Speech by Tove Degnbol, Denmark's Ambassador to Ghana

The following speech was given by Ambassador Tove Degnbol on the occasion of Danida Alumni Network Ghana's Annual General Meeting, 30 November 2019


It is a pleasure to see you all here at the Danida Alumni Annual General meeting 2019.

The Alumni Network has existed almost 4 years now. The first inception meeting was held in January 2016, and the network was formally launched in May 2016.

It has been interesting to follow the development of the network from its first initial activities and to the established network it is today.

My personal interest in the alumni network dates back to the years 2010-2015 before I became the Ambassador of Denmark to Ghana. At the time, I was heading a department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with technical specialists, including specialist in research cooperation. The department was responsible for the Danish support to development research, including FFU grants and the Building Stronger Universities programme.

I visited Ghana several times and saw the interesting research projects undertaken and met people who told us that they had studied in Denmark. When DFC started talking about the prospects of forming an alumni network, my department immediately supported the idea, and before I went to Ghana as new ambassador in the summer of 2015, I committed to help establishing the first pilot alumni in Ghana. Several other alumni networks have followed in countries such as Vietnam (2016), Uganda (2017), Tanzania (2017), and Burkina Faso (2018) – a total now of 11 associations across the world. Ghana was piloting it all, and Ghana is still the country with the highest number of members.

As I said in my initial statement, alumni have a lot to offer to further improve relations between Ghana and Denmark. You are familiar with our country and our culture. You understand our obsession with things starting on time, being well prepared, and with transparency and accountability. We experience that we have a mutual understanding, trust, and appreciation.

During the past 30 years, Denmark and Ghana has had an extensive development cooperation which has covered almost all sectors, including health, water and sanitation, rural roads, decentralization, election support, support to the judiciary sector, civil society, anti-corruption, private sector development, general budget support, support to the tax system and a lot more.

At the same time, the research collaboration has been comprehensive.

So many people from Ghana associated with our development and research activities have gone to Denmark for training at DFC-run courses. This provides ideal conditions for having a vibrant alumni network in Ghana, and I do not think that the potential has yet been fully used.

As we have learned today, many of you are new-comers to the Alumni, and there will be a lot of others out there, who do not yet know that there is such an association.

Relations between Ghana and Denmark are changing these years as Ghana has achieved middle-income status and will no longer be eligible for traditional development cooperation. Since Denmark focuses on supporting the poorest countries, our funds will be concentrated in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Somalia, and Afghanistan, where conditions are very different from those in Ghana.

This has not been an abrupt decision, and it is also not implemented fast. The dialogue with the Government of Ghana happened in 2014. The first sector where we did not continue activities was when the health sector programme ended in December 2016. This year is the last year of our support to the tax system. Our private sector development programme will run one more year until end of December 2020.

Does this mean that we will be closing down the embassy and not continue our work in Ghana? No, not at all. We will maintain the embassy of the same size as today, but to a large extent the staff is different, because the new activities require different competences.

Since 2015, we have gradually built up our business team, which now has five staff members. They are helping Danish investors and Danish companies wanting to trade into the Ghanaian market (feasibility studies, registration of companies, identifying Ghanaian partners, recruitment of staff, assistance to solve issues with the Government and other stakeholders, etc.).

Trade team is focusing on three main sectors

  • Water & sanitation, waste management.
  • Food & Agriculture
  • Energy & Infrastructure, incl. oil& gaz, renewable energy and energy efficiency, green buildings, and maritime sector.

In addition we have now got three strategic sector cooperation programmes between Danish and Ghanaian authorities:

  • Maritime sector – Danish Maritime Authority & Ghana Maritime Authority
  • Water management – Tema Municipality and Ghana Water & Aarhus Municipality and Aarhus Vand
  • Statistics – Statistics Denmark & Ghana Statistical Services

Danida Sustainable Infrastructure:

  • Rehabilitation of 6 bridges in the North
  • Waste management in Accra
  • Fiber for IT connection
  • Environmental laboratory in UMaT

Maritime Security Programme covering Ghana and Nigeria:

  • Defence component

Collaboration programme with Ghana Immigration Service on detection of fraudulent documents.

Private sector development programme

  • Business Advocacy Fund (BUSAC)
  • Skills Development Fund (SDF)
  • Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (G-CIC)
  • Rural Development Fund (RDF)

New strategic programme (from 2020) to support peace & security, anti-corruption, elections at decentralized level (Referendum), political and economic analyses.

Consular section is issuing visas for citizens from Ghana, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Conakry to Denmark. Also covers visas for Ghanaians to Sweden, Finland, Island, and Faeroe Islands.

Political relations – key focus areas:

  • Human rights, incl. gender equality, children’s rights, anti-torture
  • Anti-corruption
  • Decentralisation
  • Greening of Ghana’s development
  • Business environment

In addition to all this, Denmark will continue to fund directly from Copenhagen

  • Research cooperation (FFU grants)
  • Support to civil society organisations

You as alumni have a lot to offer to all the stakeholders in these activities. In addition to your cultural understanding, you have a technical background which will often be interesting for the Danish companies, Danish authorities and NGOs, and you have extensive networks and access to relevant decision makers – sometimes you are decision-makers yourself.

We have spoken about the regular business-get-togethers for Danish business people and their Ghanaian partners held here in the residence. I cannot stress enough that this is a platform which could be used much better. The business people are interested in seeing new faces and they are ready to interact if the DAN-G for each meeting identifies 2-3 people who have not been there before.

Also in our research cooperation, civil society cooperation, the strategic cooperation on the maritime sector, water management and statistics, alumni could play an important role. When listening to your presentations this morning, I was noting down that it would be interesting for my colleague Thomas, the maritime adviser in the Embassy, to talk to the UG lecturer on marine & fishery services, it would be interesting for Ole, the strategic adviser on the Tema-Aarhus partnership to talk to Emmanuel about the sustainable cities activities in Adenta Assembly, and it would be interesting for our colleagues in the Disabled Peoples’ Organisation Denmark to talk to Awal Mohammed about health and disability in Upper East. These are just a few examples. I noted down a lot more.

There are many other ways than the business-get-together we could facilitate the cooperation with the alumni network. The most important step is that as many as possible sign up at the DFC webpage and make their contact details available so you can be found by the potential collaboration partners.    

We look forward to continue and expand the cooperation to mutual benefit for Denmark and Ghana.

I wish you all the best!

Thank you.