Monday, February 21, 2011

UK Minister for Africa visits Ghana - What does it mean to you!

My interaction with a few people in Ghana revealed, not too many of us knew the United Kingdom had a Minister for Africa whose key duties among others is to improve and promote commercial and political ties between the UK and other African nations. This post is specifically composed to provide you with as much information as possible regarding the position and of course the personality supposed to be the 'God father of Africa in the UK'.

The UK Minister for Africa's position rests under the arms of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), commonly abbreviated as "Foreign Secretary", currently headed by William Hague the Foreign Secretary of State . The core objective of this Office is to promote the interests of the United Kingdom overseas. If you are in Africa the one you should familiarize yourself with is Henry Bellingham, the UK Minister for Africa.

Henry Bellingham was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 14 May 2010. The 55-year old Parliamentarian has been involved in UK parliamentary matters since his first election to the UK parliament in 1983. Henry Bellingham visited Ghana on February 17th and 18th after a short visit to Nigeria. He gave a speech at the Institute of Economic Affairs (I.E.A) on 18th February, a function I was privileged to attend. A full transcript of his speech can be obtained here.

The question now is , 'how can Ghanaians extract the full benefits of our long term relationship with the UK'? By ''Ghanaian people'', I mean the ordinary Ghanaian on the streets of this middle-income nation. Visits by such high dignitaries go unnoticed and to the ordinary Ghanaian it is just another meeting of politicians who discuss issues out of their concern.

A solution to this problem is to use all available channels to sensitize and inform the general public (at least those who care to know) when such issues of relevance are discussed in our own backyard. After all the Department for International Development (DFID) is about the masses and not just about the top-level local politicians. Spread the word and spread it as far as you can, the more Ghanaians know about the roles they have to play in such circumstances, the higher the likelihood of our nation attaining the goals we set for ourselves.

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