Ghana’s Foreign Minister Honourable Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey on Tuesday 13th April 2021 held an orientation programme for Ambassadors, High Commission Designate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional integration on behalf of the government of Ghana.
In her welcome address the Minister said It is with great pleasure that she welcomes all dignitaries to the Orientation Programme, which has been carefully designed to hone their skills for the enormous task ahead of them as they embark on the privileged journey as envoys of the Republic of Ghana abroad.
She congratulated each one for their well deserved appointment. It is testament to the exemplary service and good conduct in your respective fields whether in the public or private sector.
She was particularly elated to have her two former deputies return to the service as Ambassadors. They were my backbone during my first tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and it was great honour and pleasure serving with them. May I also seize the opportunity to acknowledge the public servants amongst you who have dedicated your whole lives to the service of the nation, especially the Foreign Service Officers who have reached the pinnacle of their careers by dint of hard work. I also wish to congratulate the female appointees who continue to beat the odds and push the limits to smash the glass ceiling.
Below are parts of the minister’s speech read at the orientation ceremony:
You are well aware that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration is the lead State agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of Ghana’s Foreign Policy as enshrined in Chapter six (6) of the 1992 Constitution. As an active member of the comity of nations, Ghana’s international relations are conducted within the frameworks of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations and the Charters of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States among others.
The Ministry derives its four (4) strategic objectives from the National Medium Term Development Policy Framework (NMTDPF) 2018-2021, under the President’s Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies (2017-2024), and informed by other policy guidelines, including the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda. The four strategic objectives are to;
Promote a Globally Competitive Foreign Service;
Enhance Ghana’s International Image and Influence;
Promote Ghana’s Interests Abroad; and
Integrate Ghanaian Diaspora in National Development.
The underlying goal of these objectives is to have a transformed, effective and globally competitive State agency committed to promoting vibrant and dynamic partnerships with friendly countries and multilateral partners, and efficiently accelerating economic integration with regional and/or sub-regional organisations. This should place Ghana on the path to sustained economic growth, poverty reduction, and wealth creation for Ghanaian citizens at home and abroad.
As representatives of the President abroad, you will be entrusted with the enormous task of providing strategic leadership for the efficient and effective achievement of these strategic objectives.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The realities of the times we live in require that we pursue Economic Diplomacy as a viable tool for transforming the Ghanaian economy by actively seeking markets for Ghanaian goods and services abroad, promoting trade and commercial relations, investments into the country.
In this COVID era, Missions will be required to innovate in pursuit of economic diplomacy. Embarking on extensive market research on products and services is very crucial. Missions need to develop marketing plans indicating the focal areas, the objectives, the strategies employed and the outcome of their activities. Missions must adopt innovative and cost effective strategies such as communication with wholesalers, press releases, publishing articles in business papers, granting interviews to reputable media houses etc. all in a bid to promote Ghanaian goods and services.
This crucial task will require inter-sectoral collaboration both home and abroad. It is, therefore, imperative that you leverage your current networks and also work towards expanding it in your respective host countries.
I wish to stress that the pursuit of Economic Diplomacy is not without challenges. Indeed, there have been times when Ghanaian indigenous companies have left Missions in the lurch by failing to meet demand abroad, saddling Heads of Mission and their officers with the awkward and embarrassing responsibility of providing excuses in their defense. Whilst this is quite unfortunate, it should by no means deter you from promoting Ghanaian goods and services, and where possible, seeking joint ventures with companies of similar scale to boost knowledge sharing and exchange of best practices.
As host of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ghana has become the hub for intra-Africa trade. It is, thus, expected that there will be an influx of varied competition that may threaten small and medium enterprises. Nevertheless, we should be motivated by this opportunity to boost trade and encourage the export of finished products using our comparative advantage. You are, therefore, being sent out as Ghana’s foremost official economic agents, entrusted with the task of ensuring that we reap the most out of the world’s largest free trade area.
The Ministry, like any other Foreign Ministry, requires considerable amounts of foreign exchange to run smoothly. Sadly, our share of the national budget is hardly enough for us to operate optimally. Accordingly, due to financial constraints, the Ministry is unable to undertake some of its planned programmes, projects and activities in a given year. Whilst this is regrettable, I encourage you to be prudent in the management of the limited resources at your disposal to ensure maximum value-for-money on all transactions even as the Ministry continues to push for the relevant releases to support Missions in their work.
As you may be aware, Missions generate income mainly through the provision of consular services and other statutory deductions. At the moment, Parliament has permitted a seventy-five percent (75%) retention of Internally Generated Funds (IGFs). On this note, it is important to stress that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration is the Vote Controller of the ceded IGFs, which are held in Accounts in some Missions. Every Head of Mission is, therefore, required to seek prior authorisation before expending any IGF. Any unapproved use of IGF followed by application for retroactive approval should as much as possible be avoided since it will lead to serious sanctions on the offending Mission.
Please remember that not all Missions are well endowed in terms of consular revenue mainly as a result of insignificant number of applications for Consular services or visa waiver agreements that does not allow those Missions to generate much income. Such Missions when in financial distress due to delayed remittances, should be assisted by way of transfers from Missions that are more financially endowed. I am duly informed that during this orientation, you will be apprised of the Public Financial Management Act (PFM) and other regulations relating to Public Finances. It is my hope that you will use the opportunity to raise any issues that you are not clear with and seek the right answers to guide you.
Government is committed to a people-centred foreign policy. In this regard, the Ministry has made efforts to improve our consular services such as Passport administration in our missions. Currently, the manual application process for passports have been completely phased out and the biometric passport application service has been extended to fourteen (14) Missions, namely, Berlin, London, New York, Washington, Pretoria, Abuja, Tokyo, Brussels, Rome, Ottawa, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Madrid, Seoul, New Delhi and Copenhagen. It is expected that the extension of these services would further increase access to passport services by Ghanaians in the diaspora.
It also important that as Heads of Mission, you strengthen efforts to harness the renewed affinity of persons of African descent particularly in the Americas and Europe, many of whom have eagerly expressed interest in either investing or relocating to the motherland. It will be recalled that in November 2019, one hundred and twenty-six (126) African Americans and Afro Caribbeans were granted citizenship by the President. Government is also working hard to resolve all outstanding issues relating to Citizenship, Dual Citizenship and Right of Abode for all persons of African descent. As we make efforts to create a conducive environment to receive them, we will depend on you to actively engage them it your respective countries of accreditation.
As you embark on this auspicious journey, you will be working with career Foreign Service officers who have attained the requisite experience to assist you in your work as Heads of Mission and as the saying goes; “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. I, therefore, wish to implore you that as you seek to build networks and cultivate fruitful relations with your host governments and Ghanaian compatriots in your respective host countries, please endeavor to build good relations with your officers as you all work together to promote the interest of Ghana abroad. Foster a good working environment and demonstrate exemplary leadership devoid of all forms of discrimination. As much as possible, try to accommodate all your officers as long as they conduct themselves in a professional manner and do not seek to undermine you or derail the progress of the Mission.
I also wish to stress that it is wrong to exert pressure on subordinates to contravene the Foreign Service Regulations, which have been drawn up to guide the affairs of all Ghana Missions abroad. When in doubt, kindly seek clarification from trusted colleagues or senior officers in the Ministry. The staff in your Missions have been trained to understand that their duty is to mother Ghana and not any individual. As career officers, they have been tasked at all times to adhere to the principles of competence, selflessness, integrity, accountability and honesty among others that are the guiding principles of the Ghana Civil Service. I wish to acknowledge that as a human institution, issues will definitely arise and when they do, please be rest assured that the Ministry will be on hand to help, especially in dire situations. However, I count on your maturity and professionalism to deal with them in sittu for the most part.
I also implore you to desist from directly reporting Officers to the Presidency without recourse to me, the appointing Minister, and going as far as insisting that they be recalled without due process. Not only does this undermine my office, it places unbudgeted financial commitment on government and disrupts the already erratic family life of the diplomat, affecting mostly the children of these officers who through no fault of theirs often bear the brunt of moving from one place to the other.
May I also draw attention to the fact that in some instances, there may be representatives of other MDAs such as the Ministries of Defence, Trade and Education in your Mission and they are all expected to report to you as the Head of Mission and Mission should be run as one unit. Please note that, Parliament votes the Budget for each MDA and none should needlessly feed on the resources of another. In the extreme case that funds are transferred from one Unit to another, the relevant parent agency should be duly informed and involved in the decision-making to ensure that recovery is made as soon as possible.
During this Orientation programme, I urge you to be open to knowledge sharing so you can leave here well equipped and ready to take up the task ahead. With sincerity, I wish to congratulate you all once again and express my conviction that you will excel as Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Ghana and return enriched, safe and sound, after having played your part as great sons and daughters of our motherland.