President's three-nation tour

BY: Arku Jasmine

President John Dramani MahamaPresident John Dramani Mahama's three-nation visit to Ethiopia, France and  Japan, have yielded significant benefits for Ghana. Significantly, the visit afforded the President the opportunity to represent Ghana at such highest gatherings.

He used the platforms provided at such meetings to make statements on Ghana's economic and social performance to the international community.
President Mahama held meetings with his colleague heads of state, which were geared towards strengthening trade and political relations between their respective countries and Ghana.

He again met with the business community, where important decisions were taken on investment prospects in Ghana.

The President also interacted with Ghanaians in Japan, Ethiopia and France, and gave them first hand information on the economic and social situation in Ghana and encouraged them to return and invest in Ghana.

ETHIOPIA

The President's first port of call was Ethiopia, where he joined his colleague heads of state to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU).President John Mahama after a courtesy call on him by Guinean President, Alpha Condé at the AU celebration in Ethiopia

His participation  was significant, considering the leading role that Ghana under the leadership of Dr Kwame Nkrumah played in the formation of the OAU and the liberation struggles of Africa.

President Mahama issued a statement at the anniversary, urging his colleague African leaders to turn their attention to economic growth and social integration, otherwise the political independence that the continent has achieved 'will slowly crumble.'

He said it was crucial for Africans to let the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the African Union (AU)  to encourage them to forge a common future, 'where Africans are not seen as second place.'

At the sidelines of the anniversary, Presidents  Mahama, Goodluck Jonathan, Allassane Ouattara and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Togo and Benin  held a mini ECOWAS meeting.

At the meeting, Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Benin agreed to invest in the expansion of the Lagos-Abidjan Highway into a six-lane road, to boost intra-African trade and commerce.

The highway corridor would also provide the vital links to some very vibrant sea ports for all the landlocked countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Republic.

At a bilateral session, President John Mahama and his Guinean counterpart, Alpha Conde, discussed the need to urgently establish a joint commission of cooperation to facilitate trade between the two countries.

President Mahama had a one-on-one discussion with Helen Clark, Head of the United Nations Development Programme, where the invitation to the President as far as championing the cause of human settlements and urban planning among his colleague African heads, was highlighted.

He used the occasion to meet with the Ghanaian community in Ethiopia. He briefed them on the economic and social developments back home in Ghana and stressed the need for them to come back to invest in the country's economy.

President Hollande welcoming President John Mahama to the Elysee PalaceFRANCE

President Mahama then paid a two-day official visit to France at the invitation of President Francois Hollande.

President Mahama and President Hollande agreed on a number of projects to be financed under the French Development Agency's support for Ghana.

At a meeting in the Elysee Palace, the two leaders discussed trade and development assistance to Ghana, improved military cooperation, security and democracy in West Africa and the Sahel regions of Africa, conflicts, terrorism and the need for Ghana to take advantage of its presence within a Francophone block to enhance the teaching and learning of the French language.

The two presidents agreed to more French support in the area of tertiary education and support with French technical instructors and training of more Ghanaian French teachers, beginning from September, 2013.

He held meetings with Mouvement des enterprises de France also known as Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) executive members. MEDEF is the leading network of entrepreneurs in France with 800,000 member firms, 90 per cent of whom are SMEs.

The chief executive officers expressed their confidence to invest in Ghana's oil and gas, energy, agriculture and transportation sectors.

Again, the President found time to meet with the Ghanaian community in France. His message to the Ghanaians was not so much different to the ones he had for the Ghanaians in Ethiopia; to come back home to contribute to the development of the country.

JAPAN

In Japan, the President participated in the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) in  Yokohama.

Significantly, Ghana was selected to benefit from a $32 billion package to support infrastructure development, economic growth and human development in Africa over the next five years.Japanese First Lady, Akie Abe, welcoming President Mahama and wife to the TICAD V welcome reception hosted by Prime Minister Abe

The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, who announced the package at the opening session, said the package was to propel the growth of Africa's economy and build the capacity of Africans to ensure sustainable development on the continent.

The TICAD V, which brought together about 41 African heads of state, including Ghana's President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, marked the 20th anniversary of the TICAD process.

In his address at the plenary session of the conference, President Mahama stressed the need for foreign investors who are willing to invest in Ghana to be ready to transfer technical know-how to local companies.

He said it was through such a win-win partnership that indigenous companies could acquire the requisite technical capacity to contribute to the development of the country.

The President asked foreign companies to invest as partners who were in the country to stay for a long time despite any challenges that might confront the country.

Another important benefit, was the offer by Japan to fund the construction of a new suspension bridge across the Lower Volta River at Atimpoku to replace the existing Adomi Bridge, which has gone weak.

The construction of the suspension bridge will be the first project to be funded by the Japanese government from the soon-to-be re-activated Yen loan.
Consequently, the Japanese government has decided to send a team of experts to Ghana in August, 2013 to do a feasibility study of the project.

Following his meetings with some Japanese business executives, many Japanese companies expressed interest in investing in Ghana's energy, oil and gas sectors.
Some of the companies have also proposed to channel their investment into agriculture, agro processing and water management.

The companies include Mitsui, Marubeni, Sumitomo, Ajinomoto, Japan Oil, Sojiz Cooperation, First Gate Cooperation and Golman Sach.

The meetings between the President and the business executives were attended by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Seth Terkper, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Hanna Tetteh, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Minister of Energy Emmanuel Kofi Armah-Buah.

President Mahama also leveraged his relationship and networking with the Japanese elite and diplomats with meetings with former Japanese ambassadors and political officers he worked with in the Japanese Embassy in Ghana.

He also held meetings with a number of Japanese infrastructure project companies, the Japanese Trade Minister, the President of Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), Mr Akihiko Tanaka, and the Presidents of Togo and Benin, Faure Gnassingbe and Thomas Boni Yayi.

At a well patronised and highly royal second Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize Awards attended by the Emperor and Empress of Japan, President Mahama was selected to deliver the congratulatory message to the two prize winners. He also held a rare one-on-one meeting with Emperor Akihito.

The President also met with the Ghanaian community in Japan, and
assured them that he was committed to growing Ghana's economy to make life more bearable for the people.

By Musah Yahya Jafaru