Business News of Tuesday, 24 January 2017
The Minister of Foreign Affairs designate, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, has said that Ghana’s foreign missions will pursue an economic diplomacy policy to attract foreign direct investments and also market the country’s non-traditional exports.
Responding to a question from the Member of Parliament for Cape Coast North, Mrs Barbara Asher Ayisi, when she took her turn at the Appointments Committee of Parliament yesterday, she said to secure foreign investors to Ghana, officers of the Foreign Service should be well trained in economic diplomacy.
To further advance that, Ms Botchway hinted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would work out the modalities for short courses for all Foreign Service personnel if she was given the nod.
She explained that although Ghana’s foreign policy was to be a good neighbour to all countries around Ghana and those who wished to do business with it, there would be a slight shift in focus to economic diplomacy.
“Any relationship should end in promoting the interest of Ghana. The focus of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto is to increase engagement within the ECOWAS region and Africa. There is a ready market of 350 million people if trading among African countries is encouraged,” she stated.
The Foreign Affairs Minister-designate said Article 40 of the 1992 Constitution on Foreign Policy, which speaks to the promotion and protection of the interest of Ghana, encapsulated the foreign policy of the country.
Ms Botchway told the committee that the coming into force of Article 50 in the UK to enable that country to leave the European Union in the next two years posed some challenges to trade between Ghana and the UK.
Article 50 states: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”
She would, therefore, advise President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to re-negotiate with Britain alone for the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which has been ratified, saying that it would not put Ghana in a worse situation or fundamentally change things.
Missions in poor state
The MP for Asokwa, Mrs Patricia Appiagyei, asked about the state of Ghana’s missions abroad, after a $50-million facility from Societe Generale had been made available for their renovation.
Ms Botchway said most of the missions, such as the New York facility, were in a very bad state, with some requiring rehabilitation and others needing outright new purchases.
She agreed that a public-private partnership arrangement could help restore the missions and that the retention of more than 25 per cent of the internally generated funds would also enable the foreign embassies to repay the $50 million loan easily.
“It will make business sense, whether it is the chancery or the missions,” she stated.
Dubious recruitment agencies
She promised to collaborate with the ministries of the Interior and Employment and Labour Relations to crack down on unregistered agencies that recruited Ghanaians for supposed lucrative jobs abroad, only to abuse them when they got to their destinations.
Ms Botchway, who was responding to a question on the steps she would take to stop the abuse of Ghanaians abroad, also said she would push for more sensitisation of Ghanaians, especially women, who mostly fell prey to the agents.
The difficulty in the acquisition of Ghanaian passports by both citizens abroad and at home became a subject for discussion at the vetting of the nominee.
In her response to a question posed by the MP for Hohoe, Mrs Bernice Adiku Heloo, on what could be done to ease the difficulty citizens abroad went through to renew or acquire passports, Ms Botchway said an expansion of the online application to missions abroad would help deal with the many mistakes that delayed the acquisition process.
She said that currently only six missions abroad, including Abuja, London, Washington, DC, Berlin and Pretoria, were able to process applications and so more missions had to be equipped and staffed to be able to process and issue passports.
In the case of processing applications in Ghana, she said plans were far advanced to get the four remaining regions — Eastern, Upper West, Upper East and Central — to also be able to process applications because properties had already been sited and all that was left were funds to renovate them.
She gave a timeline of two years to get all the regions passport application centres.
She also said plans to migrate to the chip-embedded passport had gone as far as the Central Tender Board and that a quick migration would make things easier for bearers in terms of security.
Other issues broached at the vetting were the high cost of visas at Ghana’s missions abroad, processing of passports for Hajj pilgrims, support to Foreign Service staff after their duty tour and the State Protocol services to all arms of government by foreign missions.
The nominee pledged to address them when given the nod.
Ms Botchway is not new to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, as she was a Deputy Minister from April 2006 to October 2007 and June 2008 to January 2009 during the Kufuor administration.
She was also a Deputy Minister of Information from April 2005 to April 2006 and a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry from October 2007 to June 2008.