Ghana's Diaspora communities in some selected North American locations on Tuesday had the benefit of contributing to the World Bank Institute's(WBI) programme on mobilising the African diaspora for development.
About 50 people which included university scholars, other professionals and students were connected by satelite in a video conference conversation (at locations in York and Carlton Universities in Canada and Onondaga Community College in Central New York) from the WBI office in Washington, DC.
They debated and made suggestions which would help the WBI consolidate its commission report on development in Africa from the perspective of the diaspora; a report made to the Bank on the request of the African Union. The Moderator of the conference, Guy Darlan who is also the WBI Regional Co-ordinator for Africa expressed the opinion that it was upon Ghanaians to ensure that " you sit at the table" and particiate in the discussion of issues of national development and not to see that as the responsibility of government alone.
The shift in paradigm at the Bank which has made it a policy to include the private sector and civil society in discussions on development and poverty, Darlan argued, showed how the institution was adopting to global changes. Though this was agreed to by Prof. George Ayittey (who was part of the Washington,DC location team) economist at the American University, the difficulty, he said, was the unlikely implementation of policy by governments in Africa even though, in doubting this, he acknowledged that Ghana could be an exception.
Mr. Kofi Anani, Operations Officer of the WBI talked about the importance of the discussion, its envisioned roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of notable actors as well as the necessary monitoring, evaluation and reporting arrangement that could at the end, enhance diaspora core activities to help in the draft of a mobilisation action plan.
At the end of the 5 hour discussion, Mr. Anani indicated that a task force would be formed from among the participants to join other Africans to meet at the WBI in Washington,DC in June 2005 to fashion out an action plan which the WBI and the African Union intent to discuss with their major wealthy and bilateral partners.
Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Minister Counselor and Head of Public Affairs at the Ghana Embassy in Washington,DC explained the government policy orientation to the diaspora and said for the past 10 years, there had been a positive attitude to diaspora contribution to the economic development of Ghana not only in transnational remittance terms which as at last year formed a quarter($2b) of the country's GDP but the quantum of its professional profile which could assist in development.
Since 2001 when the Homecoming Summit was held in Accra, the government, he explained, had implemented some policies formulated out of the conference draft by over 500 participants. Though not all had been implemented because of problems with loqistics and other financial constraints, Mr. Agyeman-Duah said, the intentions to make the diaspora part of the building blocks in development has become inevitable to the present government and future ones and in general terms, governments in all developing nations.
One of the issues raised by the group at Onondaga Community College which comprised over 20 people and led by Prof. Emmanuel Awuah of the College was the issue of culture and history in development. Neglected often but if well coordinated, he explained, it could bridge the gap between Ghana and African-Americans.
This was supported by another professor, David Owusu Ansah of James Madison University (part of the Washington,DC location) who is also past president of the Ghana Studies Council, an affilate of the African Studies Association of the U.S. and author of the Historical Dictionary of Ghana.
The two agreed on the possibility and WBI help, of their universities mapping a feasibility strategy to help in community college development in Ghana that could provide non academic training in various communities.
Richard Kofi Korkor and Yaw Owusu discussed from the Washington,DC base the genesis and accomplishments of the Ghana Cyber Group as a diaspora network organisation and its contribution, especially, The College Park Project of which the U.N. has showed great interest.
From Carleton, the team made up of more than 20 discussed capacity building in relation to some of the major conference themes: utilizing ICTs to create knowledge and learning networks, stemming the brain drain without emphasis on physical relocation and the essence of an African investment fund.Among the group was Ghana's Deputy High Commissioner to Canada , Mr. Charles Aggyei- Amoamah.
Meanwhile, Ghanaians can still make contributions and suggestions by visiting www.ghanaembassy.org (Public Affairs Section) and e-mail through [email protected]