The UK Minister for Africa arrived in Ghana on February 17, 2011 for a two day visit. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) organized a session on the theme “Shared Prosperity, Shared Security and Shared Values: A Solid Foundation for the Future”, to which many high dignitaries were invited. Dignitaries on the high-table were the Vice-President John Mahama, the Minister for Environment, Science and technology, Hon. Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Muhammad Mumuni, The British High Commissioner Peter Edwards Johns, and the Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Hon. Enoch Teye Mensah with Prof Justice AKP Kludze, a senior fellow with the IEA acting as chairman of the occasion.
The programme started a little later than the expected time but when it finally did, I was impressed with the flow of information and the order of events. The chairman, opened the floor for the Vice-President to give a short speech which basically highlighted the nation’s willingness to keep and preserve the historical bond between Ghana and the United Kingdom. Mr. Mahama in his speech appealed to the British business community look for opportunities outside the United Kingdom despite the ebbing global recession.
After the Vice-president’s speech, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Minister gave his speech. In a speech that lasted for about fifteen minutes, Mr. Bellingham hammered many important issues affecting not only Ghana but Africa as well. Some of the major topics mentioned by Henry Bellingham included Climate Change, the Uk-Ghana partnership, President Obama’s visit to Ghana, drug trafficking and operation Westbridge, Intra-African Trade and the Ivorian crisis.
For me this two-hour programme put together by the IEA was very educative and provided me with lots of details regarding the Ghana-Uk partnership, which I guess I hadn’t bothered to look into. It also left me with lots of thoughts on my mind, and I simply could not stop asking myself what I could do to contribute to this noble cause as a citizen of Ghana. I left the building with a fair idea of what was expected of me as a citizen of Ghana.
Nonetheless I had one major questions at the back of my mind; would it not have been more beneficial to Ghana as a nation if more ‘ordinary’ people were allowed to be a part of this programme?
Minister Bellingham called upon all and sundry to be committed to good governance and kick the culture of corruption out of Ghana. I believe these messages would have had a greater impact if the UK Minister for Africa were to interact with the general public whose contributing efforts would be more effective towards this cause. Many a times, there is a blockade that prevents the free flow of information from its main source. Unless the IEA, the government of Ghana and the British High Commission engages the general public during such important occasions, these programmes will be seen by others as just another meeting of elites. The fight against corruption, the call for good governance and issues such as climate change are all subjects that needed the contribution of the ‘’masses’’.
My suggested therefore is that after the Henry Bellingham’s speech at the IEA, a few other lectures could have been held for civil societies, Universities and Colleges and organised associations in the country. This is the only way information can trickle down to the grassroots, else such calls for a better Ghana will only be heard by those in the upper tiers of the nation, and to them, this is a gospel they are privileged to hear everyday. If only more and more other people outside the usual circles could get the chance to be engaged in such developmental discussions, I believe a good number of Ghana’s population would be aware of what expectations are required of them in return for fruitful partnerships such as the Ghana-Uk one.