Ghana and Nigeria yesterday took a giant step towards the consolidation of intra-African trade relations with the opening of the second Ghana-Nigeria Business Summit by President J. A. Kufuor in Accra.
The summit is to prepare the ground for the establishment of a Ghana-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce to formalise the trade relations between West Africa's foremost economic giants and open up opportunities for better prospects and growth.
Although Ghana and Nigeria have been trading in various goods and services for the past 50 years, there is no formal agreement between the two countries on trade and commerce, an anomaly which the intended chamber is to address.
The volume of trade between Ghana and Nigeria is said to have increased from $64 million in 2000 to $2.6 billion in 2006, with the balance of trade skewed in favour of Nigeria.
Economic analysts have projected that trade between the two countries has the potential of doubling in the near future.
Opening the summit, President Kufuor asked the Nigerian business community in Ghana not to make profits the sole motive of its business activities.
Rather, he said, the Nigerian business operators should be mindful of cross-border security and adhere to the ECOWAS ban on the trade in small arms and illicit drugs.
He said citizens of West African countries could not afford to destabilise the sub-region or some other countries for the sake of wealth and pay the price in human lives.
The three-day summit is being attended by both Ghanaian and Nigerian business players.
Drawing the attention of the summit to the environmental consequences of business operations, President Kufuor said sustainable development presupposed an acute consciousness of the challenges of global climate change and its attendant floods and droughts.
“Profits should, therefore, not be the sole motive of business,” he added.
He expressed the hope that the proposed Ghana-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce would serve as a catalyst in facilitating wealth creation and prosperity.
He said although many experts and economic consultants extolled the virtues of global markets, the fact was that the global economic environment was neither free nor fair.
For that reason, President Kufuor said intra-regional trade was one of the surest ways of confronting the challenges of global economic imbalances.
Consequently, the projected chamber of commerce, when done fairly and underpinned by the right measures and policies, would help the trade between Ghana and Nigeria to be mutually beneficial to the two countries, he said.
The Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and the President's Special Initiatives (PSI), Mrs Gifty Ohene Konadu, said in spite of the prospects of trade between the two countries, there were challenges such as undue delays, unapproved checkpoints, perceived harassment of traders, among others, which needed to be addressed.
She said there was the need to define comprehensive and pragmatic models to guide trade and commerce between the two countries, noting that the challenges should constitute a driving force to improve on the trade relations between the two countries.
Mrs Ohene Konadu said the collective economic output of Ghana and Nigeria constituted 70 per cent of West Africa's total output and, therefore, the two countries could provide the leadership for sub-regional integration.
The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, who chaired the function, asked Africans to change their attitude to work, service and finance, bearing in mind that nobody but themselves would have to develop their countries.
He expressed the hope that at the end of the summit there would be a formal agreement to govern trade and commerce between Ghana and Nigeria.
The Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, said Ghana and Nigeria had had long-standing trade relations and that the summit was part of efforts to formalise the relations.
He commended President Kufuor for his support and said Ghana's President represented all that leadership was about.
For his part, Ghana's High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr George Kumi, advocated a strong partnership between the two countries and said the era of winner takes all should be done away with.
He wondered why there could not be a joint partnership to produce salt in Ghana and export it to Nigeria, which had a huge market for salt.
The Chief Executive of the Ghana Investments Promotion Centre (GIPC), Mr Robert Ahomka-Lindsay, was optimistic that if Ghana and Nigeria could forge a partnership and provide the much-needed leadership, other countries in the sub-region would emulate the example.
He asked the two countries to clearly define the destination of their trade relations, otherwise future generations could suffer unduly.
He said it was obvious that there were some challenges with bilateral trade, investment and the free movement of goods and services in both countries and called for conscious efforts to address them.
The President of the Africa Business Roundtable, Dr Bamanga Tukur, said the kind of co-operation envisaged by the summit between Ghana and Nigeria that could serve as the basis for speedy regional integration.
Story by Nehemia Owusu Achiaw