Emancipation, diaspora inclusion, homecoming, year of return, think of any name or description, we have used them interchangeably to encourage Ghanaians living abroad and African Americans who claim ancestorship in Ghana to return home and join in the development of our country.

Governments after governments have made concerted and intentional efforts in the past to advance that agenda of “returnees” inclusion. The laudable idea is to encourage the importation of rainbow talents and skills of our people out there to Ghana’s benefit. We even, at a point in time, had a Ministry with focused attention on Diaspora Relations.

We have succeeded beautifully in importing Ghanaian talents in football for international matches, including the World Cup. We bring our shining stars in foreign clubs to come and join our boys to play because of the added skills they have acquired abroad. 

Yet, we have a problem in other professional areas and ask questions: “where was the competitive bidding”? “Why no public advertising”? “Why we have the men right here to do it” and so forth. 

Agenda 111

All these questions and thoughts have been flashing in my mind as I go through the many media cries, social media included, about the selection of some professionals for the execution of the Agenda 111 project of the Government to construct or upgrade 111 hospitals across the country into modern acceptable health facilities.

I have been struggling to understand why the selection or inclusion of Sir David Adjaye’s architectural company in designing some of the hospitals under Agenda 111 is directly or indirectly generating so much eye-popping. So my simple question is, why the rejection? 

Is it because he is not qualified as an architect with the skills required? Is it that he is a foreigner from nowhere with no business registration in Ghana?  The answers are obvious. He is a Ghanaian-British. Dual citizenship is allowed, right? 

He is an architect of good reputation known for designing many notable buildings worldwide, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, right? In addition, he was recognised and knighted by the Queen of England in 2017 in the country’s New Year Honours for architecture services, correct?

He operates globally with offices in Accra, London and New York. So, based on the call for the inclusion of Ghanaian skills in a laudable project as Agenda 111, which will benefit Ghanaians today and generations to come, does this man’s services, among many other Ghanaians selected for the project, not good enough?

And did I read in one of the social media posts that he is even designing with local materials and giving us value for money at the cost of two designs for the price of one? We need the rainbow skills and expertise sometimes.

In 2017 in this column, I joined many Ghanaians home and abroad to celebrate Sir David Adjaye OBE when he was knighted. I thought it was an achievement that needed to be celebrated. However, he did not lobby for it nor paid his way through. And I bet he did not have links with the Selection Board. It was based on merit in a foreign land for our own kith and kin.

Brain drain

What is going on brings to mind our groans sometimes of brain drain and the loss of needed professionals to foreign countries.  But we do not seem to love our own. I know a few professional friends who have lived and worked abroad and wanted to come home and genuinely contribute in their areas of expertise. 

In their attempt, did they succeed? No, despite numerous applications and interviews and the tossing here and there. In some cases, frustration set in and they simply had to abandon their good intentions and go back. But, unfortunately, their good hearts were not welcome.

We are at a point in our history where we are losing about two generations of our young men and women professionals to other countries. This is because our educational system, at some point, forced parents to work hard to send their children abroad for a much better education. 

Now they have studied in some top institutions abroad as qualified professionals giving their youthful best to these countries that afforded them quality education. They have reintegrated into those societies, married and settled down. When one talks to them, some are prepared to come home at some point.

Is it not in our interest to relax our inclusion barriers and try and woo these young fertile minds to come and contribute to nation-building with their rainbow skills? 

Football has taught us that sometimes, it is better for the coaches to look further afield to support our local teams with skills and competencies acquired abroad for international matches. 

Let us with warm hearts and minds progress and make sense of foreign-based Ghanaian expertise in all development sectors.

Sir David Adjaye, OBE, maybe in the penalty box today with Agenda 111. If he does not score in the shootout, let us not field him next time. 

But for now, let us make sense of his inclusion where necessary.

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You can reach the author via email at vickywirekoandoh@yahoo.com.