal recommendation will be the creation of a special department of research and development in the government with a ministerial secretary. The UST should be converted into a research institution to replace the boiler plate college for turning out elites who use their degrees as escape routes to leave their local communities for greener pastures in other developed communities. The faculty should be put on tenure track route and given nine months appointment instead of twelve months. They should be required to write proposals to seek funding for research programs that will support them for the other three months in a year. The government should allocate funds for research and development in the national budget. I would suggest about 5% of the budget be allocated for this purpose. The money can be taken away from unproductive sectors such as TOR, SSNIT, the military, unnecessary perks for ruling elites including provision of free vehicles, housing, drivers, garden boys, gate keepers etc. Alternatively, Parliament could take the boldest step and set up a select committee to come up with a model to recover the estimated $2 – 3 billion that was siphoned off by the ruling elites from the loans and grants contracted in the name of the good people of Ghana for the past twenty-odd years. That money could be used as an endowment or foundation to fund home-based research and development in Ghana.

Most of the research should be geared toward applied and appropriate technology. This proposed center would be different from the erstwhile politically motivated research institutes that were created by previous governments. The proposed research centers will be integrated and have outlets for technology or research transfer and capital formation for commercialization of processes developed at these centers. The research conducted at these centers does not necessarily need to be inventive but has to be innovative based on the available home-based resources. It is obvious to experienced engineers and scientists that science and technology research should always go hand in hand with business ventures and job creation. Theoretical and academic research without regard to economic viability and appropriate transfer is not what this proposal is seeking. We already have that in Ghana today.

I strongly believe that we can reduce the level of corruption and inefficiency in the Ghanaian society if such resources research centers are created in Ghana to attract returnees from the Diaspora. Most of these “expatriate returnees” have special skills that are important for reducing corruption. I am referring to the experience or skill of having worked and sometimes managed and supervised the “oburoni”, managed and run organizations with budgets exceeding several thousands of dollars, operated under the culture of showing performance, accountability, and results. Most have acquired the basic necessities for EU lifestyles through their hard work and earnings and are therefore better equipped to manage these necessities through a program of maintenance and accountability. They do not necessarily have to show off their elite status in their golden age especially among their own people in Ghana. Finally, most have their children and younger relatives still in the Diaspora and can always fall on them for financial relief.

As Ghana approaches the 50th. Anniversary of its independence, I would like to appeal to this government to muster the political courage to implement a policy of an indigenous (home-based) research and development program in Ghana and create Kofi Annan Centers for Sustainable Resources Research and Development. I am confident that others have their own ideas about research and development in their areas of specialization and are willing to assist the government in this “great leap forward”.

Good and visionary leaders in most advanced societies are not afraid to advocate policies that may not be popular or politically correct but will leave a long lasting legacy. We need such a policy in Ghana today although some of the home-based elites and supporters of the government may not welcome it. The creation of the proposed resources research centers will invariably expose their fraudulent practices and weaknesses that are not obvious to the good people of Ghana today but would become obvious after the implementation of this policy. I am confident that the benefits from this proposed idea will change the state of development in Ghana and leave a lasting legacy for the leaders who will have the courage to implement it. It is time for President Kufour and the NPP government to take a stand and leave a lasting legacy for the good people of Ghana.

Robert Mensah-Biney
Robert Mensah-Biney, © 2003

The author has 4 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: RobertMensahBiney

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