“IT'S ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY”
Yesterday, the visiting British Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman, gave support to the view that President Kufuor's Ghana provides the crucial model of good governance and hope in the drive by Prime Minister Tony Blair to persuade the G8 countries and the rest of the developed world to commit themselves to total debt cancellation and the doubling of development aid to poor countries.
“If you ask any politician from any political party in the UK – Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat – to name three of the best African countries, Ghana would always be in there. The general view is that Ghana is going in the right direction,” he told The Statesman.
Also speaking to this paper yesterday, Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo urged Ghanaians: “never to ignore the live link between the new and growing international enthusiasm towards Ghana and the conscious steps taken by this government, through economic diplomacy initiatives, to market the country and the efforts of the people to the world.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs was responding to public criticism over the President being out of the country so often. “Ghanaians should not see as abstract the country's growth in favour and the personal approaches made by President Kufuor since 2001. It is not abstract. These are real dividends of Government's economic diplomacy,” he said. He explained that since taking over power in January 2001, economic diplomacy has been “a central pivot” around which the country's foreign policy has been anchored – part of the ef fort of the New Patriotic Party to address poverty and underdevelopment. Ghana, a country, which went off the international radar for most of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, is now firmly back on the screen, according to the Foreign Minister.
“The travel schedules of President Kufuor and his Ministers are designed to consolidate bilateral political relations, and strengthen economic relations between Ghana and the rest of the world,” Nana Akufo-Addo said.
In the exclusive interview with The Statesman, Nana Akufo-Addo recalled that at the outset of Kufuor's first term the President had made it clear he was going to pursue economic diplomacy with “an unrelenting focus on marketing Ghana.” “Ghana has an exciting unfolding story to tell. We do not believe that in today's competitive world the old saying that a good commodity sells itself remains relevant. President Kufuor, as the Chief Executive of Ghana, has not shied from his responsibility as the country's number one sales person.” Rather than dismissing the negative media reports that the President and his Ministers are spending too much time abroad, Nana Akufo-Addo welcomes it “as an opportunity for us to make the people conscious of the actual link between the President's economic diplomacy and the multi-billion dollar benefits that have accrued to the people of Ghana since 2001.”
He added: “In a globalised world, in which countries big and small are competing for resources and attention, a good leader must be out there batting for his country. That is exactly what President Kufuor has been doing and will continue to do.”
Nana Akufo-Addo admits that Ghana's membership of the United Nations' Security Council from January 2006 could see more presidential air miles towards New York. But he welcomes Ghana's growing stature in international affairs as “most enviable.”
In his view the country has gained “positive recognition”.
“It is an ongoing process, though. The challenge, as with all countries developed and developing, is to reach out to the international private sector and translate this positive recognition into an ever-expanding flow of foreign direct investment.
“One of President Kufuor's proudest achievements,” the Foreign Minister contends, “has been his success at linking Ghanaian foreign policy with the domestic economy and development. It takes responsible leadership to appreciate the growing shift from geopolitics to geo-economics.”
Economic diplomacy policy has been consciously pursued to make “trade, aid and investment the bridge between foreign and domestic policy,” he said. Nana Akufo-Addo sees a direct link between Government's foreign policy and the President's three-pronged domestic policy of human resource development, private sector development and good governance.
“Take one typical example. Last year, over 30 percent of total Government expenditure was spent directly on the poor. About 60 percent of that was on basic human development services. This huge increase could not have been possible without HIPC resources. HIPC resources could not have been possible without President Kufuor's economic diplomacy.
“Also, our capacity now to implement FCUBE [Free Compulsory Basic Education] and generally make significant improvements in expanding and enhancing our country's human resource pool is inherently linked to the considerable financial leeway that good governance and debt relief have afforded us.” According to the Foreign Minister, a key issue to Ghana's private sector development is forging a free and fair trade agreement between Ghana and other competing economies. He says, pointing to July's G8 summit in Gleneagles as an example, President Kufuor has become the voice for Africa and “Africa's development hinges upon us winning the charged global debate for the establishment of a fairer economic playing field for goods and services. It is in such a context that Ghana's economic diplomacy must be viewed constructively by critics.”
Nana AKufo-Addo notes, “The success of Ghana's private sector cannot be achieved in a vacuum. The Kufuorite foreign policy recognises this. Clearly the difference between President Kufuor and his predecessor is in recognising sooner the profound changes that globalisation brings upon domestic life in Ghana. Today, Ghana has a president who is clear in his mind and approach that domestic policy and foreign policy are tightly intertwined.”
The third wing of Positive Change Chapter Two, Good Governance, is also part of this bridge, says Nana Alufo-Addo.
“It is this growing practice of good governance under the NPP that is opening new doors for Ghana, winning her new friends and gaining the country access to financial facilities such as debt relief, increase in aid, Millennium Challenge Account and others. On the government-to-government front, the message has gone down very well. But, there is still a lot of work to be done. The President understands that the sustainable way to develop a nation is to empower the private sector to build and grow the economy. Whilst the primary focus is on growing local businesses and empowering Ghanaian entrepreneurs, Government also recognises that globalisation demands you attract foreign investment and expertise as necessary means to enhancing your country's competitiveness.” He says Government has been at the forefront in promoting and implementing the values of the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development because the New Patriotic Party sees the inevitable evolution of international relations into competing economic blocs. “And Africa should not be left out in this geo-economic paradigm,” he argues.