Kwasi Kwarteng, Adam Afriyie and Sam Gyimah are the three MPs of Ghanaian heritage that spring to mind when I think of Ghanaians in Parliament – not a group of men and women from my Motherland milling about metres from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
But that is exactly what The Ghana Society created when it organised ‘Ghanaians in Parliament with London Mayoral candidates’ at Portcullis House.
Ghanaians from all walks of life rubbed shoulders with MPs and London Mayor hopefuls under the banner of forging stronger trading ties between Ghana and the UK.
Fittingly, the event – MCed by broadcaster Owusu Frimpong – was staged on Ghana Republic Day on 1 July and hosted by Kelvin Hopkins MP. Mr Hopkins has a long association with Ghana. He is also good friends with The Ghana Society UK founder Maria Ampah Lovell and it seems is something of a regular at Ghana’s social events. But his ties with Ghana are deep and stretch back to his school days. As a schoolboy, he had the privilege of watching a game between amateur footballers from the former British colony who played in England against their colonial masters.
The then-called Gold Coast team played BAREFOOT except for bandages on their feet and yet still managed to beat the home team!!!!
London mayoral candidates
Healthy competition is always good as is partnership and trade which were central themes to the Westminster meeting. Discussion centred on how the UK can collaborate with Ghana to foster these longstanding ties. Panellists comprising writers, economists and politicians used the floor to explore how Ghana’s mineral wealth, manpower and expertise can be partnered with the UK.
And this is where contributions from London’s mayoral candidates were key. Some homed in on the need to celebrate multiculturalism. But for me, the ones that stuck out were those that were able to draw parallels between Ghana and the UK.
Let’s hope that in the same way that incumbent mayor Boris Johnson has flown the flag for UK-India trade collaborations, these same seeds of change can be planted in the minds of Boris’ successor.
So, Tom Chance, who is standing to be the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, highlighted that like the UK, Ghana has ambitious plans to tackle climate change. He touched on plans in Ghana to increase solar generation capacity by 6% by 2016.
This is something I think we can all agree couldn’t come a day too soon for our brothers and sisters languish under dumsor (frequent power outages). Dumsor occurs when there is not enough power to deliver electricity to everyone in an area, forcing some people to go without.
In fact, it is UK-based Blue Energy, an investor and developer of renewable energy projects, that is helping Ghana achieve its 6% increase in solar generation capacity by 2016. The company is constructing a 155-megawatt Nzema solar project in Ghana. Overall, however, Ghana has a target to generate 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Kofi Addo of the Ghana High Commission and agro-processing expert Anthony Ayakwah stressed the importance of harnessing Ghana’s resource base and adding value to the raw materials. Salt production in Ghana is an opportunity that isn’t being taken full advantage of, he stressed. Despite Ghana having enough salt to more than meet domestic consumption, Ghana imports tonnes from Brazil. And if only technology in cashew production in Ghana was more cutting-edge, areas such as Wenchi in Ghana’s middle belt would be in a position to meet the needs of the UK market.
But not everyone agreed with this model of trade partnership. Prospective Labour mayoral candidate Christian Wolmar observed that it seemed the rhetoric of adding value to Ghana’s resources and forging stronger UK-Ghana trade partnerships had not moved on since his early days as an economist more than 40 years ago. He questioned whether it wasn’t time for Ghana to focus its development around its own needs instead of trying to emulate the West.
Thought-provoking stuff. But enough about what I think – see for yourself.
Here are some brief clips from the event:
by Kirsty Osei-Bempong
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