Mrs Charlotte Osei, 1st female EC Chair brings freshness to job

BY: Kobby Asmah
•  Mrs Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei

At age 46, she could be in charge of Ghana’s electoral administration body for the next 24 years or so.

Under her chairmanship, Mrs Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei, the newly appointed Chair of the Electoral Commission, will hopefully supervise many elections as well as declare about five or six presidents..

Having made history as the First Female Electoral Commissioner of Ghana, she is taking over from Dr Kwadjo Afari-Gyan, who himself served the commission for close to 22 years.

As a woman of substance with the requisite qualifications, the new EC boss is expected to bring some freshness, new insights and dynamism to the job of an election administrator, a highly sensitive position.
The astute lawyer, who hails from Axim in the Western Region, with a Fanti background from the Central Region, until her new appointment was the Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).


Firm and principled

As a listening person, she does not only come across as a good and nice person, but also affable, firm, principled, diligent and always desires that the right thing is done.

Her other commissioners and staff members at the NCCE tell me she consults a lot to arrive at consensus on issues. No wonder she has brought a lot of landmark achievements to the NCCE, including the introduction of a lot more activities such as Citizenship Week, Dialogue Series, Democracy Lectures and the launch of a website where the commission informs the public about its activities.
Under her leadership, the NCCE has also been rebranded, with its logo changed as well as departments changed to reflect current trends.

Though, she constantly kept a low profile, she was always interested in creating a lot of visibility for the NCCE, providing education for Ghanaians on their civic rights and responsibilities, voting and knowledge of Ghana’s Constitution in order to strengthen Ghana’s democracy.

Prior to being made the Chairperson of the NCCE, she was the founder and lead counsel of Prime Attorneys, a leading law firm in Accra and had earlier served as a senior legal officer for the GCB Bank Ltd and company secretary/legal advisor for Unibank Ghana Limited.

Education and Qualifications

Mrs Osei, whose interests include gardening, interior décor and African Art, holds a Master of Business Leadership (MBL), University of South Africa, Pretoria (2006), Master of Laws, (LLM), Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada (1996), Qualifying Certificate in Law, practising certificate to work as a Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana, Ghana School of Law, Accra, Ghana (1994) and LLB (Hons) University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana (1992).

She is an old student of the Ghana National College in Cape Coast.
She has significant experience in many facets of law, with particular specialisation in corporate/business law, banking, investment and employment law.

Vast experience

Mrs Osei has vast experience in civic education, and also she has a proven track record in public service management, institutional reform and transformation.

She has an excellent knowledge of constitutional law and corporate and regulatory legal systems in Anglophone Africa, and demonstrates considerable expertise in corporate law, banking, insurance, project financing and public/private partnerships. She excels in providing comprehensive legal advice on compliance and regulatory requirements across multiple industries, within the private and public sectors. She also has significant expertise in negotiating and structuring transactions and providing support for Ghanaian companies, foreign investors and international development agencies. She is good at delivering excellent strategic advice and leadership to public sector institutions, national and multinational institutions and companies and building effective working relationships with stakeholders at all professional levels.

Challenges

She is seen by some opposition members as having a soft spot for the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), so she needs to assert herself to dispel this impression.

As a young commissioner, her actions and inaction as well as her level of integrity and firmness will be watched closely.
Indeed, much is expected of her as the first female EC chair, to put her country first before any other consideration in all her undertakings at the Commission.

Though she is also faced with other challenges of reforms at the electoral commission, including ensuring a credible voters register and transparency in electoral adminstration and operations, she will not only need the courage to stand up to what is right and true but will equally need the necessary support from all stakeholders, including political parties, to succeed in her work to ensure that the country’s electoral system improves.

Mrs Osei, who is married with children, has a special appetite for local meals, particularly “Acheke.”
She is welcome to the hot seat of EC chair as she makes history as the first Woman EC Chair in the country.

Publications

She has a number of publications to her credit. They include
• “Challenges Facing Ghanaian Youth” Paper presented at the 61st Annual New Year School, University of Ghana. January 2010
• “Governance in the Past Fifty Years & Challenges for the Future: Examining The Relevance of Ghana’s Educational Policies” Paper presented at the 58th Annual New Year School, University of Ghana. January 2007
• “An Assessment of the National Labour Commission of Ghana” 2006. Unpublished dissertation submitted to the University of South Africa
• “Citizenship, Customary Law and a Gendered Jurisprudence: A Socio-Legal Perspective.” C. Kesson-Smith and W. Tettey (2001. Wisdom Tettey et al. Critical Perspectives on Politics and Socio-Economic Development in Ghana, Leiden, Brill Publishers)
• “Remedies for International Sellers of Goods in Ghana” (1998: Centre for International Legal Studies: Release 3 July, 1998 on “Remedies for International Sellers of Goods”

• “Reclaiming Ourselves’” Re-examining the Status of Ghanaian Women Under Customary Law.” 1996. Unpublished dissertation submitted to Queen’s University, Canada
• “Property Rights of Widows in Ghana- An Assessment of the Intestate Succession Law, PNDCL 111”. 1992. Unpublished dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon
Conferences / Presentations
• “Ghana’s Decentralisation Process: Nurturing Active & Patriotic Citizens For Effective Governance In Ghana - The Way Forward”, National Stakeholder Dialogue, Media and Local Governance in Ghana, Media Foundation for West Africa, May 2014
• “Promoting Accountable And Responsive Governance Through Citizens’ Participation”, African Public Policy Institute, Accra, March 2014

• “Civic Education In Ghana, The Journey”, Cambridge Graduate University, USA, October 2013
• “Strengthening Effective Citizens’ Participation In Public Service In Africa”, Conference of Africa’s Public Servants, Accra, Ghana, June 2013
• “Risks & Building A Resilient Continent”, World Economic Forum Africa, May 2013
• “Love For One’s Country is Part of Faith”, Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission National Conference, May 2013
• “Leveraging Media For Effective Policy Dissemination”, ACBF Media Information Literacy Workshop, Accra, Ghana, October 2012
• “Women as Africa's Way Forward Session” at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 9-11 May, 2012