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08.07.2009 Feature Article

Obama's visit: Benefits expected

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In just two days US President Barack Obama will touch down in the capital for a day's visit, his first to a sub- Saharan African country.

He wants to showcase Ghana as a good example of democracy and good governance on the African continent, attributes which attract the US to engage in trade with its less developed counterparts.

Mr Obama will be the third American president to visit the country in eleven years, after Presidents Clinton and Bush.

Joy News' Araba Koomson has been estimating the dividends, if any, Ghana has accrued from Mr Obama's predecessors.

The sheer popularity of US President Obama will, no doubt, mean that all eyes will be on Ghana, no matter how brief his visit to the country may be.

Like his predecessors, Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, the country was chosen primarily because of its strong democratic credentials.

And the rule of law, the US has always pointed out, is the bait it needs for investments and trade with its African counterparts.

President Clinton's visit to the country in 1998 boosted, not only the two countries bilateral ties, but also trade between the two.

Although the balance of trade is heavily tilted in the US' favour, statistics indicate that imports from Ghana peaked after the visit of the US President.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 1998, US exports to Ghana totaled $225 million whilst imports from Ghana totaled $143 million.

However in 1999, imports from Ghana jumped to $208 million whilst exports from the US totaled $232 million.

In May 2000 Ghana became one of a few selected African countries to easily access US markets with its textiles and artifacts under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

However, there have been concerns that the country has inadequate capacity to produce to meet the demands of the US markets.

President Bush's visit in 2008 was not without benefits either. A major highlight of his visit was the signing of a $547 million grant otherwise known as the Millennium Challenge Account.

The grant is expected to be used to boost agriculture and expand roads for improved access to markets, among others.

While some moves are being made to expand the Tetteh Quarshie motorway extension, it's not clear when funds will be disbursed to beneficiaries under the agric component.

It's not clear whether President Obama may present another package like the AGOA and MCA to the country, but there is certainly heightened anticipation about it.

But former Ambassador to the US Ekow Spio Garbrah says the country should not be looking for handouts.

He believes the country has not positioned itself well to take advantage of opportunities accruing from international diplomacy.

He says this must change with President Obama's visit.

Credit: Araba Koomson/Myjoyonline

MyjoyOnline, © 2009

The author has 338 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: myjoyonline

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