Welcome Speech by IMANI President, Franklin Cudjoe, in Honour of President Doris Leuthard of Switzerland at the IMANI Panel Discussion on the theme “Governance in the age of social media”. The panel discussion was held on July 12, 2017 at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, Accra.
Good evening, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Your Excellency, President Doris Leuthard, we at IMANI are grateful for accepting to speak on our platform as part of your rather short duty tour of Ghana. We are equally indebted to the Embassy of Switzerland in Ghana, your Ambassador, Markus Dutly and the very hard-working Deputy Head of Mission Matthias Feldman and Ms Nathalie Delbrouck without whose confidence and support for IMANI, we wouldn’t be meeting this evening.
Your Excellency, we are aware that your vast experience in government, first as Federal head for the department of environment, transport, energy and communications and later twice as President of the Swiss Confederation means you have had a greater understanding of how governments work to deliver public goods. Yet, even for Switzerland, a richer country in democracy and wealth, you also have found that citizens never get fully satisfied and are quick to point out your faults, sometimes with untoward behaviour as you personally experienced in 2009 when you harmlessly gave speeches to farmers at a cheese competition who were protesting about problems in the Swiss milk market and at another event when you offered to take a 10 percent pay cut to help an unemployed person.
In spite of these incidents, you were once voted Switzerland’s most popular politician by two weekend newspapers and appropriately nicknamed, ‘’Queen Doris’’ and ‘’ Superstar Loithard’’. Such powerful feedback from traditional media about the conduct of government officials has now been trumped by a multiplicity of social media platforms which never tires and never sleeps.
I am sure Swiss traditional and social media platforms are following you while you visit Ghana and Benin, to at the very least, gauge the impact of Swiss Economic Cooperation and Development programmes with Ghana and Benin. They will ask questions about Switzerland’s contributions to promoting an efficient business environment for Swiss businesses, facilitating financial sector reforms and improving bilateral trade competitiveness with emphasis on diversification of our two most prized exports- cocoa and gold.
The same will be asked of Ghanaian government officials, possibly here tonight, of how beneficial Ghana’s economic relations with Switzerland has been. One bemusing media revelation that was recently made was how it is that the Ghana Minerals Commission reported that Ghana’s total gold receipts for 2016 from all its trading partners was $1.7bn when the Embassy of Switzerland reported that Switzerland alone purchased $2bn worth of gold from Ghana for the same year. Some social media commentators latched onto this confounding story and concluded that this was one of the grand schemes by former government officials to illicitly transfer funds into safer havens. They may be wrong, but the defeaning silence from the minerals commission was not helpful.
Today, Ghanaians on social media are quick to make permutations of what number of public schools, hospitals, roads and sanitised water systems could have been constructed had certain amounts of public money not been diverted into private pockets or lavishly spent on the growing number of government appointees. And yes, we also troll our public officials and public figures when they make mistakes. And in this era of fake news on social media, it’s get even merrier.
This evening, your excellency, you will be sharing the panel with two leading lights in the brigade of citizen activism for accountable governance in Ghana, my own Vice-President, Mr. Kofi Bentil and the Dr. Jemima Nunoo and of course, our moderator, Mr. Bernard Avle, who really defines intelligent journalism. You will also have a very well behaving audience, who will not relent in asking probing questions.
We are very hopeful that you will be taking good memories from this evening’s programme to our neighbours in Benin, where you will next visit.
Your Excellency, once again, IMANI, the officials of the Swiss Embassy in Ghana, distinguished guests seated here and the millions that will be listening to your speech and the panel live on radio are grateful for honouring our invitation. Thank you.
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