President John Agyekum Kufuor, has beckoned corporate America, individuals and tourists to come to Ghana, which he has described as 'arguably the centre of the earth'.
Kufuor was promoting the concept of 'Ghana Incorporated', towards increased investment and tourism, during his recent official visit to the United States of America, which visit can be described as, one of his most skillfully packaged entrepreneurial marketing strategies.
'Mr. Chairman, one asset yet to be fully appreciated is Ghana's geographical location on the globe, straddling as it does, on the intersection of the Meridian Longitude with the Equator, the zero latitude, arguably the centre of the earth', he said, to a loud applause at a round-table lunch, with selected members of the US Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday, October 27, in their imposing building, next door to the White House.
The visit was from October 24-29, 2005, and the President has since returned to London, where he will be interviewed by The Financial Times tomorrow, before returning home on Wednesday.
He was accompanied by Foreign Minister, Hon Nana Akufo-Addo, Trade Minister Alan Kyrematen, Governor of Bank of Ghana, Dr. Paul Acquah, Deputy Attorney General, Hon Joe Ghartey and Deputy Information Minister Hon Shirley Botchway.
Others in the entourage were Members of Parliament, including Kennedy Adjapong (Assin North) and Agnes Chigabatia (Builsa), businessmen including Mr Geddy Laryea, and certain tour operators, on the trip for the premeire of the one-hour documentary film on Ghana, screened by Discovery Channel, who travelled at their own expense. These include Mr. Martin Mireku and Mr George Walker, the business executive who introduced North American airlines to Ghana, which flies, non-stop, from New York to Accra.
Coca-Cola Africa sponsored ten tickets for the team, while the film on Ghana was made without the country incurring much expense. Government paid for accommodation and transportation for the crew, where a similar movie on Uganda premeired in 2003, has reportedly generated 30 per cent , increase in tourists from America, and 60 per cent worldwide.
Speaking at the well-attended roundtable luncheon President Kufuor acknowledged US Chamber of Commerce vice president for international affairs, Lieutenant General Daniel Christman, chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, Neville Isdell.
He observed that Coca-Cola is a good corporate citizen which has contributed about US$100million to the national treasury, generated from tax revenues in the last decade and has been a source of employment for many Ghanaians. 'In a way, it is the best-known American product on Ghana's market', he said. At the working lunch was Charles Sethness, acting CEO of Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
President Kufuor held discussions with President George Bush, who met him, for the first time, in the Oval Office, his private office in the White House, for a private, but frank tête-à-tête, on a first name basis, where they discussed several issues concerning Ghana, Africa, Iraq and Iran.
World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz and IMF boss, Rodrigo de Rato, called on Kufuor separately, at the hotel, Willard Continental, where he lodged, to discuss pertinent issues, while he also, met officials of ALCOA, the bauxite mining company, led by executive vice president Bernt Reitan.
The President also, attended the premiere screening of a documentary movie on Ghana, titled Ghana: A Presidential Tour”, which was produced by Discovery Communications in partnership with the Africa Society. US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE President Kufuor explained at the round-table luncheon with the Chamber that bilateral trade with the US totalled $452 million last year, a record increase of $144 million, over the previous year. He mentioned corporate relations with other firms, such as General Electric, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Motorola, Pfizer, Newmont ACS, ALCOA, Ryker, Chevron, as some of the US companies that are contributing to the economy of Ghana, through investments, as well as helping to create jobs.
ALCOA, he said, is on the verge of a comprehensive partnership with Ghana, to launch an integrated aluminium industry.
He acknowledged that, USAID developmental support for many sectors of the socio-economy is unrivalled, and reiterated that due to the practice of good governance, independence of the Judiciary, entrenchment of rule of law, computerisation and establishment of commercial courts, Ghana is one of six (6) out of 62 developing countries, to have qualified for the first tranche of the US Government's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).
As a result, he added, the World Bank recently, declared Ghana one of the easiest places to do business in Africa, with particular emphasis on its strong investor-protections. The country has also, found favour with the G-8 nations, and the Multilateral Credit institutions, which earlier this year, granted it 100 per cent debt-forgiveness, for good economic management.
“Our gross domestic product grew by 5.8 per cent, last year and is expected to increase to 6 per cent this year,” he told an attentive Chamber, reminding its members that Ghana enjoys a credit rating of B+ from Fitch, and Standard and Poor's. President Kufuor underscored that, while a major shipping company is exploring the possibilities of citing one of the biggest container hubs in Africa on our ports, a leading French company, Compagnie Fruitier, that invested just under three years ago, harvested 7000 tonnes of pineapples in the first year and this year, has made a record harvest of 70,000 tonnes. “The company is proposing to increase its investment by 15 million euros, per annum”. PRESIDENT BUSH In a rare audience with President George Bush, which was mentioned in dispatches, by major radio and television networks, including Euro News, the two leaders discussed several matters of bilateral interest, but more significantly, Bush was expressly anxious for America to be of further assistance to Ghana and for him to leave an indelible mark on the development of Africa. He mentioned Ghana's role as a leading light, with solid democratic credentials in Africa.
“John, you are my friend; in my view, you represent a genuine attempt to democratise Africa,” President Bush told our President Kufuor. He expressed his excitement at news of Ghana's GDP growth at 6 per cent and the two leaders discussed ways of accelerating growth and development.
He, therefore, re-committed to moving beyond MCA into new areas, such as agriculture, cotton-growing, infrastructure, and housing, where America could be interested.
Despite the White House being under intense media scrutiny, over the week, due to an alleged CIA leakage, being investigated, President Bush took time off his busy schedule, to discuss issues relating to Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan, Togo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo with our Kufuor.
They reviewed collective agreements made by the African Union and ECOWAS, to enhance democracy and good governance, elements which America believes are essential to economic growth, poverty alleviation, intended to minimise conflict. The two leaders spoke extensively, on international affairs, security and the situations in Iraq and Iran.
While every single meeting and discussion, over the two-day visit was of obvious importance, with the pursuit to yield dividends, those between President Kufuor and officials of OPIC, on one hand, and US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, Hon. Alfonso Jackson, on the other were exciting.
Hon. Alfonso stated that, the US is interested in strengthening relationship with Ghana in Housing and Urban development, as had been developed in South Africa.
He said, both President Bush and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, are extremely desirous that a strong compact will be developed to support Ghana, with affordable and modern housing structures and schemes. Subsequently, the President was invited to send a representative to attend an up-coming summit in Kenya, where more detailed discussions would be held. There and then, he immediately directed that, the sector minister and the technical team should be written to for their participation.
Alfonso observed that, since his last visit to Ghana in 1992, there have been significant changes in the economy, and therefore, he and the State Department looked forward to working with Ghana, on the housing schemes. Similarly, OPIC revealed its intense interest in developing venture capital, in partnership with private sector developers, and banks, which will provide capital at lower interest rates to formal income workers.
Led by its president, Rob Mosbacher, and chief of staff, Joe Flynn, OPIC expressed its interest in housing and agriculture, and hinted, it was ready to expose over $150 million to get into business with Ghana. OPIC will get into primary and secondary mortgages that will provide large-scale housing, fund real estate projects which will provide 2000 houses on experimental basis. President Kufuor, obviously excited by the prospects said, the scheme will generate positive hope in the people, mentioning, in particular, public servants, doctors, nurses and teachers, whom he said, are of great and urgent need of housing, at affordable rates.
He put shortage of housing at around 300000, and assured of his co-operation and commitment to assist the two groups, in every way possible. He added that, OPIC had been undersold, and therefore, advised that, it comes to the country together, with a US Trade Mission, to market itself to private developers. LEADERSHIP COUNCIL In a related development, the Executive Leadership Council at its 17th Annual Dinner, organised under the theme: “Inclusive Leadership in the Global Economy”, honoured President Kufuor, as its Guest of Honour and presented him with an award of Honour. The leadership council is made up of young American youth, from all backgrounds, who are preparing to assume the mantle of leadership, in all spheres.
The dinner was over-subscribed and the auditorium at the JW Marriot Wardman Park Hotel, where it was held, was filled to capacity. Speaking at the event, also attended by Mrs. Theresa Kufuor, as well as ministers of State and Members of Parliament, President Kufuor expressed his appreciation to the Coca-Cola Company which sponsored the event. He said, Ghana and the US enjoy more than just strong historical bonds, among which are the many African-Americans who are our kith and kin, whose ancestors were taken from our very shores.
“This is why we are opening our homes, hearts, whole-heartedly, for them to enter as tourists, investors and even, residents”.
He paid glowing tribute to former presidents Carter, Clinton, Nixon and also Rev Martin Luther King, all of whom visited Ghana one time or the other. He also mentioned publisher, John Johnson, who participated in Ghana's Independence celebrations, and also President Kennedy who picked Ghana as the first country to send the first batch of US Peace Corps volunteers to. He further acknowledged WEB Du Bois, the renowned African-American, who spent his last years in the country and is buried in Ghana.
President Kufuor reminded the gathering of refined ladies and gentlemen that Ghana's first President Kwame Nkrumah, studied with, at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University and that several Ghanaian professionals live in the US, and are contributing their quota to the very high-quality of life in America, which he hopes, Ghana will emulate.