Ghana’s Sub-regional Foreign Policy Must Reflects 21st Century Realities!

GGhanaian society in recent times has witnessed a spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, and other insane crimes involving not only its native-born citizens but also a sizable number of foreign nationals from the West Africa sub-region. In view of the foregoing phenomena, our discussion will attempt to focus on Ghana’s foreign policy strategy in the 21st century, especially toward its sister nations in the West African sub-region.

Now, what is foreign policy? Here, we concede that there is no consensus of opinion regarding a precise definition for a contemporary nation’s foreign policy. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this discourse let’s try to suggest that a nation-state’s foreign policy embodies the articulation and pursuit of a set of policies/ideas that guide the actions of that country in its dealings with others in an effort to safeguard, improve, and promote its national interests.

Also, foreign policy could be operationalized as the totality of a process via which a country, such as Ghana, expresses its generally formulated plans and interests in such a way that it will attain its overall core objectives, including the protection of its interests. This presupposes that foreign policy seeks, inter alia, to perpetuate and preserve a country’s interests among comity of nations. Crucial point to note here is a given nation has to have a coherent appreciation of the elements of national interests and more so, master the means of execution at its disposal efficiently. That is to say it may be hard to conduct foreign policy if the aforementioned development does not take place.  

Thus far, it is clear national interests of a country take the center stage of every modern foreign policy strategy. In fact, national interests of any nation-state are mostly made up of domestic policy, foreign policy, and national security. It needs to be emphasized that all these three components do not oppose each other; indeed, each of them complement one another.

For example, Ghana’s national interests will be its political, cultural, socioeconomic values, among others, that it conveys/promotes within and outside its international borders. The sole aim of national interests is to create a conducive environment for nurturing domestic as well as foreign policy so as to help enhance Ghana’s social order within the guidance of national security.

We know without peace or stable national security as an intrinsic part of national interests, no country including Ghana can have any chance of pursuing all its societal values as outlined above. National interests entail guarding against the homeland/internal security, and all the dynamics that have the potential to impact the interests as a whole.

Especially, considering the fact that we all live in the turbulent times of 21st century globalized world, in which constant threats of asymmetrical activities from non-state actors appear to be the new normal, no security-conscious nation has the luxury of time to outsource or pawn its overall national security/interests on the altar of timidity and regional integration abstractions. Therefore, these realities call on the policymakers in Accra to act decisively in view of the ongoing floods of kidnapping, armed robberies, and many other deadly crimes often orchestrated by some foreign nationals from the sub-regional states.

In other words, Ghana doesn’t have to keep acting as if it’s the only nation-state in the West African sub-region historically pursuing humanitarian foreign policy of “Mother Theresan” proportion. Surely, a country’s foreign policy needs to embrace some elements of humanitarianism and morality, but whenever there is a clearly-defined existential threat to national security, our conception of national morality needs to be critically reviewed and reconfigured to suit the fast-changing times. The widespread kidnappings in Ghana today found to be connected with some foreign nationals must be dispassionately viewed as national security issue in the realm of foreign policy. This cannot be about the moral high grounds of the ECOWAS brother/sisterhood and the tired-old pan-African mantra.

As the famous international relations theorist Hans Morgenthau observed, “The fundamental error that has thwarted

in thought and action is the antithesis of national interest and moral principles. The equation of political moralizing with morality and of political realism with immorality is itself untenable.” For Morgenthau, the choice here isn’t about a country’s national interest without human dignity and morality, per se. Rather, the binary choice is between a stack of moral truths disconnected from the realities of modern politics, and on the other hand, another pile of moral precepts taken from political realities.

The current ongoing clueless debate by some of the so-called pundits and security experts in the media space with regard to the nationwide kidnappings and other severe crimes in Ghana involving some citizens of West Africa nations seems to buttress the choice argument here between moral principles and the supreme interests of Ghana. Again, this present writer doesn’t buy the contention that Ghanaians’ moral disgust toward Nigerians living in Ghana has any xenophobic intent. Assuming Ghana and Nigeria are “identical twins” should one abuse the other in the name of kinship? Given the same set of circumstances, Nigerians in their country will definitely do worse things toward any foreign national caught in the web of kidnappings and armed robberies. Come, on!

What Ghanaian decision makers need to do now is to strictly enforce the immigration laws regardless of their strong attractions to the beliefs in sub-regional integration and pan-Africanism (whatever that means in this globalized world). An unexamined pursuit of a policy based on “too-much-open borderism” in the midst of asymmetric warfare unfolding across the globe has dangerous implications on state’s interests.

Sub-regional policy or foreign policy in general, blindly coined out of moral preconceptions absent of strong consideration of national interest, is liable to fail; because, it tends to be guided by benchmark of a deed far-off from the core of the deed itself. Think about it: Every foreign-born national entering or living in the United States and trying to acquire a “green card” or want to become American citizen has to undergo an HIV test in addition to having one’s fingerprints taken with its attendant criminal background checks. This doesn’t mean U.S. is free of native-born criminals and HIV-carriers among its population. It is merely to enforce its national laws to help eliminate or reduce the influx of criminals coming to compound its already high crime rate.

At least, at the end of the day Ghana has a current president (Nana Akufo-Addo) who has a profound understanding of the complexities of the 21st century foreign policy strategy, having served earlier as Ghana’s foreign minister before becoming head of state of this republic. Some of us strongly hope the president will apply his decisive instincts, as he has been doing so far, to forge modern-based foreign policy that puts Ghana’s supreme interests first before sub-regional political correctness.

Bernard Asubonteng is a US-based writer and PhD student in public policy with specialization in foreign policy.   Email:

By Bernard Asubonteng