By Wang Xiang
As the Minister of Trade and Investment of Ghana, Mr. Kwadwo Ntim Atuahene makes vital contributions to promoting trade and investment between his country and China. As the President of Economic & Commercial Counselors Alliance in China (ECCAC), he encourages countries to join this alliance and tries to create more cooperation opportunities with China. China Report sat down for an interview with Mr. Atuahene to find out more about his views on China.
China Report: When did you visit China for the first time? Please share your impressions on the changes that have occurred in China during the time you have spent here.
Atuahene: I have been in China since 2014 as the Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Investment and will continue to work here for five years. Before that, Ghana and China have had close interactions for a long time. Ghana has had diplomatic relations with China for the past 59 years. Ghana was among the first Sub-Saharan Africa countries to establish diplomatic relations with China, so we know China very well. Our president has come to China before. In Ghana, you can see Chinese people everywhere. Our National Theater, which is located in the center of the city, was designed and built by Chinese. We have also had Chinese assistance in building our second largest power project and developing our gas fields.
I am impressed with China. China’s economic development is impressive, and the urban infrastructure is very advanced. The Chinese people are very friendly and hospitable. Most of them like to make friends with people from Africa. I like China very much and hope that my term in China can be extended.
China Report: Chinese president Xi Jinping initiated the Belt and Road initiative in 2013. Furthermore, he announced Ten Cooperation Plans with Africa in December 2015. How do you evaluate these two policies? In which fields can we deepen our cooperation?
Atuahene: It is quite encouraging. Africa’s abundant resources need to be better developed with the assistance of the Chinese government. Previously, China has provided US$20 billion in Africa, which has been invested in a number of different projects. At the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit in Johannesburg, President Xi proposed the Ten Cooperation Plans with Africa and promised US$60 billion in special funds. China-Africa cooperation is transforming from government aid to enterprise investment and financing cooperation, from general merchandise trade to production processing trade, and from engineering contracting to infrastructure investment in special economic zones. African people warmly welcome Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa.
Initially, the Belt and Road Initiative has influenced Africa through Kenya, before extending to the rest of Africa. In historical terms, the renowned Chinese sailor Zheng He in the Ming Dynasty led the fleet of the seven voyages, four of which arrived at the East African coast. The Belt and Road Initiative will bring new opportunities of Sino-African cooperation and development. Africa can be more closely linked to the whole world via better roads, railways, ports and airports.
Ghana is a coastal country with a long coastline. We want to develop our harbors and link the harbors to railways. For us, it takes two-to-four months to ship goods from China to Ghana. If railways can be completed, this length of time could be shortened to 24 hours.
China Report: The 2016 Sino-Ghana Economic, Trade and Investment Development Matchmaking Meeting was held last month. Representatives of both sides shared cooperation opportunities. Does your country have some specific plans or projects that can further deepen cooperation?
Atuahene: China and Ghana have been cooperating in many fields over the course of the past 60 years, and we will continue to promote cooperation at many different levels. The 2016 Sino-Ghana Economic, Trade and Investment Development Matchmaking Meeting was hosted by the ECCAC, and it provided good opportunities for bilateral cooperation, as well as business and investment cooperation.
The Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Industry was present and impressed. If ECCAC can organize a Chinese business delegation to visit Ghana, I think the delegation would receive the highest level of hospitality. Investment activities will be protected by the Ghanaian government and under Ghanaian law. I think it is the right time to start arranging such a delegation. I believe that Chinese companies and businessmen will make the right investment choices as well as huge profits under the guidance of ECCAC.
China Report: As the President of ECCAC, what contributions can the ECCAC make in promoting cooperation between China and other countries? What are your expectations in terms of the development of ECCAC?
Atuahene: ECCAC was officially established in April 2016, and is an international organization designed to promote the Belt and Road Initiative countries’ economic and trade exchanges, business negotiations and investment cooperation with China. At present, there are 45 countries and regions have joined in, however, we still have a long way to go. We will continue to expand the number of members, and in the meantime, we will attract more Chinese business associations, institutions and enterprises in different fields to connect with ECCAC. We will continue to create a better investment environment, boost the confidence of the bilateral governments and serve as a bridge between the Chinese government, enterprises and foreign envoys. ECCAC can use its influence to create dialogues with the government, enterprises and businesspeople. We can be involved in business promotion, cultural promotion and technology promotion, ultimately achieving mutual benefits.
We also have the China-Ghana Friendship Association and the China-Ghana Chamber Committee in our own country. When these two organizations learned of our alliance, they have made efforts to link up to ECCAC. The Sino-Ghana Investment Forum is one of the high-level economic and trade forums organized by our respective governments, and is held in China and Ghana every year. I hope that the forum will be hosted by our alliance next year. Our responsibilities are large and the prospects are bright. As the President of ECCAC, I hope that our alliance will with the Secretary-General and colleagues will continue to promote business and investment cooperation between China and Ghana, China and Africa and even throughout the rest of the world.