[All Protocols Observed]
I must begin by saying thank you for inviting me to join you in celebrating our culture. It gives me much pleasure to be here today. I am thrilled that we are increasingly becoming committed to promoting the culture of our dear country Ghana.
Each one of us gathered here is an ambassador of Ghanaian culture and it is up to us to share who we are, wherever we find ourselves with the rest of world in a manner that honours us. Sharing who we are encompasses many different things from wearing clothes which are distinctly Ghanaian, speaking our local dialects and even eating and sharing our local foods. Of course, it is our prime responsibility to appreciate what gives us our sense of identity and drive its dynamism.
We are all here in our ntoma and kaba, showcasing what identifies us as a people. For many of you in the diaspora who are away from home, it is a way through which you keep in touch with your roots and remind yourselves of home. Surely, you receive compliments and are asked where your clothes are from and made when you put them on. This bears testament to the essential nature of fashion as a tool for the promotion of culture. In 2004 back home in Ghana, the Government introduced the National Friday Wear initiative to encourage citizens to dress in local attires in part, to rekindle national pride. This has grown into a tradition with everyone, from corporate executives to students wearing at least one article of clothing made of African print on Fridays.
I must give credit to our President, His Excellency Nana Akufo Addo who proudly wears African print attires almost every day, locally and internationally. This has influenced the tradition to the point where wearing African print and textiles is now an everyday occurrence. Not only have we seen a surge in national pride, there also has been the revitalization of the Ghanaian textile and garment industry as well as the patronizing of made-in- Ghana goods with this initiative. With an increase in the number of people wearing African print clothing, demand for the products and skills associated with the clothes has increased which has in turn created jobs in the bid to meet demand; increasing income sources and standards of living. Our economy is expanding, and growth is inevitable.
Away from home, we can all see across the world how much people have taken to our African prints. We must take advantage of this and use it to our benefit. First, we need to understand culture is very dynamic. Nothing remains the same for very long. We must learn to adapt and merge the old and the new and express it in a manner that makes it accessible to everyone. Then, we must package it to look attractive enough to capture the media’s attention. Let us remember that it is through the media that people see new things and are pushed to try them. We must invest in making our culture media-friendly; whether by fitting in with trends or choosing to stand out and be different so that even more people are interested in exploring it. Finally, we must work to actively position Ghana as a fashion tourism destination where people from around the world visit the country to experience local culture through an engagement with locals, products and local crafts people. This way, we will be boosting the local economy and improving standards of living for our people while placing Ghana on the map, with our heritage making us proud.
It is true that our culture is a part of what shapes who we are but even truer is that our values as Ghanaians such as integrity, kindness and being our brother’s keeper are what really make us so special. We have heard stories and experienced for ourselves that, wherever there are Ghanaians present, there is immense support and friendliness. We are a people who understand that together we are stronger and that shows right here even within the community you have built. Your sending money back home to support your families is even greater testament to your willingness to give back to your society. We appreciate this very much because it not only goes to help your families, it also grows the economy.
Much as we expect you to support the growth of the country, the government is also doing its utmost best to support you. The value you add to the country is immeasurable and it is for this reason that an office specially dedicated to you in the diaspora has been set up under the office of the president. The Diaspora Office has as its prime focus on managing relations between people in the diaspora and the government, tapping into the Ghanaian human resource outside our borders and roping you all in into the nation building process. We believe earnestly that you have skills and expertise that will prove useful to the advancement of the country. It would be wonderful to have you come back home to play an active part of Ghana’s progress.
The much awaited free SHS initiative has been implemented by President Nana Akufo Addo. What this means is that in addition to tuition being free, there is no admission fee, no library fee, no science centre fee, no computer lab fee, no examination fee, and no utility fee; there will be free text books, free boarding and free meals, and day students will get a meal at school for free. The government is committed to making the lives of Ghanaians both at home and abroad better. Where you once had to send money to fund your children’s education, the government has decided to carry and absorb that cost, freeing up that money to be used for equally important things. I urge you to keep sending the money home to invest in industries across sectors in Ghana to grow your wealth and contribute to Ghana’s growth.
The One District One Factory initiative has begun in Ekumfi after the president launched it in August this year. A private-public partnership, the government is truly determined to work with its citizens to drive development. This obviously is not limited to Ghanaians at home, but also you here and abroad. If you have any brilliant entrepreneurial ideas, capital and strategy to fuel this initiative, you can contact the government to share these. The government is looking forward to and eagerly awaiting your ideas and contributions to this initiative.
I am sure you can tell by now that having our people home better off and with improved lives is dear to my heart. It is for this reason that I established the Samira Empowerment & Humanitarian Projects (SEHP), a not-for-profit organization aimed at supporting the vulnerable and underprivileged across the country through social interventions. There are four key areas of focus for the organization which include Health, Education, Women Empowerment and Entrepreneurial Development. We are interested in providing vital health support and have donated medical equipment and supplies to some medical institutions and are in the process of supplying pregnant women in rural areas with birth kits to prevent child and maternal mortality. With education, SEHP has embarked on a School Library in a Box project, providing books to schools in rural areas which do not have static libraries. This is to help improve reading skills and the overall quality of education that our children get to make them global competitors. We also through our women empowerment initiative intend to support women financially and implement economic development programs to facilitate self-sufficiency and break the cycle of poverty.
We cannot do this all by ourselves and ask that you lend your support to help empower our people. A nation that supports all its citizens to thrive also thrives. Ghana needs you; you are important to the principal goal of development and we look forward to working with you.
Anuanom I must reiterate that it is an honor to be here with you. Let us go forth to be ambassadors of Ghanaian culture and promote it in every way we can. Thank you for your kind attention. Enjoy the rest of your evening.