President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo yesterday opened the Ghana Diaspora Celebration and Third Homecoming Summit, with an assurance that the government would soon place before Parliament a bill that would allow Ghanaians with dual citizenship to hold public office.
“The question of the political rights of dual citizens is a matter for Parliament and an opportunity is going to be provided soon for Parliament to address this issue,” he told the gathering, which included African and Ghanaian Diasporans, in Accra.
The summit was part of the Year of Return to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first 20 West African slaves in the United States of America (USA).
Tracing the contribution of Diasporans to their home countries all over the world, the President expressed excitement at the decision of the Office of Diasporan Affairs to work on the Diaspora Engagement Policy Bill.
He explained that the bill would deal effectively with all matters affecting oversees Ghanaians, noting that beyond the remittances they sent back home, they had a crucial role to play towards the growth and development of the country.
He said he expected the bill to be brought before the Cabinet to be worked on expeditiously and laid before Parliament.
President Akufo-Addo said the critical role of those in the Diaspora could not be overstated, and that was why he had redeemed the promise to centralise the handling of Diasporan matters at the Office of the President where the current office resided.
He said there abound instances of the great impact Diasporan communities had on the growth and development of their countries, including increased trade activities, more investments and the transfer of skills and knowledge.
He gave the example of China, with an immigration population of 60 million, considered the 25th largest country in the world, with assets worth more than $2.5 trillion, adding that in the 1970s when foreign companies reduced their investments in China, it was the Chinese Diaspora that shored up the economy of that country.
Quoting from the Washington, DC-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the President said half of the foreign direct investments of $426 billion that transformed China into a manufacturing powerhouse in the 1990s originated from the Chinese Diaspora.
President Akufo-Addo said several countries, such as India, Kenya, Ethiopia and Israel, issued Diasporan bonds, with Israel, for example, raising $25 billion to fund infrastructure in that country, while India’s first two bonds of $411 billion saved the country from a balance of payment crisis after sanctions were imposed on it after the conduct of a nuclear test.
He said he intended to use the symbolism of the Year of Return to bring together Africans, people of African descent and all well-wishers of freedom to strengthen the commitment to ensure that the blots in Africa’s history, such as the Trans-African Slave Trade and slavery, never recurred.
He said he had travelled to the US and the Caribbean to invite Ghana’s kith and kin to join the various activities commemorating the year-long event, including summits, festivals and durbars from James Town in Accra to James Town in the USA.
President Akufo-Addo noted that his administration met a bleak economic situation and that by dint of hard work it had improved all the economic indicators and dealt with the issue of erratic power supply and also turned the decline in agriculture, making the country an exporter of agricultural produce.
He said the dangerously fragile banking system, with weak capitalised banks and some banks engaged in poor governance practices, had been reversed.
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, urged Diasporans to consider Ghana as an investment destination, saying that many Ghanaians had migrated to many countries around the world, made their mark there and continue to have a positive impact on Ghana.
She said in the Year of Return, the government was closely engaging second and third Ghanaian generations, the bulk of whom had never visited Ghana, and urged them to look at the country as both a holiday destination and a new frontier for business opportunities.