26 April 2017
Category : Entrevista
Interview with Inmaculada Zamora, coordinator of the ARAP project, to learn about her experience as an expatriate in Ghana.Inmaculada Zamora, coordinator of the ARAP project
We once again turn our attention to the field to find out about the experiences of our expatriates. On this occasion we travel to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to interview Inmaculada Zamora.
She is the coordinator of the Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption in Ghana (ARAP) project. Inmaculada has been working in Accra since June 2016, when the project began.
This is not the first time she has worked in the field; she has done so on other occasions for AECID (Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation) as the general coordinator in Vietnam and the Philippines; in Guatemala as the director of the Antigua Training Centre, and in the Dominican Republic as an expert.
We ask her about her personal experience in Ghana.
How has your adaptation to the country been?
Frankly, this country is comfortable and the personal and social adaptation is mild, even though it is not one of the large African countries but rather a small one with no major tourist attractions.
Ghana has qualities that cannot be found in many of its neighbours: the people are very friendly, and the country is tranquil, safe, and you can move around with a certain ease. In short, it is welcoming and familiar.
From the professional standpoint, it’s another story. There are challenges in terms of the project design, cultural and political issues, and power relationships, which aren’t always easy to understand and address. The construction of relationships of trust with the counterparts is a slow process that has its ups and downs, but we are building bridges and progressing at a good rate. We are pleased.
Tell us about your work and your day-to-day life.
We could say that day-to-day life is very similar, in essence, to what you would experience in any part of the world. With the difference that here professional, personal and social lives are very intertwined, and the lines between them are blurry. Your friends are often the people you work with, and the line between working hours and leisure hours is not as clear as in your own country. You can work in the evening or over the weekend without having the feeling that your life lacks work-life balance.
The usual working hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with an hour for lunch in the middle, but the local people come from very far away and it can take up to three hours to get to work, so they tend to arrive and also leave early. We have meetings almost every day with the counterparts, with other donors, and many team meetings, so really working, reading, writing, thinking and producing documents and actions are often done after hours.
And your personal life?
Accra is an African city that is famous for its very animated nightlife. There are many restaurants, bars with live music and a great deal of evening activity, so at least twice a week you go out to dinner, to have a beer, to experience the city. I take advantage of evenings and weekends to get exercise, read, listen to music and watch films and documentaries, my favourite activities.
There are many shopping centres and you can find almost everything here. During the first months, I would ask my visitors to bring things from Spain because it’s hard to know where to find what you need. But after six months, I’ve discovered that you can find everything, just like anywhere else (except Jabugo ham!).
In what project areas are you most specialised?
My area of specialisation in this project is public sector accountability. My career as a civil servant in Spain and also my international posts have given me a pretty broad and comprehensive perspective of what it is to be ethical in the public sector. Above all, I am very clear about remembering who we work for: citizens, which are the owners of the services we provide, the people who have placed their trust in us so that we can carry out the tasks that they themselves have entrusted to us with the funds they have provided through their taxes.
Transparency towards citizens in administrative actions, their right of access to all types of public information, citizen participation in decision-making, etc., are all mechanisms that citizens should have easy access to in order to demand what the political establishment has promised.
In this area (accountability), the ARAP programme focuses on supporting Ghanaian institutions in the design and implementation of public education campaigns to increase citizen awareness; telling them about their rights and the mechanisms that exist to demand accountability of public authorities.
How is your relationship with the main office in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Ghana?
The relationship with the main office is daily and one of great trust and collaboration. Everything is discussed.
With regard to my colleagues in Ghana, I have to say that formation of the team has been delayed for many reasons in these eight months, and the recent incorporation of all my colleagues has been a great joy, even more so after discovering their capacity for work and personal qualities. I hope that in the years we have left we can address together, with a common vision, the interesting challenges that await us.
How would you assess the experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate in Ghana?
The first moments are always difficult; setting up an office from scratch presents great challenges. But then the satisfactions are also more certain, more real, more palpable.
Joining the efforts that the local institutions are making and being able to offer what they lack is fairly hands-on work, and you get to feel the small changes that sometimes happen up close and that can trigger chain reactions so that in the end people see the positive impact on their lives. Witnessing this up close is a marvellous experience.
And I could tell you many more things, but I wanted to sum up by saying that the aspects of this experience that can be more difficult end up seeming insignificant next to its other brilliant and varied facets, which make it an unparalleled experience.
Interview with Inmaculada Zamora, coordinator of the ARAP project, to learn about her experience as an expatriate in Ghana.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.