It is with a deep sense of pride and honour that we welcome our distinguished and noble guest, HE David Johnston, his dear wife and entourage into our city. With this ceremony, we welcome the people of Canada into our home.
We welcome you with our Mponponsuo Sword, which is the Sword the Golden Stool commands me to draw in swearing my oath as Asantehene to the people. It symbolizes the level of respect and honour we feel for the people of Canada. And as we open our state umbrellas, we are not just providing protective shade from the sun; we are opening our hearts to you and to the people of your great country.
We are a gracious and grateful people and an occasion like this offers us the opportunity to place on record our profound gratitude for the immeasurable benefits which we have derived from our relations with Canada.
Before destiny placed upon my shoulders the enormous responsibility of the King of my people, I had the privilege to sojourn into your beautiful country. I experienced at first hand, the hospitality of your people, and their willingness to share the gifts of knowledge with all. Canada played a key role in shaping our outlook and in preparing us for the task which I now undertake for my people.
I know there is a large community of Ghanaians still sharing in the grace and favour of Canada. A lot of them will be my people and I owe it to them to let the people of Canada know that their gifts are not misplaced, that they are making an impact on the lives of our people and contributing enormously to a better and more fulfilling world by the welcome and support they give to our people in the diaspora.
When I ascended the Golden Stool 14 years ago, I proclaimed education as the main focus of our reign. That focus has enabled us impact upon the lives of several thousands of our people who would otherwise have been lost to illiteracy. We have provided support from basic schools to the universities and today, there are many in key professions, including the bench, who owe their opportunity to the support of our education fund and charity foundation.
It has therefore been a matter of pride to welcome a leader who not only has spent virtually all his adult life in education but who is giving a new impetus to the world on education.
Your Excellency, we have followed the evolution of your ideas on the Diplomacy of Knowledge. You define this as “our ability and willingness to work together–across disciplines and across borders–and share the knowledge we uncover and refine to improve the human condition.” You have not just tried to infuse these ideas into Canadians; you have carried it wherever you have been, to Peru, Brazil, to Seoul, Amsterdam. Most important for us, you recently brought together a group of experts for a Round Table on Education Partnership between Canada and Africa where you articulated your belief that “learning together is an essential part of living together in the 21st century” and “through learning and discovery we can build the smarter, more caring world of which we dream.”
Kumasi is proud to be the home of the country’s premier university of science and technology, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and I have the honour to be its Chancellor. I assure you that we can think of no more apt and thoughtful ideas for our time than you present and both as a people and from the university community, we commit ourselves to join with you and with the education community of Canada to achieve your goal of “collaborating across international borders, academic disciplines and international boundaries.”
In Amsterdam a few days ago, you led a luncheon discussion on Innovation and cited the 12-month Master of Science in Global Health program being offered by the Dutch Maastricht and the Canadian McMaster universities as a wonderful example of international co-operation in post-secondary education. You also lauded the “design for The Future” Initiative for sustainable buildings and communities existing between Canada and The Netherlands.
Your Excellency, KNUST is ready to either join the Masstrich-McMaster program or to partner with any Canadian universities in developing a similar Program. More than that, we are ready to initiate an Exchange Program for both faculty and students with any of your leading universities and for joint program on research and innovation among teachers, researchers and students.
Beyond education, Kumasi offers another unique opportunity for wider cooperation and sharing of knowledge. Kumasi is in the throes of transformation with all the challenges to human creativity and innovation. On our drawing board is a carefully prepared outline for Greater Kumasi prepared with the generous support of the Japanese government. Inevitably such a program will require a large dose of international involvement and I see an opportunity here for an extension of Canada’s “Design for the Future” program with The Netherlands to Ghana so we can share in the knowledge and expertise in the build environment to provide ourselves with a new City that will be a landmark in international cooperation.
Finally, it is no secret that this nation faces enormous threats to the environment from the destruction of our forests, creeping desertification and the pollution of our waterways. More than 60% of the nation’s forest cover has been lost in less than three decades and our rivers are dying by the day. We have prepared a Golden Stool Land Reclamation & Regeneration Project to regenerate forest lands that have been destroyed and to launch new initiatives to preserve our natural environment. Canada’s expertise in the preservation of its environment and your commitment to preserve the global environment leads us to believe that there is scope here for the sharing of knowledge and a basis for support to enable us tackle and overcome this threat.
Your Excellency, we welcome you, and your dear wife, as the leader of a people who have been among our greatest friends. But we also welcome you as a leader whose ideas and passion can truly contribute to the reshaping of our world. We appreciate the support Canada has given us since we joined the comity of free sovereign nations in 1957. We thank you and applaud the hospitality you have given to our children in your land. Even in the worst winters, the warmth of your hearts have been enough to melt the snow. Because Canada means so much to me, I hope that we can join together to ensure that yours is not just another visit but a landmark visit heralding a new era in cooperation between our two countries through the Partnerships we establish in education, research and innovation.