Africa looks at India with pride: Former Ghana president

Accra (Ghana): African countries need to look at India “with pride because of what it has been able to achieve with its can do spirit”, Ghana’s former president John Agyekum Kufuor said ahead of the second India Africa Summit in Addis Ababa later this month.

There are similarities between Africa and India, said Kufuor who added that with the right spirit, people of Africa can move out of the present state of under-development to create better conditions.

The second India Africa Forum Summit will be attended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and 15 representatives of African nations at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa May 24-25. The first summit between the two rising powers was held in New Delhi in 2008.

Kufuor, who ruled Ghana for eight years and was chairman of the African Union, told IANS in an interview: “As a continent, Africa does not look to India with envy but with pride because of what it has been able to achieve with its can do spirit.”

During Kufuor’s tenure, Ghana benefitted a lot from Indian investment which culminated with the decision of the Indian government to finance the construction of the Presidential Palace in Accra.

It is not just government officials who have realised the big role India can play in Africa’s development. Association of Ghana Industry (AGI) president Nana Owusu Afari said last month that Ghana had a lot to learn from India due to the high level of growth the Indian economy has seen over the past few years.

Official ties between the two countries started nearly six decades ago when India opened a representative office in Accra in 1953, which was before Ghana attained independence. The representative office was upgraded to a full-fledged diplomatic mission when the country attained independence in 1957.

Ghanaian officials expect to see the summit come out with plans to ensure more access to India’s market in order to correct the huge trade imbalance between the two countries.

A trade ministry official told IANS: “We are not sure what the rest of Africa would want to put on the table for discussion but on our part, enhanced trade must be key to whatever is discussed.”

Imports from India to Ghana stood at $314,491,460 at the end of 2009 against $307,534,508 the previous year. For the same period, exports fell from $204,367,039 to $69,506,586.

Minister of Trade Hannah Tetteh, had earlier said that Ghana was aware “the two countries have similar climatic conditions and apart from cocoa, almost all we produce here in Ghana do well in India and this means finding ways to improve our trade”.

The need for more trade with India received a boost last month when a 35-member delegation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) arrived in Accra to hold a two-day business meeting with its Ghanaian counterpart to strengthen growing trade between the two countries.

Latest figures from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) show that Indian investments top the list of projects that had been registered over the past year.

Indians too are keen to increase trade.

FICCI team leader Harpinder Singh said Ghana has become a promising business destination because of the country’s natural resources and high literacy rate.

“The country has a dynamic private sector with a business-friendly environment and above all a progressive policy regime to boost trade,” he said.

Ghana is also trying to lure investors from India by providing trade baits.

Appiah Donyina, the director of exports at the ministry trade and industry, last month announced that the government had acquired 20,000 hectares of land for mango cultivation in the three northern regions of the country. It was part of the national mango plantation projects that is aimed at developing mango orchards over the next five years.

The project is partly to provide investment avenues for Indian companies.

Doyina had told the FICCI delegation here that “India is currently one of the largest exporters of mangoes to the European Union and Ghana is offering further opportunities to enhance that”. By Francis Kokutse