UK’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Iain Walker, has expressed his country’s readiness to partner the government of Ghana in its quest to grow the economy beyond aid, through improved trade and support for the SME sector.
According to Mr. Walker, no greater partnership can exist between the two countries than one that is built on fair trade, which is one of his preoccupations coming into the new role.
“As Ghana looks beyond aid and the UK looks beyond EU, clearly, what unites these countries is trade. But seeing trade go down is a marker that we should be doing something about it, because trade is the best example you can have of partnerships – and this happens when you get the trade on fair terms.
“I think it is in Ghana’s interest and that of the UK to have some of the best British companies working with Ghana. That’s why I want to see trade increasing – and not simply about volumes,” the High Commissioner said.
The volume of trade between Ghana and the UK as at 2015 was about £1.1billion, down by at least 30 percent from the 2012 figure – due largely to a slump in commodity prices.
According to the UK High Commissioner, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union presents further exciting opportunities not only for the UK but also countries such as Ghana to rework a new bilateral trade relationship.
“For instance, if I were Ghanaian I would be thinking about the opportunity Brexit brings; an opportunity to think about our future trade relationships and what we can see coming through that.
“But until the UK leaves the EU, it is still fully a member of the union; thus, we are not negotiating deals at the moment but rather trying to avoid any unintended consequences of a sharp exit. We are basically trying to ensure that we continue trading relations on a commonly understood basis,” he stated.
Reworking priorities beyond aid
On the question of what the UK’s priorities are for Ghana, Mr. Walker stated that having a history of stability, democracy and developing institutions, it is appropriate that Ghana looks into the future and builds on these strong foundations to achieve its vision of moving beyond aid.
“As a lower middle-income country, Ghana’s aspirations to develop beyond aid is in the right direction.
“I think a Ghana beyond aid is very feasible, but it will require a lot of hard work and sustained effort…,” he added.
Mr. Walker, who takes over from plain-spoken Jon Benjamin, maintained that one of his priorities will be to have deeper conversations with the Ghanaian government to understand what the priority sectors are and what role the UK can play in meeting those priorities.
The UK, he said, possesses diverse expertise and could offer an impactful support when the priorities are determined.
“We know this government has big plans around infrastructure, and we are looking at how we can support some of those ambitions. Moreover, what we are really keen on is understanding better what the government’s priorities are, and in what particular areas, so that we can bring in British businesses to match in some of these areas.”