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Wishing to Join the Belt and Road and Seeking Independent Road to Development


—An Exclusive Interview with Ghanaian Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia


ZhangMei,  Armenen·G,  China Investment; Photo by Chang Hao, China Investment




On January 7 Ghana’s new President NanaAkufo-Addo was sworn in, in the capital, Accra. On his first working day,President Akufo-Addo met with a Chinese delegation, sending a strong signal forcontinued advancement of the friendship and cooperation between Ghana andChina. Between June 20 and 25, Ghanaian Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia visitedChina at the invitation of his counterpart, Li Yuanchao. During the visit,Bawumia gave an exclusive interview to this Magazine in which he commented oncooperative relations between the two countries, Ghana’s policy, the Belt andRoad and its effects on China-Ghana cooperation as well as the highlights ofhis visit to Beijing and its significance.

 

China Investment: First of all, welcome toChina once again. China Investment is one of the top actors talking aboutissues related to Africa-China relations. Now, since the successfulJohannesburg FOCAC summit, we have been having positive feedback from manyAfrican countries including Ghana. In your view, what could be theimplementation of the outcomes of the summit?

Mahamudu Bawumia: Well, thank you verymuch. In fact, Ghana is also very happy about the summit and its outcomes andthe sort of resources that China has made available to support Africandevelopment. Ultimately, for Ghana, development lies in our own hands. China isreally supportive but within our own economies, we have to admit that, therehas to be necessary reforms and policies to allow us to take the advantage ofthe support from China. So at the end of day, we in Ghana are essentially takingcontrol of the economic agenda and then we are seeing China playing asupportive role. We are a new government in Ghana. As we have been ingovernment for 6 months. Our president wants to build an economy. As such, weare pushing agriculture and industry and in order to allow the economy totransform. We want our farmers to do well and to produce a lot. We don’t wantjust export raw materials but also adding value to them. In order to achievethat you need environment that is friendly to businesses. As such, we areputting all of these in place. We have to make sure that our microeconomics,inflation, exchange rate and currency appreciation and interest rates are allunder control. Once the business environment is good, we can attract businessesinto the country. Then we can use the investment opportunities provided byfriends like China.

 


China Investment: In order for Ghana toachieve all these, there is need for making different policies. Now, how areyou going to align your economic development alongside Chinese developmentalinitiatives?

Mahamudu Bawumia:Well, Ithink that the Chinese initiatives that president Xi Jinping has brought aboutlike the Belt and Road initiative are essentially giving impetus to a new typeof globalisation. It is something that is most welcomed and needed at thispoint in the world economic history. I think it’s a great mind that comes upwith these sorts of initiatives. And I think we have to congratulate PresidentJinping for this initiative and hail China for taking the leadership in an areawhich is needed. Ghana definitely wants to sign on to the Belt and Roadinitiative. In terms of policy making, the good thing for us is that there isno contradiction between the policies that President Akufo-Addo is pursuing andthe objectives of the Belt and Road initiative, for example. We are trying totransform our economy and increase trade because we want unimpeded trade. Thatis why, Ghana wants to be part of the Belt and Road initiative. We want to tapinto the initiative by increasing trade between us and China.

 

China Investment: Now, what is thesignificance of this China trip?

Mahamudu Bawumia:This visitis quite significant. This is our first major visit out here at the invitationof the Chinese vice president and we are here to essentially, first of all,cement our friendship and deepen our bilateral relations. And then also todeepen our economic corporation. As I’ve said, China is a very importanttrading partner, very important investment partner. So we want to share withour Chinese counterpart and people of China that Ghana is serious abouteconomic transformation. We also invite China to come in and participate in theopportunities that the economic development process is presenting in Ghana. Weare not here to look for hand outs. We are here so that we can hold handstogether and develop. As I said, our goal is to move beyond aid. Ghana has alot of resources. The Ghanaian reserves in terms of Gold, Bauxite, Oil, Cocoa,and Manganese are huge. For example, Ghana has untapped resources of about 916million tons of Bauxite. If you convert that into aluminium ingots, the amountgenerated would be 460 billion USD. Imagine! So we are saying, in Ghana we donot want to be shipping raw Bauxite. There is not much money in shipping rawbauxite. You have to process and refine it into aluminium ingots but it needsmassive investment like 10 billion dollars. All the same, we want to build upan integrated aluminium industry in Ghana. This is just one resource. If youtake that approach to all the other resources, by adding value, then one willsee that the economy will start transforming. We spoke with our Chinesecounterpart and as you know, there is a lot of capital in China. There is awin-win situation within the cooperation between China and Ghana. They can comeand help us with investment and capital, we change our economy. So we win, theywin. And we go hand in hand.

 

China Investment: The ruling New PatrioticParty has high ambitions. We understand it has institutionalisedindustrialisation programme which is going to be practised and will reach outto all the 216 districts of Ghana. Tell us more about this plan?

Mahamudu Bawumia:PresidentAkufo-Addo always says Ghana is moving over from just raw materials to valueaddition. And it is not just Ghana, we are talking Africa here. We should moveaway from the focus of just exporting raw materials, where you get the lowestvalue. If you look at Cocoa for example, what a Cocoa farmer gets out of a 1dollar chocolate bar is probably less than 10 cents. The person who processesthe Cocoa into chocolate gets the rest. So we are saying that in Ghana, we havea lot of raw materials. Every district is blessed with something, even if it isjust a farm producing tomatoes. The tomatoes can still be processed. And we aresaying, if you want the people at bottom of society to also benefit and becounted in the process of economic development, our farmers and people whoproduce raw materials should add value to them. By adding value, youdrastically increase the income of people at the bottom. Thus, we want everydistrict to add value to whatever it has. Whether it is a large factory or not,we need to add value to our produce.

It’s going to be a private sector driveninitiative and government will not go around to set up factories. There is alot of capacity in various districts. Looking at the raw materials in somedistricts, already you are looking at a cement factory, juice factory producingOrange or Pineapple juice or something. In some cases, it is just a matter ofsetting up a market, somewhere. In China for example, there is a huge marketfor starch. Yet in Ghana, Cassava starch can be produced virtually in everydistrict. Now that’s an opportunity that people from Ghana have in China. Allwe need to do for now is to change the mind set and also for the private sectorin Ghana to see these opportunities. For the private sector in China, can alsocome in Ghana and help us with setting up of factories in all the 216districts, for example. It looks so ambitious but it is not overly, as long aswe put our minds to it.  Actually, sincewe’ve been here, one of the agreements we have signed with China is acommitment of 2 billion dollars from the private sector to invest in theindustrialisation process in Ghana. This is very significant and I think itwill help us a lot.

 


China Investment: What do you think shouldbe done to enhance the two countries’ relationship?

Mahamudu Bawumia:I think thatis very important that we build a relationship of trust and dependability oneach other. I think that is very important that we have good communication andtransparency in our relationship. We have the understanding, but we also need alot of cultural contacts as well as people to people exchanges. I was tellingthe Chinese vice president that Ghana is very good at soccer. The Black Stars(the national team) are famous on the African continent. China on the otherhand is very good at Ping Pang. It will be very good to enhance ourrelationship by personal contacts between different segments of business anddifferent professions, like soccer and so on. At that level, we can deepen ourrelationship and fundamentally build trust amongst each other. All in all, wesee China as an important ally amongst our friends. China is a very importantfriend in the world.(Editor:Yvonnie Sundu )