The Association of Ghanaian Resident in Eastern Norway, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Kobla Agbota, gathered in the conference room at the prestigious Anke Hotel in Oslo, on Saturday the 7th of Mai, for their 2005 Annual General Meeting. The Association had the privilege to host His Excellency, the Ghana Ambassador to Denmark and the Nordic countries, Mr. Emmanuel K. Adu. Also present was the Minister at the Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, Mr. Yaw Odei Osei. Mr. Baba Abraham Kankani, a resident in Oslo, chaired the meeting.
The occasion was mainly for the Executive to account for the state of the union and to elect a new executive. Like all such gatherings, it was also for socialization and making use of the occasion to know each other. There are 1540 Ghanaians resident in Norway; about 80% of this population live in the capital city, Oslo and its suburbs. The Association's members had the opportunity to play games like oware, dame, ludo and cards.
The Chairman, Mr. Kobla Agbota, presented the Annual Report for 2004. He touched on the activities, achievements and challenges of the past year. He mentioned some of the activities and achievements for 2004 as Independence Day Celebration, Christmas party, Ghana Café, sponsorship agreement, registration of the Association, among others.
The chairman touched on challenges and the focus was on: getting all people with Ghanaian origin and affiliation on board, welfare of Ghanaian Youth [by creating awareness about the dangers of teenage pregnancy], creation of a Ghana Embassy in Oslo, planning towards the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Ghana's Independence, publication of Association's Newsletter, seeking financial support from Norwegian authorities, initiating and supporting development projects in Ghana, honouring past executives members, fund raising and revenue generating activities.
The Association's chairman, Mr. Kobla Agbota (who was unopposed) was unanimously re-elected by acclamation for a 2-year term. Under the Association's Constitution, the Chairman is mandated to submit a list of members to the Executive Board for approval with 3 months, in a general assembly held for that purpose. Six members were also elected to serve in the Electoral and the Audit Committees.
It was a refreshing moment for members to have the honour to host the Ambassador and his Minister once again this year. The first of its kind was in 2004, when Mr. Adu and his counsellor minister graced the Association's Independence Day Celebration by addressing the gathering and keeping company throughout the jamboree that followed through the night until daybreak. Until then, it was unprecedented.
In his brief address to members of the Association, HE. Mr. Emmanuel K. Adu thanked and showed appreciation for the invitation and the closer interaction between the Embassy and Ghanaians resident in Norway. He assured the association of his office's willingness and preparedness to respond and adapt to changes to meet the needs of his constituents in Denmark and all the Nordic countries.
He further stated that his Office has an open door policy for dealing with enquiries, queries or concerns. Mr. Adu also exhorted participants to come up with new ideas that will enhance service delivery without compromising basic principles of our national policy. Finally, the Ambassador admonished his compatriots to build an all-inclusive and cohesive National Association of Ghanaian Residents in Norway in order to provide a common platform with which his office can sustain meaningful dialogue. He congratulated the Association for keeping the spirit and image of Ghana alive in Norway.
The Association members at the well-attended meeting used the occasion to ask questions about the embassy and their country. The main concern raised was on problems of acquiring a visa at the Embassy to Ghana by members who have Norwegian citizenship. Members called for a system that will make it easier to acquire a visa without having to fill a form and provide 4 passport size photographs each time the need to travel to Ghana arises. Members also asked the embassy to open an account so that all payments can be sent into it rather than the current practice where payments are made by cash through post.
Members expressed concern about sanitary conditions at our Nation's port of entry – the Kotoka International Airport. This was at the backdrop of the fact that tourism has emerged as one of the major revenue earning activities. Treatment of natives abroad at the KIA was also on the agenda. There was virtually unanimous belief that non-Ghanaians [esp. Caucasians] are treated much well than natives resident abroad at the KIA. A call was made for the creation of a database at the Embassy to facilitate issuing of visas to nationals abroad and others.
The Embassy on its part acknowledged that the supportive role played by Ghanaians abroad by promoting the country overseas, remittances and others is well recognized by the government in Accra. Members were assured that it's not the interest of the Embassy to compound the problems of its constituents. It was, however, stated that the Embassy implements laws and regulations made in Accra and that most of the problems are inherent in the system itself, which they have no authority to alter in Copenhagen. In spite of that, members were assured of the Embassy's preparedness to send their grievances to Accra for necessary changes. The Embassy reiterated its commitment and determination to do everything possible to provide the best services to all and sundry within its jurisdiction.
The Association received goodwill messages from representatives of Ghanaian associations across the country, the Ghana Women Union in Oslo and the Ghana Taxi Drivers Union. The meeting, which began at 15.00, closed at nearly 21.00 Central European Time.