It was a visit with a difference. A two-day state visit (February 28-29). The first in more than six decades paid by a Sub-Saharan African leader. The invitation to Ghana’s President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo is a result of the longstanding cordial relations between Ghana and Switzerland.
The relationship, as expressed by the Swiss President, Ms. Simonetta Sommaruga, in the Swiss Federal Parliament, is characterised by mutual respect, shared values with regard to democracy, the rule of law, the commitment to stability and peace on the world stage.
She pointed, as an example, to Ghana’s impressive participation in the United Nations peacekeeping Operations worldwide and Switzerland’s support through the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra since 2006.
Addressing economic cooperation, she expressed her country’s needs for Ghana’s raw materials, (Cocoa and Gold in particular) to create trade and business that will be beneficial to both countries. “This principle is part of mutual respect as gold and cocoa create work and wealth in both countries.”
She highlighted Human rights as one factor her country pays great interest in when considering economic development. Both countries, she said, can look back on excellent cooperation in this respect. She recalled that when Switzerland chaired the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights for the first time in 2014, Ghana was the first African country to commit itself to it. The aim of the initiative is for states, companies and Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, to commit themselves to ensuring that Human Rights are respected in mining, oil and gas fields.
During their two-day meeting, both countries discussed joint economic relations as well as environmental and climate protection within a spirit of partnership. They worked out modalities to improve what was already in place President Sommaruga said Switzerland would like to support broader economic exchanges, adding that Ghana was one of Switzerland’s few partner countries in the field of economic development cooperation.
“Our countries are both particularly affected by climate change. Ghana's coasts are threatened by hurricanes and rising sea levels. Switzerland’s glaciers are melting, and temperatures here are rising at twice the global average.
The Swiss President spoke of the “great importance for us to work closely with Ghana in implementing the Paris Agreement. We are also keen to explore ways of strengthening export controls on electronic waste under the Basel Convention.”
President Nana Akufo-Addo expressed gratitude to President Simonetta Sommaruga for honouring him with a State Visit, and for the opportunity to address the members of the Federal Council.
He traced the relations between Ghana and Switzerland to the 19th century, when the Basel Missionaries went to Ghana, then Gold Coast, for evangelical work.
“The Missionaries pioneered the establishment of educational institutions in the country, established health facilities, including a Missionary Hospital at Agogo in the Ashanti Region. They also brought cocoa to Ghana, and were instrumental to the cultivation of cocoa, a crop that became the mainstay of Ghanaian economy for decades.”
President Akufo-Addo introduces Ghanaian delegation to President Sommaruga (FDFA)
For this reason, he said, his government put in place a number of measures that have been attracting investment into Ghana, as well as stimulating growth of the private sector.
With these measures, the country has recorded some successes in ensuring that all its “macroeconomic indices are pointing in the right direction; cut our fiscal deficit; introduced a monetary policy that is stabilising the currency and reducing significantly the cost of borrowing; and have introduced a raft of tax cuts which are bringing relief to and encouraging businesses.”
These interventions, according to President Akufo-Addo, have led to the growth rate in Ghana’s annual GDP of 7% since 2017 making the country, consistently one of the world’s fastest growing economies during the period. The country has one of the most business-friendly economies in Africa, evidenced by being the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in West Africa.
He informed his hosts that Ghana has been selected to host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a market of some 1.2 billion people, with a combined GDP of US$3 trillion - the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
He appealed to Swiss investors to take advantage of the growing business-friendly climate in Ghana, and its unique position as host of the AfCFTA Secretariat, to set-up joint venture enterprises, and also take advantage of access to a huge market. The ultimate goal of his country is to become the hub of trade in Africa.
On the issue of democracy the Ghanaian leader spoke of his country’s full commitment to democracy, where the respect for individual liberties, Human Rights, the rule of law and the principles of democratic accountability are at the core of their body politic. “Ghana stands shoulder to shoulder with Switzerland in our joint determination to promote and protect Human Rights across the globe,” he said.
“We are determined to ensure that succeeding generations of Ghanaians do not become victims or pawns of the international economic order, but her beneficiaries.”
The President envisaged a Ghana Beyond Aid – a Ghana which has discarded a mind-set of dependency, aid, charity and handouts, but charts a path of self-reliance in its progress, fashioned out of the intelligent and disciplined use of its considerable human and material resources.