A global icon, Mr Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, has urged the government to strive to create an enabling environment to attract Ghanaians living abroad and the African diaspora to invest their resources in the country.
According to the founder of the Black History Month (BHM), UK, many Ghanaians living abroad and Africans in the diaspora had the intention to reinvest their resources in the Ghanaian economy but there were many bottlenecks that frustrated and caused them to lose interest in coming home.
He mentioned difficulties in acquisition and registration of land, clearing of goods at the ports, high taxation on remittances, high cost of borrowing and corruption as some of the challenges that could drive away investment, for which reason the government must take a serious view of the situation.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra on a range of national and international issues, Mr Addai-Sebo said: “Our people outside get excited about investment opportunities and concessions offered by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) to set up businesses and factories home but when they come, the bottlenecks they face frustrate them and this is not a good incentive.”
“I know many people who left their jobs in the UK, France and the US to come home to help develop the country, but when they came, they were met with frustration, insincerity, lies, bad governance, irresponsibility, debauchery, moral decadence on the part of the leaders and they got frustrated and went back,” he said.
After a long stay in the UK, Mr Addai-Sebo returned home in 2014 to resettle.
While in the UK, Mr Addai-Sebo set up a reforestation development project in the degraded Boumfoum Forest Reserve in the Kumawu Forest District in 2011.
He said his reforestation company, National Interest Company Limited (NICOL), partnered Miro Holdings Ltd of the UK to form Nicol Miro Forestry Company to undertake the reforestation project to plant about seven million trees that are thriving.
He said the company had been adopted as part of the success story of the One-District-One-Factory programme.
“I have been lucky to gain a lot of experience around the world and if the government and people of Ghana find me useful, I am always ready to help,” he said.
Black History Month
The Black History Month, UK, which he founded, originated from the United States of America (USA). It was created by historian, Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) who wanted to challenge the thinking of many at the time that “the negro has no history”.
Mr Addai-Sebo, who visited the US and learned the ideals of BHM, returned to the UK where he spearheaded the establishment of the BHM in January 1987 in the UK.
Since then, the BHM has become an annual event held in October each year to recognise the contributions of Africans to the development of London from antiquity to the present, giving everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture in the UK.
The 72-year-old author said: “Clearing of goods at the ports and registering a business have to be made simple, and the laws governing land acquisition have to work to allow those who are cheated and taken advantage of by landowners to seek prompt legal redress.”
“Currently, the system is so grinding that those who acquire land to invest in Ghana but are cheated get fed up and go away and this is not an incentive to draw people into the country,” he added.
Mr Addai-Sebo, who also worked as an ex-officio and special advisor to the OAU Secretary General, Mr Amara Hessay, at a time when the organisation was transitioning to the African Union, urged African governments to prioritise nation-building to help reverse the negative perception associated with Africans in the western world.
He said leaders must pursue policies and programmes that focused on curbing instability, corruption, poverty, hunger, bad governance, disease and environmental degradation.
Accomplishing that, he said, would help not only to bolster socio-economic development but also reduce racism against Africans and Blacks in the diaspora.
He said most negativities about the African continent were captured on national televisions in the UK, the US and Europe and they fed the minds of young Africans there.
“The greatest responsibility to change all these ills lies with our governments in Africa and they must take nation-building very seriously so that Ghana and Africa will not be seen with bowls in hand begging.”
Help raise image of Africa
Mr Addai-Sebo said although efforts had been made in the past to quell racism in the UK via the celebration of the BHM, racism continued to persist.
He blamed the development squarely on school curricula as well as African governments not helping to overcome racism.
Drawing a comparison between racism today and the past, he said during the era of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, there was a heightened sense of awareness against racism because of what Nkrumah was doing.
“You could see that this was a country in motion, as there were developments all over the land. The fight for liberation and unification of Africa, the establishment of a liberation camp for people under colonial rule to come and train to fight against colonialism placed Ghana highly.
“It made the Ghanaian to be highly respected. This shows that if you are doing well in a country it also helps your young people in the diaspora to have a positive image about themselves and the African continent,” he said.
Throwing more light on the BHM, he expressed delight that it had contributed to a growing consciousness and resistance by African people and the Black community against racism.
He said during October each year, there were over 10,000 activities organised across London within the security agencies—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force—as well as within the civil service, libraries, museums, neighbourhoods and schools to mark the month.
“It is a UK-wide effort and everybody is involved, as there is no period in the UK that embraces a whole lot of the people celebrating the contributions of Africans and people of African descent to the growth and development of the UK.
“The month has made a significant impact since 1987 and it is growing bigger each year. This becomes offensive to white supremacists and politicians who do whatever they can to frustrate the growth of BHM,” he said.