Russia - Ghana relations/

(April 15, 2004)

Distinguished Interim Chairman of the Ghana-Russia Business Association,

Distinguished Members of the Ghana-Russia Business Association,

Dear Guests, Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all at the reception on the occasion of the establishment of the Ghana - Russia Business Association. This event constitutes one more step of great importance in the path towards further development of traditionally friendly and cordial relations between our two countries and peoples.

The creation of the Ghana-Russia Business Association is a vivid indication of the growing interest of the representatives of the ghanaian business circles towards establishment of direct contacts with partners in Russia, the interest which is based on real successes achieved in the economic development of our countries in recent years.

In particular the economic situation in Russia has changed in a fundamental way. The growth of the GDP since 1999 has amounted to almost 30 percent (29.9). Only in the year 2003 Russia has reached a GDP growth rate of 7.3 percent. We had industrial output growth of 3.7 percent in 2002, but the figure for the year 2003 is 6.7 percent - almost double the previous year's result. Inflation rate has fallen by three times and stands at 12 percent now. For the second year in a row small and medium-sized companies have been increasing their production. There are thousands of enterprises today in the country that work effectively.

One of the fundamental achievements of the last few years is the financial independence we have acquired and the stability of the national currency, the rouble.

The problem of foreign debt payments has been practically solved. Last year, just like in the years before that, we fulfilled all of our financial obligations. In 2003 alone Russia paid $17 billion US dollars, and the country did not even notice that.

At the same time the foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation are at their record high in the history of the country, including its Soviet period, at more than $88 billion US dollars.

The Russia's investment attractiveness also increased considerably.

These modest but obvious positive changes in the economy of our country have allowed the Russian Government to take the necessary steps to solve social problems and to improve the quality of life of our citizens.

On the other hand, the level of stability of the macroeconomic situation in Ghana achieved within the last two years convincingly shows to us that there are created necessary conditions for development of the real sector of economy, for attraction of investments, for establishment of the mutually beneficial commercial links between business structures of our two countries.

In the Russian Federation there is also growing interest to an establishment and development of trade and economic relations with Ghanaian partners. It is notable in this regard the interest shown by the largest Russian aluminium company "RUSAL" to the development of the Ghanaian bauxite deposits. Russian foreign trade association "Tractoroexport" participates in the tender to deliver to Ghana road-building equipment, the Russian manufacturer of chocolate "Russian Chocolate" company shows interest in cooperation with the companies engaged in the Ghanaian cocoa industry.

At the same time, because of some both objective and subjective reasons trade and economic relations between Russia and Ghana at present do not meet available opportunities. Meanwhile, such cooperation is quite real. In particular, the arrangement on delivery to Ghana the Russian transport helicopters is achieved. In Ghana there is a potential demand for other Russian industrial output (motor transport, agricultural machinery etc.).

The example of such keen interest is the presentation in Accra and Tema of the production of the Gorky automobile plant and the establishment in Tema of distribution company of such production "Gazimpex West Africa Ltd. (Ghana)".

It is remarkable that ideas of development of trade and economic cooperation with Russia are being promoted by Ghanaians, who are interested in links with Russian partners.

In Ghana there is a lot of supporters of the strengthening of commercial links with our country. And the example of the creation of the Ghana-Russia Business Association is the best proof of it.

To help you to be guided within a business atmosphere which now exists in Russia, the Embassy brings to your kind attention the information " Doing Business in Russia ".

Avaling myself of this opportunity, I would like to briefly inform you about the Russian activities in the African Continent. Unfortunately, these activities do not very often find reflection in Ghanaian mass-media.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) social and economic dimension is crucial to help Africa get back on the track of sustainable development. Therefore, Russian assistance to Africa has been focused on alleviating the debt burden of African countries within the HIPC initiative. From 1998 to 2002 Russia has written off 11.2 bln. US dollars of the African countries debt including 3.4 bln. US dollars in 2002. The Russian Government also decided to make additional contribution of 10 mln. US dollars to the Initiative's Trust Fund in 2003-2004.

Wide trade preferences are given to the countries of the Continent. Under the current Russian legislation the traditional exports from the least developed countries, mostly from Africa, are exempt from customs' duties. These goods are not subject to quantitative limitations of import as well as antidumping, countervailing or special protective measures. Over 80% of Russia's imports from Africa fall under preferential treatment.

A number of major investment projects are implemented in Africa with the participation of Russian companies in various fields including such areas as development of mineral resources, energy and metallurgy.

Russia also provides its tangible assistance to African countries in such areas as personnel training and public health. Over 800 Russian scholarships have been provided each year to African students. Russian teachers and doctors work in a number of African countries. Russia is also rendering assistance to African countries in combating dangerous infectious diseases within the framework of Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Russia provides humanitarian disaster relief assistance to African countries. Such assistance was rendered in 2002-2003 to Algeria, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Russia also provided emergency food assistance to Angola through the World Food Programme. In 2003 our country has made a voluntary contribution to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees budget for direct funding of humanitarian operations in Africa.

We intend to actively participate in the international efforts in support of social and economic development of the Continent.

In conclusion I wish to express my strong belief that establishment of the Ghana - Russia Business Association as well as the creation of the Ghana-Russia Parliamentary Group, with members of which we have met here a few weeks ago, are among the good outcomes of the Ghana-Russia cooperation in 2003. I would like also to inform you that last year the Government of the Russian Federation increased the number of scholarships for the Republic of Ghana by 10 and granted to the Ghanaian side 30 state scholarships for the academic year 2004/2005 at the expense of the Russian Federal Budget (in previous years there were 20 such scholarships). We hope that these important developments will add new dimensions and give strong impetus to the relations between our two countries and that the traditional relationships of friendship and mutual understanding between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation will deepen consistently in the interests of our two nations and for the benefit of peaceful and sustainable development of West Africa and the whole African Continent.

Thank you for your kind attention. I hope that our today's meeting will provide a good opportunity to discuss in informal atmosphere specific ideas and suggestions regarding the prospects of its activities.

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