Opinions of Friday, 22 January 2021
Columnist: Simon Neequaye
A famous Akan adage about fingers not being equal seems to reflect the famous Latin quote of primus inter pares. There are ministers, and there are ministers. In most cabinets, the Minister of Foreign Affairs (or External Relations, or International Affairs or in the case of the United States- the Secretary of State) holds powerful sway.
In Ghanaian politics, quite a number of people who have reached the apex of the executive branch have served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or have been involved in the country’s foreign affairs architecture. Notably, current President, Nana Akufo-Addo, served as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Kufuor regime for several years. Former President Mahama was at a point in time the ranking member on the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, also for a number of years in his career, was a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Indeed, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah held this portfolio as well, underscoring the prestige of this office.
This demonstrates both the significance of the office and the stature of the people required to lead the affairs here. This commentary seeks to crystal-ball, or apropos to our culture, stir the calabash regarding who His Excellency Nana Akufo Addo will pick as his next Foreign Minister.
President Nana Akufo Addo. Source: BBC
There is no shortage of talent in the NPP and indeed Ghanaian citizenry when it comes to finding suitably qualified persons for the office of the Foreign Minister. The decision of an any candidate will rest on the President, who will consider factors such as track record, education, gravitas in the party, constituency support, skills-set, international profile and contacts , diplomatic and foreign policy experience and reputation. The most probable candidates for the position in the next NPP administration are:
Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey
Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Source: PERMANENT MISSION OF GHANA TO THE UN
An interesting factoid about Ghanaian diplomacy and Ghana’s diplomatic credentials is the fact that women have been at the helm of the Foreign Ministry, continuously through two different administrations since 2012. This is even more interesting when one considers the fact that there has been an alternation-in-power during the period. The Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the immediate past Foreign Minister, is in pole position for the job. Her four years’ experience in the role is complemented by a previous spell as Deputy Foreign Minister in the Kufuor regime. Her educational background includes an Executive MBA in Project Management from the University of Ghana and an MA in Public Communication from the University of Westminster.
The considered wisdom of most pundits within the Foreign Policy and International Relations community is that Ms. Botchwey is likely to be retained. She has some strong highlights on her brag sheet, which include serving on the UN Security Council, her role in the initiation and execution of the ‘Year of Return,’ the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the election of His Excellency Nana Akufo Addo as ECOWAS Chair, co-ordinating the responses to the Mali coup d’état and ECOWAS’ activities to restore stability, her key role in the Switzerland-Ghana bilateral agreement on climate action, her role in the digitization of the passport administration, as well as many other laudable achievements.
Unfortunately, Madam Botchwey has had some issues that might pose a challenge in her selection. Topical here would be the Oslo scandal in 2018 when the ministry attempted to purchase a building to establish the Ghana mission in Norway. A further challenge will be that she is no longer a parliamentarian and the fractious relationship she had with the NDC Parliamentary caucus might lead to challenges during the vetting procedure. There has also been considerable anxiety as regards the challenges with Nigeria during her tenure and the handling of these matters, including the border closures and the demolition of buildings in the Nigerian Chancery in Accra.
Ms. Botchwey’s candidature is further strengthened as she seems to enjoy cordial relations with the civil service cadre at the MFARI and its associated and subsidiary agencies. This support is sufficiently adequate within the diplomatic community in Accra to be a plus in her favour. Most importantly, she enjoys support from the party, and from the President.
Hon. Charles Owiredu
Vyacheslav Bril (Belarus Ambassador to Nigeria and Ghana) with Charle Owiredu. Source: BelTA (Belarusian Telegraph Agency)
The current Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Charles Owiredu seems to be a strong candidate for the job. He boasts solid technical foreign affairs credentials, including a highly successful stint as the director of International Affairs of the NPP, a position he has held since 2008. He had also previously excelled as a Research Officer of the party from 2004 to 2008. Stints as an administrator at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) and positive educational credentials (MBA in Project Management and a BA in Economics) stand him in good stead. Above all, his strength and service in the New Patriotic Party might be his trump card.
Frank Annoh Dompreh
Frank Annoh Dompreh. Source: GH Headlines
Currently serving as Member of Parliament for Nsawam-Adoagyiri constituency, David Annoh Dompreh has recently been appointed as Majority Chief Whip in parliament. His previous experience as the Chairperson for the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs puts him on the radar as a potential candidate to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, his recent appointment as Majority Chief Whip limits his potential in this race.
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah. Source: Graphic Online
As the Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah remains one of the Akufo Addo administration’s most visible, high profile high flyers. His communications efforts in addressing the raging COVID-19 pandemic earned him plaudits, and there seems to be stars in his political future. This, coupled with a stellar media career, useful international contacts, management, and law degrees, may catapult him into the frame for the Minister of Foreign Affairs role, as he will have the organic skills set to communicate and advocate for Ghana on the international stage.
Alan John Kyerematen
Alan Kyeremanten. Source: Daily Guide
Mr. Alan John Kyeremanten is the current Minister of Trade and Industry for Ghana. Having come quite close to securing the New Patriotic Party’s presidential ticket in the past, he is arguably a ‘heavyweight’ and is in contention for many senior positions. His long, impressive resume includes roles as Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana (2003-2007)- where he is famed for bringing the UNCTAD XII conference to Accra; the Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2011-2013); and a highly successful stint as Ghana’s Ambassador to the US (2001-2003). Additionally, his instrumental role in the execution of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement demonstrates his competence in the role of international trade and economics as well as diplomacy. A key note on his CV is his albeit unsuccessful but strong candidature for the leadership of the WTO in 2012. Based on his impressive track record, the role of the nation’s top diplomat will be an opportunity for him to display his remarkable skill set and will be a return to familiar grounds.
Amb. Kyeremanten at the WTO. Source : ModernGhana
Thomas Kwesi Quartey
Amb. Thomas Kwesi Quartey. Source: UNCTA
Ambassador Kwesi Quartey is a Ghanaian diplomat and the Vice-Chairperson of the African Union Commission. He has also served as the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration from 2013 to 2016. With over 35 years of experience in the diplomatic service, Kwesi Quartey comes off as a suitable candidate for the foreign affairs ministry. Having served in various capacities in Ghana’s Embassies and High Commissions in Cairo, Cotonou, Brussels, Havana, and London and as Permanent Representative of the Ghana Mission to the United Nations in New York, he holds an impressive track record. A selection of Amb. Quartey will communicate prioritization of technical expertise over political loyalty and might be tangible evidence of the President’s aspiration for an all-inclusive government in his second term.
Anna Bossman. Source: Ghana Embassy in France
Mrs. Anna Bossman is a Ghanaian diplomat, lawyer, and human rights advocate. Formerly, she was the Director of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Department of the African Development Bank (AfDB). In 2017, she was appointed as Ghana’s ambassador to France and Portugal, and was made the Permanent Representative of Ghana to UNESCO, the OECD, and the International Organisation of La Francophone.
Before her appointment at the AfDB, Ms. Bossman was Ag Chair of Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and Deputy Commissioner in charge of investigations. Ms. Bossman began her legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in Ghana’s Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department before embarking on a twenty-five (25) year career in the oil and gas industry and the energy sector serving in legal, negotiations, managerial, and consultancy capacities with major international oil and gas companies in Gabon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Angola, and Ghana.
Selecting Mrs. Anna Bossman to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration will demonstrate a continuous agenda to push women into leadership and decision-making positions at the MFARI. With her promising background and skillset, Anna Bossman is poised to bring on board fresh ideas and be the new face of woman empowerment within the field of foreign service.
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee. Source: PERMANENT MISSION OF GHANA TO THE UN
Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee is another prominent candidate to lead Ghana’s foreign ministry. As a career diplomat and the first Ghanaian woman to be appointed Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Martha Pobee also has a shot at being chosen for the job.
She has had a distinguished career with the foreign service, with postings to Tel Aviv from 2000 until 2004, Head of Chancery at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington D.C. from 2006 until 2010, Director of the Information and Public Affairs Bureau at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from 2010 until 2012, and Deputy Head of Mission at the Ghana High Commission in Pretoria from 2012 until 2015.
Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from the University of Ghana and a master’s degree in development studies from the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. She also studied multilateral diplomacy at the Geneva Institute for International Studies and public administration at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. Martha Pobee’s impressive track record, experience, and educational background will provide an opportunity for her to showcase new ideas and strategies for Ghana’s external relations, if selected.
Ayikoi Otoo with David Johnston (Governor General of Canada).Source: Ghana Broadcasting Corporation
Nii Ayikoi Otoo is a Ghanaian lawyer and politician, and was Ghana’s High Commissioner to Canada. In the legal field, he has built quite an impressive career. After working for over 20 years in Adamafio & Associates (law firm), Ayikoi Otoo started his own chambers called Otoo & Associates Leo Chambers in the early 2000s. In addition to his work experience, he served as secretary and later president of the Greater Accra Bar Association. Under the second Kufuor administration (2005), he was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
Ayikoi Otoo has been an NPP stalwart, with an impressive record of service to the party. This includes chairmanship of the party’s Constitutional Committee in 2010, and a member of the party’s Vetting Committee for the 2011 primary. His rumoured close association with the President, including the period spent as colleagues on the National Council of the Ghana Bar Association, may stand him in good stead in the race.
Amb. Edward Boateng. Source: ChinAfrica
As the Republic’s man in China, Amb. Edward Boateng has been a prominent figure in his Ghanaian diplomacy. With an impressive career background, he has received several international awards/citations, which include the Order of the Volta (Civilian Division) by the Government of Ghana in 2008, The Turner Award in 1995 and the Keys to the city of Philadelphia in 2012. Adding to his successful achievements is his service on numerous boards in Africa including the Africa Board of World Economic Forum, The Foundation for Journalistic Excellence, National Communication Authority in Ghana and the African Business Roundtable.
Regarding his experience on the international sphere, Amb. Edward Boateng was previously the Group CEO of Global Media Alliance and a thought leader on African broadcasting. He founded Global Media Alliance in November 1998 in South Africa through which in partnership with other companies/institutions he was able to help break new ground for the introduction of channels like e.tv, the first privately owned free to air in South Africa, eNCA and SABC Africa (the first 24-hour African News channels) and African entertainment channels like the Africa Magic channels on DSTV. He was part of the leadership that established the concept of commercial malls and movie cinemas in Nigeria and Ghana from 2006-2008.
An interesting fact about Edward Boateng is that in the 1980’s, he was the first African to work as a Governor’s Fellow in the office of Governor Joe Frank Harris of Georgia, USA. With his impressive and decorated track record, appointing Edward Boateng as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration would indicate the Akufo Addo administration’s interest in improving ties with Beijing during a crucial point where the Belt and Road initiative could provide new opportunities for Ghana.
Akwesi Awua Ababio
Akwesi Awua Ababio. Source: The Vaultz Magazine
Akwasi Awua Ababio was appointed in February 2017 as Director of the Diaspora Affairs Office of the President. He is responsible for overseeing the overall formulation and implementation of the Ghana Diaspora Engagement Policy. As chairman of the Year of Return’s steering committee, Awua Ababio played a key role in the success of the initiative.
Awua Ababio has been successful in efforts to include the Ghanaian diaspora in various aspects of nation-building. He has been successful in engaging the Ghanaian Diaspora and is at the fore front in pushing to amend the constitution to provide Ghanaians abroad the right to vote.
Appointing him for the position would be a gesture by the President to commend him on his successful efforts in the Diaspora Affairs of Ghana. Awua Ababio is likely to come on board with pragmatic ideas showing a shift to focus on “Diaspora” in the Ghanaian Foreign Policy dogma.
The foreign minister position is undoubtedly a top job in any administration to assume the reins of government. The choice of the eventual candidate will depend amongst others on the factors enumerated earlier. The discussion here is in no way extant, and perhaps the key takeout is that the Republic is lucky to have a vast number of highly qualified candidates to lead its external relations efforts.