President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana is expected in Bern, Switzerland, on a two-day State Visit at the invitation of Swiss Federal Council in recognition of the excellent long-standing relations between the two countries. The last time Switzerland received a head of state from a Sub-Saharan country was sixty years ago.
The State Visit according to government’s release shows also a sign of the increasing contact Switzerland has with the African countries, and the bright outlook for political and economic cooperation.
President Akufo-Addo arrives Bern on Friday 28 February and will be received by Swiss President Ms.Simonetta Sommaruga with some government officials, and will be accorded military honour.
Later the official talks between the delegations of the two countries led by the two presidents will be held at Bernerhof. Among the Swiss delegates will be Guy Parmelin, Vice President of the Federal Council and Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, while Ghanaian delegation will include Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Mr. Ken Ofori Minister for Finance, and Mr. Joseph Aidoo, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Cocoa Board.
The talks will focus on economic relations and the possibility of closer cooperation on environmental matters, such as climate protection and the disposal of hazardous waste.
Ghana is a priority country in countries of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), SECO’s economic development cooperation and Switzerland’s second most important trading partner in Africa. The main imports from Ghana include gold and cocoa. In 2019, Switzerland’s total imports from Ghana amounted to CHF 2.5 billion, of which gold imports accounted for more than 95%. Ghana is Switzerland’s main supplier of cocoa beans and among its top ten gold suppliers. Switzerland’s exports to Ghana consist mainly of pharmaceuticals and machinery.
However Switzerland is active in ensuring that human rights and environmental standards are better respected in commodity production. For example, it cooperates with Ghana under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, and the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa was launched in 2017 with the aim of improving social, ecological and economic sustainability in cocoa production.
Ghana is one of the main partner countries of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) with respect to economic cooperation. SECO's support aims at contributing to sustainable economic growth and to the fight against poverty. One special focus is on support for Ghana in integrating its economy in the world's markets and seizing the opportunities offered by globalization while defusing its negative effects.
The cooperation concentrates on the following areas:
Macroeconomics: General budgetary assistance and the associated technical assistance in public finance management;
Private sector: Improvement of the business and investment climate and the introduction of innovative types of financing;
Trade promotion: Development of trade policy framework conditions and strengthening of the value-added chain for export goods;
Infrastructure: Measures in the electricity sector to improve the operational efficiency of Ghana's leading public electricity supplier and to extend its reach to disadvantaged, poor regions.
The talks will also address cooperation in the field of peace and security policy. In fact Switzerland supports the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Teshie, Ghana. Several members of the Swiss Army teach at KAIPTC since 2006. The Swiss contribution to KAIPTC supports the organization in fulfilling its function as a competence center for civil and military peacekeeping. The center conducts research and offers training programs. Since 2003 KAIPTC has held more than 170 courses covering a wide variety of peacekeeping topics.
The Swiss embassy supports Ghana with a number of projects in the areas of good governance and conflict prevention, thus demonstrating its appreciation for Ghana's democratic culture and its leading role in this respect.
Switzerland and Ghana have concluded a number of bilateral agreements in the past years such as an agreement in 1991 on the promotion and protection of investments, in July 2008 on the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and assets and in August 2010 on air traffic routes and intellectual property rights. In 2015 a Memorandum of Understanding was concluded in order to formalize the holding of yearly political consultations.
There is cooperation in education, research and innovation availing students from Ghana an opportunity to take part in the MOOCs (massive open online courses) organized by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Four thousand students signed up for these courses in 2016.
Also there are opportunities for Scholars and artists from Ghana to apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
The bilateral relations between the two countries dated back to 1828 when Swiss missionaries from the Basel Mission settled in what was known then as the Gold Coast. Among what the Basel Mission built during its stay in Ghana and still exist today include the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and its schools and hospitals.
The missionaries were also responsible for bringing the cocoa plant to Ghana, and today 47% of the cocoa used to manufacture chocolate comes from Ghana
Switzerland recognised Ghana when it obtained independence on 6th March 1957. In 1960 both countries established diplomatic relations.
On the first day of the visit the President will among other things inspect Guards of Honour mounted by the Grenadiers of the Canton of Bern. He will meet with some members of the Ghanaian community in Switzerland, and will attend the State Banquet dinner hosted by the Federal Council in his honour.
The next day in the morning the two presidents will pay a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts Bern where they will be received by Mr. Jonathan Gimmel, the Prsident of the Museum - (Zentrum Paul Klee umbrella Foundation). There they will attend a preview of an exhibition by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui which is to be held in March.
This will be followed by a visit to a chocolate factory in Basel, an event to mark the two countries’ economic relations, before President Akufo-Addo departs back to Ghana.