"Trade and investment co-operation is the path we are charting"
President Akufo-Addo, you have been President of Ghana since 2017, and were re-elected last December. Angela Merkel will leave the political stage after 16 years in the Chancellery. Is this a step that you can understand?
By common consent, Angela Merkel has been the outstanding European statesperson of her generation. Her strong personality and exemplary, pragmatic style of leadership have undoubtedly contributed to building a buoyant German economy, and implementing transformational reforms and policies in energy, migration, and climate change with positive outcomes. Under her tenure, Africa, and particularly Ghana, have witnessed an enhanced focus on a German-African partnership for development. Her mandate was renewed on four consecutive occasions, which is indicative of her track record and achievements in office. I can understand her decision to want to leave the political stage after 16 arduous years in the Chancellery. I think she is doing so because she wants to give an opportunity to others to continue with the responsibility of building a strong Germany. We wish her well, and, we in Ghana will miss her dearly.
Ghana and Germany are linked by a long-standing partnership. Ghana is a member of the Compact with Africa initiative and has signed a reform partnership with Germany. What do you hope for from Merkel's political successors?
Ghana’s membership of the German Compact with Africa (CwA) initiative has been very positive and fruitful. It has resulted in private-sector driven partnerships between the two countries, for example, with an automobile giant, Volkswagen, setting up a vehicle assembly plant in Ghana, and fairafric, a
German-Ghanaian company, also establishing a chocolate production company in Ghana.
I can only hope that these significant strides chalked up under the partnership will continue under her political successors. Trade and investment co-operation, rather than aid, is the path we are charting, and this is what should continue under her successors.
You have declared that you want to make Ghana the most business-friendly country in Africa. What are the chances of implementing this ambitious plan, also in view of the coronavirus crisis?
I spent my first term in office working to correct the fundamentals of the economy, which were all pointing in the wrong direction. We have, over the period, put in place the measures needed to reduce the cost of doing business and improve the business environment, and have made the Ghanaian economy not only one of the most business-friendly economies in Africa, but also one of the fastest growing economies in the world between 2017 and 2020.
COVID-19 has ensured that many countries around the world are in recession. However, Ghana’s economy was one of the very few that still managed to record positive GDP growth – 1.9 percent in 2020 – though this was significantly reduced from the average levels of seven percent per annum that we had
become accustomed to from 2017 to 2020.
In spite of the ravages of the pandemic, we are working to grow the economy at a much faster rate this year, our target being a five percent GDP growth rate. We are reeling from the effects of COVID-19, but I am confident that, with the progress of the vaccination programme, we will recover quickly, and work
towards putting our nation back onto the path of progress and prosperity. Our nation remains very attractive to investors, and the recent decision of Twitter to base its African headquarters in Ghana, a year after Google established its first artificial intelligence centre in Africa in Ghana, bears testament to this fact.
Speaking of the coronavirus, at the end of February, Ghana became the first country in the world to receive vaccines through the international COVAX programme. You received your COVID-19 vaccination at the beginning of March. How is Ghana doing during the pandemic?
On 24 February, the government of Ghana secured the first batch of vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility. The vaccination campaign is currently ongoing, and nearly a million people had been vaccinated as at Tuesday 20 April. The target is to vaccinate twenty million Ghanaians out of a population of thirty million by the end of the year, and the government is working hard towards realising this. We are working on receiving more vaccine doses, and, together with strict compliance with the safety protocols,
this will allow us to open up our country again and embark on the quest to restore normalcy to our lives and livelihoods.
We in Ghana have experienced a relatively favourable situation, despite the fears many had about the impact of the pandemic in Africa. Our active cases in Ghana are declining, and, as at Friday 16 April, stood at some 1,350 cases, and we have recorded some 772 deaths. The ultimate goal is zero active cases, and we will work until we achieve it.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) came into force on 1 January, and the AfCFTA Secretariat was already opened last year in Accra. What do you hope for from the AfCFTA?
The AfCFTA will link all 54 markets, covering 1.2 billion people, into a single market. It is the world’s largest free trade area outside of the World Trade Organization (WTO) itself. By 2050, it will cover an estimated 2.5 billion people, and have over a quarter of the world’s working age population.
Imagine the investment and business opportunities offered by the infrastructure required to link these markets more effectively. And imagine the business opportunities that this huge market would offer for manufacturing and services firms from European countries that could establish production facilities in Africa to serve African markets. And with the accelerated growth that would result from all these, the market opportunities for exporters from Germany and European countries could be truly amazing!
Ghana is fully committed to the implementation of the AfCFTA. With the collective desire for shared prosperity, we are confident that the AfCFTA will succeed and generate new impetus and dynamism for the rapid growth of Africa’s economies, as well as deepen the process of integration in Africa.