Ghana’s Migration Policy Key to Sustainable Development Agenda of the country

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Always be guided by this African proverb that counsels: “If your grandmother reveals some secret about life to you, you don’t tell her in the face that you are going to verify its veracity from your mother.”

Did you know that Ghana has formulated one of the most comprehensive and thought-provoking Migration Policies in West Africa. Well, the object of this article is to attempt to throw some light on that Policy and its importance for sustainable development of our beloved country.


Before proceeding further listen to this anecdote:  In March 2014, a Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) was held in The Hague, the Netherlands. Over 50 world leaders participated in that summit, which was addressed by US President Barack Obama. And among those world leaders at that august gathering was the Vice-President of Philippines, Mr Jojomar C. Binay. While in The Hague, Mr Binay, a Harvard University educated Human Right lawyer came to give a lecture at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam.


The Vice-President’s lecture was on Migration and Development on Perspectives of Philippines. This writer was then among Development Studies students who listened to Mr Binay. And a brilliant lecture it was indeed. He spoke not only as an astute politician but also as an academician. He cited facts and figures and gave examples of positive and negative aspects of migration as experienced by his country men and women over the years.


Mr Binay stated that there were over 400,000 Philipinos scattered all over the world. But he quickly added that it was not only Philippines citizens who travel to other parts of the world. “Others too, migrate into Philippines as well,” he stressed.


This is how he concluded his lecture: “Modern man prefers to move instead of remaining static in one place. So, nobody can or should stop people who want to migrate to any part of the world from doing so. People must be free to move around as they please.”  


Ghana’s 1992 Constitution guarantees the rights of Ghanaians to emigrate and the rights of all persons to circulate freely within Ghana. So, how can Ghanaian citizens and non-citizens resident in the country know about their constitutional rights of migration? One concrete measure adopted by the Government of Ghana is to formulate a comprehensive Migration Policy within the framework of the national development agenda of the country.


On Tuesday, 5th April 2016, Ghana’s Ministry of the Interior formally launched the National Migration Policy (NMP) at the Accra International Conference Centre here in the capital city. The over 150-page document was out-doored by Mr Prosper D.K.Bani, Minister for the Interior on behalf of the President of the Republic. The brief but impressive ceremony was under the chairmanship of Hon. Fritz Baffour, Member of Parliament who is also the Chairman of Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and the Interior.


It was stated in the NMP document that for the first time in the history of Ghana, the Government of Ghana, has formulated a comprehensive National Migration Policy to help its internal, intra-regional and international migration flows for poverty reduction and sustainable development.


The Policy has been formulated against the backdrop of several frameworks including the Constitution of Ghana and the Shared Growth and Development Agenda II (2014-2017). “It is anchored within the context of the 2006 African Union (AU) Strategic Framework for Migration and the 2008 ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration.” This implies that Ghana’s Migration Policy is not done in isolation.


With globalization, coupled with the advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), which has reduced in the entire world into a miniature community, migration is now recognised as a major human development issue. Migration experts are of the view that if effectively managed and harnessed the phenomenon could contribute to socio-economic transformation in developed and developing countries.


In Ghana, records show that migration has historically played a central role in livelihood strategies of both rural and urban populations. It has been observed that from the era when West African sub-region was largely regarded as a borderless area within which goods and people moved freely, the dynamics of migration flows in Ghana changed with the policies of successive colonial and post independence governments.


In fact, the situation has changed to the extent that by the 1980s, what was termed as “culture of migration” had emerged, whereby migration especially to Europe and North America, had become a major “coping strategy” for many Ghanaians. As we speak the tradition goes on unabated.  


As indicated in the Philippines Vice-President’s anecdote above, Ghana’s Migration Policy recognises the fact that there are positive and negative aspects of migration. Some specific set of migration challenges and concerns were identified in the Policy document. For example, it was stated that, “the brain drain, rapid urbanisation and rural-urban migration, pervasive and growing trends in human trafficking among others, became key factors influencing Ghana’s mobility patterns.”


Last year’s Ebola crises in some sister West African countries was underscored in the NMP document as one such issue that brought into sharp focus the importance of migration and the interconnections of Ghana to other nations.


With regard to positive aspects of migration, the NMP points out that, while “grappling with these migration challenges, migration has also provided opportunities which if managed and harnessed could contribute to its socio-economic development.” For instance, it was disclosed that there was significant migration remittances into Ghana, which has also become an important source of finance for many rural and urban households.


World Bank report of 2012 is said to have noted that for the first time, remittances became the largest external financial source to Africa, ahead of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). It was pointed out that “Return migration of Ghanaian professionals and semi-skilled migrants to Ghana is on the increase facilitated by the improved economic conditions and political stability with most returnees going into self-employment and investing in private enterprises.” 


It was explained that recent Oil and natural gas discoveries have implications for changing the dynamics for both internal and international migration. For purposes of this write-up, it is relevant to highlight some specific strategies or concerns the Policy recommends to be addressed: These include but not limited t International Migration, Urbanisation, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Irregular Migration, Human Trafficking and Migrant smuggling and Labour Migration.


The rest are Return, Readmission, and Reintegration of Emigrant Ghanaians, Border Management, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers, Protracted Displacement Situations, The Principle of Non-Discrimination, Stateless Persons, Migration, the Environment and Climate Change.


The Policy further highlights the following issues which are termed as cross-cutting: Migration, Gender and Vulnerability, Migration and Health, Migration and Natural Resources, Migration for Trade and Services, Diaspora, Dual citizenship, and Transnationalism, Migration Data and Information Management, Enhancing the Capacity of Stakeholders, Migration and International Cooperation and Institutional Framework for Policy Implementation.


As a layman, this writer does not want to pretend to be an expert in this domain of human movement across the globe either by air, sea or land for socio-economic purposes. But it is my humble view that it is one thing formulating a magnificent Policy and another ensuring its effective implementation.


Therefore, it is suggested that the Government of Ghana should do everything possible to provide the necessary resources to facilitate total implementation of the National Migration Policy for sustainable development of the country for the benefit to present and future generations of Mother Ghana.   


The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) in Accra   

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