24 August 2012, Sweetcude/African Press Organization (APO), GENEVA, Switzerland – A forum bringing together representatives from the government, diaspora associations, the private sector and civil society opens today in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
The three-day event aims to find ways to further foster diaspora engagement in the socio-economic development of Ghana through productive investments and much needed transfers of skills and knowledge.
The forum is part of a one-year project supported of IOM’s International Development Fund (IDF.) It seeks to stimulate long term cooperation and engagement between the Government and the Ghanaian diaspora in five destination countries – the USA, the UK, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
“A successful engagement of the Ghanaian diaspora is central to the country’s development,” says IOM’s Chief of Mission Dyane Epstein. “So we need to make it easier for Ghanaians abroad or people of Ghanaian heritage who wish to invest their skills, talent, energy and money into the development of their native country.”
Over the last year, the IOM office in Accra has worked with government counterparts to strengthen the diaspora’s engagement through the setting up of a national Diaspora Support Unit. Specific activities undertaken so far include a profiling of Ghanaian diaspora groups in the five destination countries and the holding of dialogues between the Government of Ghana and diaspora associations.
A diaspora database and related website (www.ghanaiandiaspora.com) have also been established as part of efforts to address some of the bottlenecks which prevent Ghanaians abroad from playing a more active role in Ghana’s development. These include complex bureaucratic practices and policies, challenges reintegrating into Ghanaian society and a lack of effective structures to support the engagement of the diaspora.
Globally, many countries are looking to their diasporas as important sources of remittances, know how, and as a social and cultural benefit to national development. The Philippines and Mexico, for example, have benefited enormously from remittances sent by their citizens abroad.
In Ghana, figures released by the Central Bank attest to the importance of the Ghanaian diaspora in socio-economic development. Remittances currently represent a bigger share of Ghana’s balance of payments than the combined total of all official development aid.