New High Commissioner of Ghana to Australia, His Excellency Nii Adjei's commitment to engage the Ghanaian community was a success as they turned up in their numbers for his first community meeting with Ghanaians living in Canberra.
The Consul-General of the Ghana High Commission, Mr Hakeem Balogun welcomed the community to the Ghana house and introduced the staff.
Lawyer Ebenezer Banful speaking on behalf of the president and executive of the Ghana Australia Association thanked the High Commissioner for the invitation to engage with the community.
The two-hour long, informal meeting which was well attended by Ghanaians from all over Canberra touched on many issues affecting the community here in Australia and also on what is happening back home in Ghana.
The High Commissioner in his speech touched on the NPP's government initiative to register all Ghanaian citizens abroad in order for them to make their voices heard during election time; on streamlining the process of gaining dual citizenship as well as moving for the inclusion of people who are qualified in the diaspora to be included in the political process.
"At the present moment about fifty well-qualified Ghanaians have been appointed to positions of authority and influence in Ghana since the government assumed office. That is all part of the process of ensuring that in as much as we are engaging the diaspora, there are benefits of that engagement for them.
"The government has also put in place a national identification system which is going to be fully implemented this year. Ghanaians in the diaspora will be connected through their embassies abroad.
"I want to emphasise that we are here for you and that this mission belongs to you and we want you to feel part of the process of national development where you have ideas and suggestions that can help us to advise government. We want you to feel encouraged to come forward.
He stated that the ultimate aim of the government is to develop a Ghana beyond aid; a Ghana which will enable us to reach a process in our development where we are not dependent on external aid; a Ghana which will be self-sufficient.
And accordingly, the government is trying to introduce policies such as: ‘one district one factory and one district one dam’.
The intention is to engage with the private sector to set up industries that will ensure that young people are employed and which will also contribute to economic development.
His Excellency also touched on the free SHS program; the appointment of Martin Amidu to tackle corruption; planting for food and jobs; youth in agriculture; issues with illegal mining and the destruction of the environment which have actually engaged the government's attention in recent times. The High Commissioner stressed that these policies are beginning to yield some positive results.
"All of us have a stake in the Ghana that we want to build, a Ghana beyond aid, so you are partners with government and you are ambassadors wherever you are and i encourage you to lift high the flag of Ghana, feel proud as a Ghanaian wherever you go and wherever Ghana's name is mentioned.”
In response to a question about waiving duties for students who have come here on Australian government scholarships and are returning home after their studies to contribute to national development, H.E Adjei said that it is something that the government is looking into to help students returning home and not only students but also so many other categories of Ghanaians who work outside for government.
Another questioner brought up the issue of oil revenue and in response Mr Adjei said the expectation that once we have the oil, then all our problems were going to be solved has not actually proved to be the case, because one can’t always see what is going to happen economically in two or three years’ time as the price fluctuates. The revenue is being managed judiciously, however perhaps if not in our life time, those that are going to come are going to see the effects. The good news is that some exploration activities have been done in the Volta region and as the president said in his State of the Union address, the future looks bright.
Other questions that were raised and discussed during the question and answer session included: the death tolls on our roads in Ghana; issues of an appropriate welcome in the High Commission; why the government has to appoint over a hundred ministers; what concrete steps are being made to make things easy for people who want to send equipment free of charge to hospitals in Ghana.
The High Commissioner and his team will be in Sydney next to meet the Ghanaian community there.