Sunday, December 24, 2006
THE GHANAIAN DIASPORA
Along with Nigerians, Ghanaians form one of the largest West African communities in the UK. At independence in 1957 the Ghanaian population resident in the UK was relatively small: according to the 1961 Census only around 10,000 people born in Ghana lived in the UK. However, as in other African countries, soon after its independence Ghana faced longstanding political turmoil and unrest. Economic dislocation and political oppression drove thousands of Ghanaians to seek refuge abroad, and the number of Ghanaians living in UK and elsewhere steadily increased. The number of Ghanaians seeking political asylum rose particularly during the regime of Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings (1981-2000), especially after structural adjustment measures overseen by the IMF bit in the society and economy from 1983 (Peil 1995, Van Hear 1998). By 1991 more than 32,000 Ghanaians were living in the UK. Numbers increased further in the 1990s, so that Ghanaians numbered 56,000 in the 2001 Census. The 2001 Census data folded Ghanaians into the category ‘Other Central and Western Africans’ (ie other than Nigerians, Congolese and Sierra Leoneans). But Ghanaians made up just under two thirds of this category, which numbered 85,240 in 2001. Most Ghanaians live in Greater London, concentrated in the boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Newham, Hackney, Haringey, Lewisham, Croydon and Brent, with much smaller populations in Birmingham and Manchester.
2.3.2 Diaspora infrastructure, networks and activities
Despite possible political differences with the homeland, Ghanaians living in the UK have maintained close political, social, cultural and economic links to their country of origin. Currently there are more than 100 cultural, social, professional, ethnic, welfare and political associations in the UK (www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/diaspora). There are also quite a number of Ghanaian home town associations in Britain. However many of these associations seem to be small and their reach is uncertain.
Ghanaian diaspora actors in the UK frequently engage with the politics of their homeland. Politicians and policy makers from Ghana are often invited to speak and encourage the community to participate in the political and economic life of Ghana. Political parties are active in Britain too: the UK branches of the main parties have engaged in the debate on the 2004 elections and the participation in them by Ghanaians living abroad. Engagement of this kind has been encouraged by Ghana government outreach, such as an annual forum organized by Ghana’s High Commission for the Ghanaian community in the UK, used to promote interest in Ghanaian politics. The Ghanaian Dual Citizenship Regulation Act of July 2002 and discussion about votes for the diaspora in national elections have further invigorated possibilities for political participation.
Other Ghanaian diaspora groupings are more UK-oriented. The Ghana Union London is an umbrella organisation for 50 affiliated Ghanaian groups which provide information and advice for the Ghanaian and other African communities on benefits, employment, housing, immigration, education, health and care services in the UK. (www.ghanaunion.demon.co.uk). Founded in 1983, the Ghana Refugee Welfare Group is run by exiles who fled the Rawlings regime in the 1980s and provides advice and guidance on immigration matters and benefit rights, accommodation, education of the youth, and makes referrals for legal matters (www.refugeesonline.org.uk/gwa/).
2. 2 Diaspora engagement in development and poverty reduction
There is much activity within the UK Ghanaian diaspora on development and poverty reduction in Ghana (especially well documented at www.ghanaweb.com). The following examples are merely indicative of the variety of groups and interests involved. The Ghanaian High Commission occasionally holds events in London to raise money for schools and clinics. In March 2003 the High Commission in London set up the ‘Five Pounds No Balance’ fund which raises money for the purchase of basic equipment for the Ghana Police Service. In total, Ghanaian individuals and communities in the UK and Ireland donated more than £27,000, the main community donors being the Ashanti New Town Club of the UK and Ireland, the Ghana Union of Manchester, the Association of Ghanaians in Middlesbrough, the Kwahuman Association (UK), and the Ghana Union in Chichester. This list in microcosm hints at the diversity and character of diaspora organizations in the UK, based on the home town, home district or ethnic group. Other examples of initiatives with social development objectives include the following: people originating in Kwamang in the Sekyere West District based in the UK have presented building materials towards the completion of a medical laboratory block for the Kwamang Health Centre; the Wives of Ghanaian Diplomats Association in London (WOGDA) has raised more than ₤7,000 for the purchase of mammographic x-ray equipment for the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra (the country’s premier hospital); a private donation was made by the Akim Swedru diaspora for various items for the visually-impaired in Birim South District; the Ghanaian Nurses Association, London donated to the ‘Stadium Tragedy Fund’ following many deaths at a football match in the national stadium in 2001. Moral influence is exerted by the clergy of Ghanaian pentecostal and charismatic churches who urge Ghanaians in the UK to extend their influence over their relatives back home, especially among the youth to help curb the spread of AIDS there. Another interesting initiative in the health sector is the METCare Sankofa health insurance plan (SHIP). Developed by Ghana-based financial institutions Metropolitan Insurance Company Ghana Limited and Tristar Financial Services, the scheme will be operated in the UK by Goldcare UK Limited. Subscribers in the UK can insure a dependant resident in Ghana for a monthly premium of £15, while the underwriters agree to meet claims up to a maximum of 10m cedis (£606 at current rates) for outpatient services and 25m cedis (£1516) for admission to any private or public health institution in Ghana (www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/diaspora/).
Most of these initiatives are focused on the south of Ghana, rather than the poorer northern part of the country. A small scale exception was the ‘Ghana Day’ which took place in St. Mary’s RC Primary School in Clapham, London. The purpose was to raise funds and awareness for Afrikids, a UK charity working with abandoned and vulnerable children in Northern Ghana. St Mary’s Ghanaians UK was an active member of the organization team (www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/diaspora/).
Business promotion is high on the diaspora agenda as well. ‘Ghana Expo 2003’ was an exhibition fair in London facilitating Ghanaians in the Diaspora to connect with businesses and services in Ghana (www.ghanaexpo2003.com). The Non-Resident Ghanaians Association, UK and Ireland aims to establish an interest-bearing Non-resident Ghanaian Fund for investment among Ghanaians abroad.
Posted by Amosust at Sunday, December 24, 2006