Ghanaian Ambassador in Russia Speaks on Booming Bi-lateral Economic relations
After several attempts, Major-General Francis Mahama, Ghanaian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russian Federation, spoke in an interview with Expo Times Moscow Correspondent, Kester Kenn Klomegah about some significant aspects of bilateral economic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ghana.
ExpoTimes: How do you see the current relations between your country and Russian Federation?
Maj-Gen. Mahama: I can say, with certainty that over the past couple of years that I have been Ghanaian Ambassador to Russia, the relationship between Ghana and Russia has been good. There are a lot of contacts between Ghana and Russia. Officials from both countries have exchanged visits which have improved the overall relations between the two countries. In June 2003, for instance, a 24-member State Duma delegation including some businessmen paid an official visit to Ghana,- the first after collapse of the Soviet Union. The visit was very fruitful. Apart from strengthening relations, that visit also saw the formation of Ghana-Russia InterParliamentary Association. Similarly, in June 2004, a 10-member Ghanaian Parliamentary delegation led by the Rt. Hon. Peter Ala Adjetey, the then Speaker of Parliament paid a reciprocal visit to Moscow. The fact that the delegation was led by no other person than the Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana is a palpable indication of importance Ghana attaches to her relations with Russia.
ExpoTimes: Would you say that Ghana-Russian ties have entered a new phase after the exchange of Parliamentary delegations of both countries?
Maj-Gen. Mahama: As you are aware, Ghana has a longstanding, fruitful and cordial relationship with Russia. This relationship, of course, received a boost when the State Duma (Lower House of Legislators) and the Ghanaian Parliament exchange visit. Such visits invariably lead to the formation of friendship groups within the respective Parliaments. They also offer an opportunity for the discussion of pertinent issues which affect Parliamentary democracy in this era of globalization. You might have observed that both Ghana and Russia share similar democratic experiences. The Constitution of Ghana which makes provision for multi-party political system was approved in 1992, almost the same period that Russia also approved its Constitution. The current President, His Excellency Mr. J. A. Kufuor was sworn in for another four-year term in office on 7th January 2005, after leading his New Patriotic Party (NPP) to power in a general election. The President is committed to making Ghanaian Parliament play a proactive role in our democratic dispensation. Therefore the cooperation between the State Duma and the Ghanaian Parliament is a step in the right direction.
ExpoTimes: Political Cooperation seems to be going on but what about Economic Cooperation? Which Russian companies are showing interests in the Economy of Ghana?
Maj-Gen. Mahama: I must say that an enhanced political cooperation between two countries impacts positively on their economic cooperation. I am glad to say that since 1991 many Russians have shown interest in visiting Ghana for business and for pleasure. This number has been increasing annually. This is an indication of the confidence Russians have in Ghanaian nascent democracy and the government as well as the welcoming environment it has created. The government of President Kufuor through prudent fiscal and monetary policies has managed to reduce inflation substantially, stabilize the currency and increase Ghanaian foreign reserves. Investment incentives, benefits and guarantees have been improved. Ghana provides guarantees against expropriation of private investments. Policy in certain sectors such as mining has been reviewed to make it possible for investors to participate more substantially in the economy. All these initiatives have been geared towards supporting the governments programme for promoting the Golden Age of Business. Foreign investors are therefore welcome to invest in such areas as cultivation/processing, of food/cash crops for local and export markets; establishment of processing plants for the production of alumina for aluminum smelting industries, real estate development; development of modern telecommunications infrastructure and the establishment of processing plants for cotton, textiles as well as plants for the production of stationery footwear and bags etc. Ghana provides a very viable environment for Foreign Direct Investment. Its central location in the West African sub region serves as the entreport for the large Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) market. By providing an enhanced socio-economic condition and a large skilled enterprising labour, Ghana offers the optimal success for any Russian entrepreneur determined to do a profitable business in West Africa. It is therefore not surprising that Russian Companies such as RUSAL, KAMAZ and Badr-Forte Bank have shown interest in the Ghanaian economy. It might interest you to note that because of heightened interest in Ghana, ten-member Russian Tour Operators and media personnel visited Ghana in September 2004 to acquaint themselves with the tourist potentials in Ghana. The visit has long term benefits since the delegation would disseminate the information they acquired in their print or electronic media.
ExpoTimes: Can you give a critical assessment of these economic partnerships, say whether these business proposals and projects can be realized and what specific problems stand on your way?
Maj-Gen. Mahama: At the moment, I do not foresee any difficulties in our economic cooperation. The government of President Kufuor has demonstrated its commitment to the private sector by setting up a special Ministry in charge of the sector. The Ministry is poised to confront the problems faced by the private sector to enable local entrepreneurs engage in mutually beneficial partnership with one another as well as with foreign investors. Russian investors who come to Ghana can be assured that any business project that they intend to undertake will succeed. Investors are therefore encouraged to choose Ghana as a preferred investment destination.
ExpoTimes: What are your other priorities and how do you view the overall future prospects for Ghana?
Maj-Gen. Mahama: I can say that there are a lot of future prospects for Ghana-Russia relations. I am committed to the strengthening of our bilateral relationship in all fields. That is why attempts are underway to reactivate the stalled Ghana-Russia Permanent Joint Commission for Economic, Cultural and Scientific Cooperation. This will serve as the framework for mutual cooperation. It will also open up new vistas for even greater cooperation between Ghana and Russia.