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Representing Ghana in Spain

When I was appointed by the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, as Ghana’s Ambassador to Spain on 11th November 2020, there naturally were certain things I did not know but I certainly knew I was coming to a familiar territory. I had previously served as Minister- Counsellor at the Ghana Embassy in Madrid from 2007 to 2011 and had used the opportunity to learn the Spanish language and sufficiently acquainted myself with Spanish culture.

I arrived in Spain on 20th November 2020 and presented my Letters of Credence to King Felipe VI on 29th January 2021 at a memorable ceremony, maintaining about 45 minutes conversation with the King in Spanish, in which the latter displayed a deep knowledge of Ghana and Africa.

Subsequently, I have in my interactions with people at different levels in Spain, come to the realization that there is the need to make information on Ghana, including basic ones that we take for granted, available to the Spanish public. Thus, notwithstanding the geographical proximity of Spain to Africa, amongst other things, there is a distinct information gap about the continent and its constituent countries in Spain.  This article therefore seeks to furnish some information about Ghana within the word limit established by the publishers.

Ghana is a country that abounds in natural resources with significant production of oil and gas, gold, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese, silver, cocoa, timber, rubber, fish, hydropower, salt, and limestones, amongst others.  The country is the largest producer of gold in Africa, surpassing the Republic of South Africa to the second place. It is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world after La Cote d’Ivoire.

While natural resources are useful for a country’s development and serve as incentive for attracting investors, there is an increasing realization that the human resource base of a country is equally if not more important. It is worth noting in this connection that Ghana also has the human resource base with highly educated and skilled labour force. Moreover, Ghanaians are noted to be amongst Africa’s friendliest people.

Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence in 1957, with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as its first Prime Minister. Ghana’s independence therefore served as a catalyst for the independence of other countries in Africa. The country continues to serve as an inspiration in other respects.

Ghana has since 1992, witnessed eight (8) democratic and fair elections, four of which resulted in a peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another. Ghana’s democratic credentials are well established, which together with her adherence to the rule of law, peace, stability, and economic progress make her a beacon of hope in Africa. It is not surprising that after surviving 8 peaceful elections, Ghana´s democratic credentials have been adjudged as the best in West Africa and second in Africa, giving her a competitive edge over other states in attracting investments.  The sterling political credentials and stability, uniquely positions it as the Gate Way to West Africa and the preferred destination for investment. Indeed, Ghana has been ranked as the highest recipient of Foreign Direct investment in West Africa by the World Investment Report (WIR) and the fastest growing economy in the world according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2020.

In many ways, Ghana epitomizes the positive spirit of the continent in its affairs. Declarations by her first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has continued to shape the country´s development agenda towards ensuring inclusive, sustainable, and resilient transformation of her economy for the benefit of her citizens and by extension, Africa. It is against this backdrop that Ghana’s President, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo promulgated the Ghana beyond aid agenda succinctly declaring that “We cannot grow out of poverty and achieve the SDGs through charity and benevolence of others. If we are going to succeed to move Africa Beyond Aid, this cannot be a mere slogan. It will take doing business differently and making the tough choices necessary to accelerate inclusive growth in the economy.”

The Government’s key focus sectors to building a resilient economy and facilitating the path to prosperity include Agriculture and Agro Processing, Digitalization, Education, Health, Recreation and Tourism, Oil and Gas, Manufacturing, Energy and Renewable Energy, Mining and Mineral Processing, among others.  

Notwithstanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, government revenues and the country’s debt levels, Ghana has managed to achieve so much in areas such as industrialization from the ground up through government initiatives like the One District One Factory and Planting for Food and Jobs. These initiatives have provided a safeguard for food security and improved the fight against hunger. The Government of Ghana has also led an unprecedented digital transformation initiative across various sectors which has made the country a pacesetter in digitalization on the African continent.

The country also boasts of:

•             a world class airport designed to meet the latest international airtransport association requirements with the capacity to serve 2-5 million passengers per annum.

•             modern road infrastructure giving easy access to west African Markets of over 370million population

•             One of West Africa´s largest ports known as the Tema Port which is centrally located in West Africa and has been upgraded to handle 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs)

•             Over 60% arable land and 336,000 irrigable land available for commercial farming presenting expanding opportunities in Agro-processing.

•             Access to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) market of 1.3 billion people across Africa with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion by hosting the Secretariat in Ghana.

Ghana hosts the Secretariat of the AfCFTA which aims at creating a liberalised market for goods and services across the African continent and boost intra-African trade in goods through the elimination of tariffs and other barriers to trade. The World Bank’s analysis of the AfCFTA indicates that it is the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating and some analysts believe that by hosting it, Ghana will effectively become the commercial centre of Africa. This should therefore provide enough incentive for Spanish businesses interested in Africa to seriously consider Ghana as a destination. 

Ghana has made substantial progress on the journey towards economic development and a Ghana beyond aid continues unabated. Major steps have been taken to reduce poverty and raise life expectancy. Given that education is the bedrock for development and growth, the country has invested heavily in its educational sector with the provision of Free Quality Education up to the Senior high school level.

The goal of the education sector in Ghana to deliver quality education at all levels in order to equip the citizenry with the requisite skillset, competencies, and awareness to contribute to the attainment national development. This initiative continues to create an ever increasing skilled and trainable labour force, thus, culminating in Ghana being one of the countries with the highest literacy rates in the West African sub-region.

Tourism is also one of the key focus areas of the government with vital prospects for the economic prosperity of Ghana. In 2019, 1.13million visitors travelled to Ghana as the country celebrated the “Year of Return” leading to an increase in tourism receipts of 1,490 million US dollars. This was a growth of 18% over the previous year and above the global average of 5%. As the fourth largest foreign exchange earner, the sector continues to remain promising and demonstrates its potential as a key driver for growth. The government has, therefore, earmarked the sector as a major potential source of foreign exchange, which needs to be tapped.

Ghana can learn from Spain’s experience in the area of tourism as the relations between the two countries continue to grow on the back of the Third Spanish African Plan as well as the Focus Africa 2023 implementation processes. Ghana is amongst the countries described in the Spanish policy towards the continent as priority countries. Within the ements between Ghana and Spain, the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, visited Spain in March 2021, to join  the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in launching the Focus Africa 2023 Plan at the Moncloa Palace.

The President of Ghana had a meeting with King Felipe VI at the Zazuela Palace during the visit and issues of mutual interest were exhaustively discussed, setting the stage for more engagements in the future.

The visit also provided an opportunity for the President of Ghana to interact with the President of the CEOE, and Spanish businesses with interest in Ghana as well as prospective ones at the headquarters of the CEOE.

What has emerged from these interactions and other activities is a reiteration of a fact identified in the Focus Africa Plan that “Africa and Spain are linked together for good or for bad. We hope that it is for good”. It cannot be otherwise with Ghana.

Muhammad Adam, Ambassador of Ghana to Spain

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