African Diaspora acknowledged as continent’s 6th region

The African Union (AU) in a policy directive has acknowledged the African Diaspora as the sixth Region of the Continent, in addition to the East, West, North, South and Central regions. This is in recognition of the vast numbers of Africans domiciled outside of the continent and their contributions to the Motherland.

This policy has been “domesticated” by respective Member States of the AU community. In Ghana, what used to be a “Desk” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFA & RI), has now been elevated into a Directorate headed by a Director. The role of the Diaspora Engagement Directorate is to bring together the disparate Ghanaian groups scattered all over the globe to recognize their existence and also tap into their resourcefulness for national development. Already remittances from Ghanaians abroad, estimated at over US$3 billion have an important niche in Ghana’s GDP.

Ghana’s Ambassadors and High Commissioners are specifically enjoined to treat diaspora engagement as a priority area in their diplomatic briefs and are required to present to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration detailed reports every quarter on the activities and welfare of their compatriots.

The numbers vary, but though Ghanaians can be found in all corners of the world, large concentrations exist in Europe and the United States. In Africa, the ECOWAS sub-region is home, due to proximity, to many Ghanaians.

In the south, South Africa has more concentrations of Ghanaians and a sprinkling of them shared between, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and other SADC countries. In Botswana and Namibia (Windhoek Mission’s accreditation), where Ghana lent a helping hand in their immediate post-independence human resource development, the Ghanaian Diaspora reflects very much that kind of expertise.

In Namibia for example, until very recently, the Associate Dean of the Medical School was a Ghanaian, Prof. Philip Odonkor. The Dean of the Law School,          Prof. John Baloro is also a Ghanaian law professor and at the Graduate Business School of the Namibia University of Science and Technology, a Ghanaian lecturer, Mr. Kofi Boamah is among the top faculty heads. In the main hospitals, Ghanaians are very active in clinical roles, among whom are Dr.Edward Fynn, President of the Ghanaian Community and Dr. Quayson.

Senior officials in the Namibian government and civil service often talk fondly of the likes of Ambassador E. M Debrah and the late Col. Agbeko who helped set up their Civil Service and Legal Service respectively. Ghanaian policemen and women served Namibia for a while as the country put its own police service together. They also acknowledge with gratitude the moral and physical support Ghana extended to them during their independence struggles. Botswana on the other hand cherishes the contribution of Ghanaians, in the development of education and sports, particularly football and often speak highly of the contribution of late Ben Koffie.

Due to their very strict immigration laws, both Botswana and Namibia, with very small populations, have no room for “hustlers”, so undocumented Ghanaians would not be seen loitering the high streets of their capitals. The two countries are under 3 million in population each and do not encourage illegal immigration, but the Ghanaians with legal residence enjoy all the privileges and rights associated with their status and many of them are thriving and prospering.

In line with its Diaspora Engagement responsibilities, Ghana’s High Commission in Namibia, with concurrent accreditation to Botswana embarked on an outreach programme to Gaborone and other cities of Botswana from 22nd to 29th July, 2016 and met with different Ghanaian communities in Gaborone, Francistown, Selebi-Phikwe and Lobatse. Very much in love with the Motherland, they are open in their views on happenings back home. Their concerns centered on excessive partisanship and politicization of issues, voting rights for those resident abroad, the acquisition of biometric passports, the energy deficit and media excesses.

Our compatriots in Botswana are hardworking people loyal to both their adopted home and Motherland. Ghana’s Honorary Consul, Mr. Solomon Opare-Kumi, whose responsibility is almost like a Head of Mission, has been in Botswana for eighteen years; others range from ten to thirty years. Their footprints include investments in businesses, the Civil Service, education, ICT, cultural products and religion.

The Catholic Bishop of Francistown (Botswana’s second city located in Northern Botswana), is a Ghanaian, Bishop Charles Eshon, who is supported by both Ghanaian and Botswana priests and nuns. Other notable compatriots include Mrs. Edna Swaniker, an Educationist; Dr. George Stephen Brewu, a medical doctor ; Mr. Mr. Emmanuel Kwesi Banful, a successful investor and businessman; Mr. Daniel  Awuah, an IT Specialist in Communication Technology, Mrs. Beatrice Dziekpor, a business woman ; Mrs. Ethel Adjetey  also a business woman; Opanin K.E. Obeng, a retired magistrate; and Mr. Richmond Boadi Agyemang, a retired land valuation officer. When President Mahama paid a State Visit to Botswana in March, 2015, he addressed over 600 compatriots in a town hall style meeting in Gaborone.

Among the compatriots mentioned above, one striking personality worth focusing on is Mrs. Edna Swaniker.

Mrs Swaniker established, in 1993, Mount Pleasant English Medium School in Selebi-Phikwe, a town about 405 km north of Botswana’s capital city Gaborone, as a study group of 6 pupils at the Lutheran Church.  “English Medium” because English is the language of instruction, schools in Botswana use the local Batswana language. After 6 months, the school moved to the Anglican Church premises. As the year progressed, the number on enrolment rose to thirty five (35) pupils. Towards the end of 1993, she made an appeal to the Selebi-Phikwe Town Council and in November 1994, a 4.5 hectare of land was allocated to her to build a permanent structure for the school.

swani

The school grew slowly: from one classroom block to a complete English Medium School with over 320 pupils, and continued to expand its physical infrastructure to include a mini Olympic size swimming pool, a tennis court and a multi-purpose hall, (named after her late husband, Mr. Francis Betram Swaniker), funded entirely from reinvestment of revenue generated from the school fees.

Mount Pleasant English Medium School has offered quality and affordable primary education to many up and coming youth in Botswana and continues to produce excellent Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. Its sterling performance in the 2012 PSLE resulted in two of the school’s pupils appearing in the top 10 results nation–wide. These two pupils were honoured by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana at the Botswana Examination Council (BEC) Annual PSLE Excellence Awards Ceremony in Gaborone, Botswana.

Through her efforts, Rotary Club in Selebi-Phikwe donated US$30,000 to the Christian Council to convert an abandoned school (Amogelang Primary School) into a Vocational School. She is currently working with Standard Chartered Bank Botswana to organise a scholarship scheme for deprived pupils at Primary Schools.

Mrs. Swaniker’s immense contributions to educational development in Botswana were recognized in 2014 when His Excellency Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana awarded her the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service, one of the highest national orders of Botswana.

While distinctive achievements are being recorded by our compatriots in Namibia and Botswana, their commitments are not limited to their ‘second country’ but also to their beloved Mother Ghana. Instances of institutional capabilities have hampered the level at which our compatriots can impact some of their expertise to Ghana’s national development efforts. Despite these setbacks, it is the expectations of our diaspora compatriots, that the country continue in the positive direction of national building and development, an attitude that all Ghanaians must strive to pursue to make Ghana a better country.

Mrs. Swaniker on an inspection tour of her school with (l to r) H.E. Alhaji A. Harruna Attah , High Commissioner, Ms. Salamatu Yakubu, Minister-Counsellor and Mr. Solomon Opare-Kumi, Hon. Consul

Mrs. Swaniker on an inspection tour of her school with (l to r) H.E. Alhaji A. Harruna Attah , High Commissioner, Ms. Salamatu Yakubu, Minister-Counsellor and Mr. Solomon Opare-Kumi, Hon. Consul

Government of Ghana, has taken steps, in recent times to ease a major concern of the diaspora by assisting selected Ghana’s Missions in London, Berlin, New York, Abuja and Pretoria with Biometric Passport printing equipment to serve their “catchment areas”. In the coming years other Missions are expected to be compliant.

 

Source: Ghana High Commission, Windhoek, Namibia.

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