Gregory Andrews is the new Australian High Commissioner to Ghana and Australia’s first aboriginal High Commissioner and Ambassador to Africa. In addition to Ghana, he is also responsible for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
High Commissioner Andrews is almost attaining a celebrity status in Ghana with a strong presence and visibility on social media. His engagement on social media is quite remarkable and his followers eagerly look out for his posts which usually highlight the positives and his experiences in Ghana on a daily basis.
The Australian diplomat is not entirely new to the continent as he spent part of his formative years on the African continent; schooled and lived in a mining area in Zambia where his father worked in the mines. He would later get the opportunity to visit Ghana as a member of a delegation on a climate project.
I was honoured to have been hosted by High Commissioner Andrews, who is keen on exploring the possibility of Australia sharing its years of indigenous history and cultures with Africa, from wildlife protection to the arts as part of enhancing bilateral relations between Australia and Ghana.
Our conversation centered on his personality, family, career journey as well as the direction of the High Commission under his leadership in executing its mandate to advance Australia’s diplomatic relations and other interests in all the countries he is accredited to.
High Commissioner Andrews didn’t grow up as one of the kids who dreamt of becoming a lawyer, doctor or an accountant. He simply didn’t know what he was going to become in future until in his late teenage years when he decided to become a diplomat.
“When I was studying my Economics degree, one of my friends was from Bangladesh and had lived in London, Rio de Janeiro and different parts of the world and I asked her how she managed to live in all the different places. She told me her parents were diplomats and that was the point I made a decision to become a diplomat to be able to explore the world,” he revealed.
About his upbringing, the conservationist revealed that he grew up in poverty and was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “Poverty in Australia is certainly not as bad as it is in Africa but I have seen it all. I know all about what it meant to sleep on a mattress on the floor as well as staying in a caravan, which we went through for a short period of time when my mother had to reestablish the family whiles my dad went through some crisis,” he highlighted.
After serving in the Australian missions in China and Japan, he was happy to be in Ghana to give his family a unique and new experience. According to him, the Ghana assignment could be considered as a sort of promotion as it is the first time the Australian government has trusted him to represent it to a 120 million people. In addition, it is the first time in his career to have been appointed by the Governor General, on behalf of Australia’s constitutional monarch.
Under his leadership, the High Commissioner indicated that his priority with regards Ghana – Australia bilateral relations will be gender equality. “My number one policy priority is very important to Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Ann Payne. So a personal priority is to promote and strengthen gender equality which is something the Ghanaian president and his wife have over the years focused on,” he added.
In the area of education, he said “Australia has a very strong international education export services and over the last 10 years, seven hundred Ghanaians have studied in Australia and acquired skills which they have brought back to Ghana. This was funded by the Australian government through our aid programme and so I am looking forward particularly once we get through COVID to continuing that work.”
Mining is another sector the High Commissioner spoke about. “Australia contributes high quality and environmentally responsible Australian mining investments as against illegal mining which is a huge problem. Illegal mining amounts to the stealing of wealth from Ghana and damaging the environment. Australian companies working with their Ghanaian counterparts are bringing the expertise needed. We are looking at about US$750 million worth of investment by Australian mining companies in Ghana currently,” he outlined.
High Commissioner Andrews is also looking at promoting cultural and artistic exchanges between Ghanaian and Australian creative arts practitioners. “Australia has some of the longest practiced indigenous cultures in the world which goes back as far as 16,000 years. Their expertise can be shared with Ghanaians and vice versa. There should be an avenue for some collaborative projects in this regard also as it will be great to see Australians learning the vibrant Ghanaian colours and sounds. For example, we can have some Ghanaians perform at the Australian world festival.”
Before our conversation came to an end, High Commissioner Andrews mentioned his surprise at the level of interest in his lifestyle and also excited for the great generosity and support he keeps receiving from Ghana at all times.