Accra - Amsterdam Cooperation
The Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, Mr. Mark van der Horst, yesterday paid a courtesy call on the Chief Executive of Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA), Mr. Solomon Ofei Darko to discuss issues of development and bilateral cooperation between the two sister cities. The visit forms part of a fact finding mission to the country by the Deputy Mayor and the Managing Director of the Amsterdam Port Consultants, Venda K. Sykora, ahead of a business delegation from Amsterdam expected to visit the country in March next year.
The informal meeting which took place in the garden at the residence of the Mr. Darko, was also attended by the Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, the Presiding Member of the AMA, Mr. Ben Annan and other key heads of department of AMA.
In his remarks Mr. Horst said the delegation which arrived last Tuesday for a five day visit, which ended yesterday, has been observing some of the activities around Accra, to determine the kind of support they could offer through technical and other forms of assistance. Therefore, he said one of the areas identified is the management and disposal of waste.
Three priorities include creating a stronger sister city relationship between Amsterdam and Accra to promote culture and fight social problems in Accra, establishing a proper linkage between the ports of Amsterdam and Nortredam in the Netherlands and that of Tema and Takoradi in Ghana. He said they are also interested in investing in the agriculture and food production industries as a way of developing the country's trade through increased exports. Mr. Horst said since most of Ghana's exports to Europe goes through the Port of Amsterdam, assistance in that direction would help to bring improvement in the country's economy.
Mr. Venda Sykora said his role was to find ways to intensify the relationship between the ports of Tema and Amsterdam and also try to intermediate between the Amsterdam stevedore companies and their Ghanaian counterparts. "Our goal is to find whether there is the possibility for them to have joint ventures to haul cargo between Tema and Amsterdam".
In response, the Chief Executive of AMA recounted his experiences in the two cities of Amsterdam and Nortredam, last week, during a brief visit after attending a conference in Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia. He said, the meetings with the mayors of the two cities, were based on some priority areas of concern to the metropolis. These are sanitation, city planning, revenue generation, IT application in revenue administration, technical support and management.
He said his impression, after those meetings is that the authorities of the two cites are prepared to assist AMA in developing Accra. Migrants from Accra who are resident in Amsterdam, he said, have also agreed to form an association to raise funds to support some development projects in the city. The assembly in collaboration with the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Mr. Darko said, is currently developing a proposal at the request of the two mayors, to assist in infrastructure development, and housing and planning in Accra.
Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs, announced that the Government of Ghana is receiving assistance from China to improve the transport sector. He said, work would soon begin on a multi-million dollar project that involves the construction of a railway line, through the Shai Hills, to link the ports of Tema and Akosombo. He explained that goods and containers bound for the northern part of Ghana and other land locked countries, would be transport from the Tema Port via train to Akosombo and ferried along the Volta River to Yeji, for further transportation to their intended destinations by land.
He said this has become necessary because of the increasing use of Ghana's ports by neighboring countries. This, the minister said, would also help to reduce the amount of pressure exerted on the country's road transport system. He invited the Dutch business community to consider making investment in this direction, or form partnerships with local companies in Ghana.
The Presiding Member of the AMA, Mr. Ben Annan, said the visit of the Deputy Mayor had brought some important revelations to the assembly. He said the idea of the city of Amsterdam owning the infrastructure such as the international port is very interesting to the AMA. "Because it introduces the opportunity for the authorities of Accra, to explore ways of dealing with government as to how feasible it would be for the city to have a share in the institutions, structures and economic activities that government solely controls in the city".
He said a substantial portion of the land in the city, is being occupied by ministries, departments and agencies of government without paying any property rates. The Dutch experience, he said, gives the assembly the opportunity to start looking further afield for revenue generation.