Editorial: Overseas-Resident Ghanaians Deserve better recognition and Assistance
It is estimated that about six million Ghanaians live outside Ghana's borders. Ghanaian citizens migration is not a new phenomenon, but it reached a peak from the mid-1970s when as a result of the harsh economic conditions at home, many Ghanaian emigrated to all parts of the world to seek greener economic pastures. Wherever they have settled, Ghanaians have not forgotten their homeland or the reasons why they migrated from the land of their birth.
The millions of Ghanaians who have settled abroad continue to bring back a lot of capital and household goods to Ghana to improve their living conditions.
Overseas resident Ghanaians continue to send money and goods back home to take care of their family members and in many cases too to set up businesses to boost the local Ghanaian economy. So consistent and beneficial has been this steady flow of capital and resources from Ghanaians living abroad that President John Agyekum Kufour acknowledged when he took power in 2001 that "as a group, overseas-resident Ghanaians represent the single most important developing partner of the new government and the country". He went on to reveal that as at the beginning of the year 2001, "remittances from Ghanaians abroad to their families back home ranks fourth on the foreign exchange earning sources of Ghana after cocoa, timber and minerals". At the time it was estimated that Ghanaians abroad transferred over four hundred million dollars (through official channels alone) into the Ghanaian economy in the year 2000. This does not include those that are sent through personal sources of friends traveling home. And not even counting materials and other goods that they regularly ship home.
It is a well-known fact that the transport sector of the Ghanaian economy has been sustained mainly by overseas-resident Ghanaians who constantly ship cars and trucks home from their bases abroad. Many have also contributed in diverse ways in financing development projects in their home towns and villages. To buttress this fact of the positive impact overseas Ghanaians have on the Ghanaian economy is the report from a study commissioned by the IMF/World Bank called the Ghana Transnational Network Research Program (Ghana Transnet). The research reported that remittances alone from overseas-resident Ghanaians could be in the neighborhood of One Billion Dollars annually. And again this is counting only those that go through official channels that can be documented. The researchers reported that if remittances and expenditures on funerals and other ceremonies and development projects are factored in, the figure could be much higher.
The findings from this research is buttressed by those from another study commissioned by the Bank of Ghana. Dr. E. K. Y. Addison, Director of Research at the Bank of Ghana said that studies conducted by the bank on the main use of remittances worldwide and in Ghana in particular suggested that a large part of these funds are used for daily expenses such as food, clothing and health care. "Some of these funds are also spent on the construction of houses, buying of lands and performing funerals", he said.
Taken together, what these studies confirm is the fact that overseas-resident Ghanaians are mainly responsible for the social and economic stability of Ghana as a nation. Sending money for family members for food helps to eliminate poverty and hunger thus averting social upheavals resulting from hunger. Helping to construct homes means taking the social burden off the back of government. And assisting their hometowns in financing development projects means taking the responsibility and burden off the back of government or being the government's active development partner.
Despite all these well known and documented facts of the massive contribution of Ghanaians resident abroad, various governments that have ruled Ghana as well as the home-residents do not give the due recognition to this important group. It is true that President Kufour has publicly acknowledged this positive contributions, but it only ends there. The due respect and assistance in other areas that should naturally go with these contributions are sadly missing from the Ghanaian psyche. Overseas-resident Ghanaians are constantly told to shut up whenever they give suggestions to the direction of the country's development. They are told that they are "too known".
Many overseas-resident Ghanaians who have attempted to establish businesses in Ghana have lots of horror stories to tell about the serious obstacles and impediments that are put in their way. Others who have shipped items meant as gifts for educational institutions and hospitals have also been frustrated to the point where some even abandon the goods. And when they complain, they are accused of being "too known". They seem to be telling us to "just bring your money and goods and shut up".
We are reminding the government and the people of Ghana and especially the Missions abroad that they need to take positive steps to acknowledge the contributions of Ghanaians resident abroad to Ghana's development. We should be given every possible assistance when we go to Ghana either to clear goods meant for development or charities. And we should be given much more assistance in setting up businesses which in the long-run will help stimulate the Ghanaian economy. The litany of horror stories and frustrations is too long. And the government and home-resident Ghanaians need to sit up, pay more attention and act!! An Akan adage literally translated says that "if the one who paid for the food does not eat well, he won't buy again"