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18.08.2005 Feature Article

Homeland Calling: The role of Diaspora in national development.

Homeland Calling: The role of Diaspora in national development.
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Over the last few years, major financial institutions, multinational corporations and development non governmental organisations have began to take acute interests in workers remittances as a source of financing for development. Although remittances from the sending countries, mainly the rich countries in the West and oil rich Middle Eastern countries (and recently countries such as South Korea and Malaysia have also come to the fore by joining the sending countries) to receiving countries of South America, Asia and Africa, however the magnitude of the inflows has began to dominate major international conferences such the recently G-8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.

For the first time the Bretton Wood Financial Institutions have acknowledged that workers remittances to developing countries far outweigh global aid flows. Although the inflows was heavily skewed to few countries however Ghana is emerging as the only sub-Saharan African country to received have recorded inflows of $1.5 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2004.

The reason why Ghana is receiving more inflows from her nationals abroad than most African countries is quite easy to explain. In the 1970s and the early 1980s Ghana, like the rest of the developing countries pursued study abroad. Most of those who left the homeland were in their prime (18 years to 35 years age group). Countries with strong economic base such as Venezuela were able to attract their nationals back after their studies. However countries like Iran which also participated in the scheme were robed of their nationals due to the Iran-Iraq war. Almost all Iranian nationals who studied abroad decided not to return due to the then instability in the their homeland and the region as a whole. In the case of Ghana the 1980s economic hardships discouraged most of her nationals from going home. There was large migration of skill Ghanaians from the homeland to mainly Europe, North America and Australia and New Zealand.

The situation in Ghana was exacerbated by the large expulsions of Ghanaians living in neighbouring countries back to the homeland. Recounting the huge economic burden put on the Ghanaian government by this expulsions, Nii K. Bentis-Enchill in his two essays “The Return of Ghanaians. West Africa, February 7, pp.305-6” 1983 and “Evacuation Completed. West Africa, June 3, p1103, Brydon” argue that without the drastic action taken by the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, the country would have disintegrated and civil war ensued.

There is a growing body of literature today which examines the role of remittances and Diaspora and its impact on the economies of sending countries and the developmental process. In an essay on the role of skill migrants in the development of their homeland, this writer noted that empirical analyses at the broadest level have found that the most important benefits of labour sending country are remittances.

In their essay on the Diaspora vote “The Diaspora vote: It's our land also (Yensoso Yasaase Ni)” Ghana web feature article 28th July 2005, my brother Jermaine Nkrumah and others passionately argue that since the inflows from the Diaspora community has become 3rd largest foreign earner for the homeland, then this community should be given a voice as platform to further the course of Ghana's development. In a counter essay, my brother Efo Delanyo discounted this assertion by taking the line of those who have been arguing that remittances to sending countries does not play major part in the development process. Efo's argument follows the traditional view that remittances are mainly used for consumption such as housing, land purchase, paying school fees, daily consumption expenditure etc. What my brother Efo did failed to add was in poor labour countries such as Ghana the impact of remittances plays a crucial role in poverty reduction. This fact has been acknowledged by President Kufuor, Hon Isaac Osei (Ghana High Commissioner to United Kingdom and Ireland) and prominent traditional rulers such as Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, Daasibre Nana Dr Oti Boating (Former Chief Statistician and former UN Staff), Nana Amotia Ofori Panin II and others. Studies from Asia suggested that remittances promote economic development. In Malaysia and Indonesia, monetary targets from remittances was built into 5-year Development Plan, just as targets are set for other exports and foreign exchange earnings activities.

In Ghana, Ex-President Rawlings liberalisation of the financial sector under the Structural Adjustment policies of the Bretton Woods Institutions enabled Ghanaians to remit money home freely and thus opened the flood gate for Ghanaian entrepreneurs and other investors to come and invest in our homeland. This openness underpins the essay by my brother Jermaine Nkrumah and others. In another article about rational use of resources and wise investment by my brother Bawa Kuyini ( Ghana web 12th July 2005) and qualifications of our elected leaders by my brother Bonna Okyere (Ghana web 13th June 2005), which both ties in neatly with role of the Diaspora in our national development as explained by Jermaine and others in their essay. The remittances from the Ghanaian Diaspora have been increasing year on year and is now the third largest earner for the country. Articles on Ghana web have identified means of promoting the use of remittances for development. In 1999 this writer and others question the use of remittances in Ghana and suggested ways of directing this huge inflows to the benefits of all Ghanaians. In 1998, commenting on the Ghanaian economy, Hawkins, then a Financial Times staff writer stated, “a striking feature of the balance of payment is high level of inward remittances by expatriate and returning Ghanaians. It is clear that the inflows are being invested wisely in Businesses and real estates, suggesting that the official investment numbers understate the position”. To back Jermaine's argument about why it is imperative that the Diaspora community should be given a voice in the running of the country, Dr Carolyne Ndofor-Tah (2000) noted that the basic aims of the African Diaspora groups studied was sum up by one group who state:“ Our strength is collectiveness, local knowledge of problems, international experience, awareness and the desire by all to succeed where all has failed, to make a difference.”

Soon after the “Home Coming Summit” in Accra, this writer contacted a cross section of the Ghanaian community in London to ask them about their views of the homeland. Almost all stated that the favourable coverage being given the country by the International Financial Institutions have fuel their urge of investing more home rather than allowing foreign nationals to go in and make huge profits. The notion of having nationals investing in their country of origin is what is behind the “Chinese Economic Miracle”, this first truly impressive “Economic Miracle” of the 21st Century. Not far behind are the Indians. Gradually the Indians are building a huge workforce of middle class, the engine of every successful economy, just like the Chinese did behind communism. This point is repeatedly emphasise by Hon Isaac Osei to the Ghanaian Business community in United Kingdom and Western Europe that this is the time to take opportunities home to invest and thus help create jobs for the huge middle class graduates that the country produces each year. This is the notion behind the essay written by my brother Jermaine Nkrumah and our North American compatriots. The statement made by one Diaspora group studied by Dr Carolyne Ndofor-Tah and Hon Isaac Osei's work with the Diaspora community points the way forward. Hon Isaac Osei have been encouraging the Diaspora Business networks to facilitate investment in Ghana and been actively promoting Hometown Associations as a means of channelling part of remittances towards community projects such as the Korle Bu and the Ghana Police Service projects. The two appeals have shown success stories in our drive to achieve rapid development.

What can turn the tide of migration of skill professionals from the homeland (such as our highly trained and valued health professionals and lecturers) is by making resources available to them through investment as well as paying them the International going rates.

It's a national disgrace that our lecturers, health professionals, Armed forces have to leave the country in search of greener pastures abroad while Members of Parliament have voted to pay themselves $60 a day, in a country where whole family live on just over a $1 a day.

As Jermaine and his group stated: Yensosos Yesaasa Ni (translated as “The land belongs to all of us” ).

Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr Kofi Busia, Dr Hilla Limman, ex-President Rawlings and President Kufuor have all invoke the great patriotic song “YENS ARA YEN ASASE NI” at different point in time to remind us of our unique unity and shared values. The challenges facing us one people are enormous. At last we all appreciate that what we can and must do for our motherland are more important that individual self Our Nananom are leading the way in this the development arena. 2020 IS THE GOAL. What is more rewarding than arriving at Kotoka International Airport, Kumasi International Airport or Tamale international Airport and riding on the subway or fast inter city express rail to your hometown! What is more gratifying than witnessing young Dr Kwabena Osei and his team of researchers from University of Ghana Medical School, Legon, being given an international award in 2025 for developing a vaccine that can cure a deadly tropical disease or two young Ghanaian Astronauts Dr John Bawa of University For Development Studies, Tamale, and Dr Atso Gbedemah of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, being feted by Africans in 2025 after their 3 months stay/work at the International Space station!. This is our goal. This is the goal that we must achieve so that the future generations change make those dreams discuss above become reality. We can and must develop the motherland so that the future generations (the young Bawas, Oseis and Gbedemahs) can fulfil their true potentials in this ever decreasing global village. We cannot and must not fail them. We owe them a duty to achieve middle income status by 2020. This is our VISION, VISION 2020. This VISION IS SHARED BY ALL.

God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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