Ghanaian-American legal brain tasked to solve Ghana’s power crisis

Business News of Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Source: Starrfmonline.com

Ewusi Mensah Frimpong

Just about five years after she was recognised and named among the National Law Journal’s 40 Under 40 up and coming attorneys for her work on a groundbreaking international arbitration concerning a trade dispute between the US and Canada, Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong, a rising star among some of the United States’ top legal brains, has demonstrated tremendous commitment to living up to her laurels and challenging her comforts to fulfil her utmost dream – fighting to expand liberties.

Serving in her current position as the Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the second generation American, born in Califonia to Ghanaian immigrants, Kwaku Owusu Mensah (father) and Theodora Owusu Mensah (mother), is an excellent legal brain who’s fast, consistent and impressive rise up the ranks of the legal profession is an inspiring story yet untold.

Highly regarded and celebrated in the U.S as one of the few ‘black-women’ who are contributing to seeing the glass ceiling in the legal profession broken to pieces, Frimpong recounts that her first job as a clerk for a Court of Appeal judge in Califonia in the United States prepared her for her subsequent opportunities.

“It was a wonderful job and I often say that it was the best job that I’ve had and I’ve had great jobs since then too…most judges are very accomplished lawyers so it was almost like a very small classroom where you are able to learn from someone who is very accomplished day after day. And the other thing about working with a judge is that the cases that they work on are very important. Life and death issues for the people that they work with,” she remarked in an interview with StarrFMonline.comon her first trip to Ghana since she joined the MCC as Veep.

Admittedly, that first job built in her a strong sense of public duty as she stepped into various critical roles such as this current one.

“… It was one of my first tastes of having that feeling of…the effect you can have on people’s lives and in making lives better, in making lives more fair and making our system of Democracy in the United States work better for people, so I really enjoyed it. It was great training”.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation recently signed a five-year $498 million deal with Ghana, to support the transformation of the country’s poor power sector.

Informed by the erratic power supply, which is hurting the economy, the Ghana Power Compact, has become a deal recorded in history as the largest of all US Government-funded transactions of President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative.

A new challenge to surmount Like the many inspiring jobs she has taken and successfully executed in the past, the mandate of the Corporation gives Ms Frimpong a new challenge to surmount.

There are high expectations for her success not just because her job requires her to, but also because the people of her homeland are relying on her knowledge and expertise to end the erratic power situation more commonly known as ‘dum-sor, dum-sor’ in the local parlance.

This, according to the Yale Law School graduate, puts her on her toes.

“It is very personal,” she said, adding the erratic power situation is having a toll on the economy. “…It’s a serious issue for the economy and for people’s lives, for health and safety and so it is very personal that we want to make it better,” she emphasised.

Ewusi-Mensah, who visited Ghana in January 2015, to study the situation and help diagnose solutions said, it is “disappointing” to her to find that many years after her first visit to her home country in 1997, the people still have to struggle with poor power supply.

“Between the time I graduated from Harvard and the time I went to Yale Law School [1997], I came to Ghana to teach computer studies at the Achimota School …. That year that I was in Ghana was another period of time when the power was cut and it was a difficult time for many people and I just saw how hardworking everybody was and I was impressed particularly with the students who were very, very hardworking and very disciplined”.

This, according Frimpong, who has dedicated a great deal of her career to ensuring social justice is a cause for concern.

“During that year because it was the first time I wasn’t staying with family, I saw how warm and loving and friendly other people were, even those whom were not my family. And so that impressed me. So it’s disappointing to see that so many years later, it’s still continuing.

“But I am excited that I am able to play a part in making the situation better,” she remarked.

Ms. Frimpong is a key member of MCC’s management team, as well as the principal authority to the Chief Executive Officer on legal and ethical aspects of MCC’s programmes and operations. She is responsible for providing direction and coordination across organisational lines to ensure compliance with legal requirements, as well as representing the agency on legal and ethical matters, and overseeing attorney support for MCC programmes and operations.

Setting the agenda Her roles also include coordinating with the Board of Directors on setting the agenda and preparing matters to be presented to the Board for decision as Corporate Secretary and she expects to excel at it like she has at previous jobs.

Ms Frimpong relishes holding public service positions, and has kept rising and stepping to higher responsibilities since she left her first job as a clerk to become a commercial litigation and intellectual property litigation associate.

In what can be described as an illimitable destiny, she continued to work in several leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Justice, counselor to Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., and prior to that served as the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General of the Department.

“I’ve been blessed with many great opportunities and when I think of my career, the thing that pops up for me is that I’ve been blessed with many amazing opportunities, and I’ve been blessed with the ability to take advantage of those opportunities and obviously I’ve tried to work hard and maintain relationships,” she acknowledged.

For three years, the visionary who is only in her early thirties, led the newly reorganised Consumer Protection Branch of the Civil Division as Deputy Assistant Attorney General where she set strategic direction of the branch and implemented its expanded consumer protection footprint, leading to the transition of the branch to its expanded mission.

According to records, she has also served as a Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division, advising the Assistant Attorney General on intellectual property, diversity, immigration, consumer protection, international trade, and international law matters and briefly served in the capacity of the Deputy Assistant Attorney General before taking up her current assignment at the MCC.

“..I think I have been at the department of justice for seven years and during my time there I have had some incredible opportunities to work on matters where we were making lives better for Americans. But as a Ghanaian, I saw the issues that exist in Ghana and other places in Africa and the developing world, so it was always in my heart to find some ways to use my skills and talents to help Ghanaians and make things a lot better.”

“I did not see a clear path to do so. So when the MCC opportunity came along and I had to learn more about what the MCC does and how successful they have been in reducing poverty and how their modules really achieve great impacts in the countries that they work in a relatively short period of time, I was excited to join the team and do what I could do to help them. So that was a huge part of me coming to MCC”.

She is, however, eager to see the Ghana Power Compact project through successfully.

“I hope that I am bringing my legal skills that I have developed over my career. And also just the passion for the work, and the desire to see MCC achieve even greater success in the countries around the world. And because I am new I hope I can bring a fresh perspective. The agency is just 10 years old which is fairly new, according to U.S standards. So I hope I bring in fresh spirit of innovation, new ideas, and new ways of thinking about things and new ways of doing things.”

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