The United States of America (USA) is committing over $5.4 billion through its agencies to expand commercial ties with four African countries: Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.
The United States Secretary of Commerce, Mr Wilbur Ross, who announced this in Accra on Thursday, said Africa was very important to the global economy and that the USA was taking a whole governmental approach to significantly deepen her commercial engagements with the continent to create new pathways for long-term trade and economic partnerships.
Addressing the maiden USA-Ghana business forum at the Marriot Hotel in Accra, as part of his four-day visit to Ghana, Mr Ross said: “The agreement demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable high quality infrastructure development to benefit millions of Africans and create good jobs both in Africa and US.”
The forum was on the theme: “Strengthening U.S.-Ghana Commercial Partnerships towards a Ghana Beyond Aid.”
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Members of the US delegation, led by Mr Ross, included executives of more than 20 leading American companies and leaders from virtually every government agency involved in Africa, including the Department of Commerce, the State Department, the Treasury Department, officials from the National Security Council, the USAID, the US Trade and Development Agency and the US Africa Development Foundation.
Those agencies, Mr Ross said, were in the country to demonstrate their support for what was going on in Ghana and in Africa.
He said the trade and investment partnership was an indication of how the US was moving from aid-based relationship with African countries to long-term trade partnerships.
“Trading and not aid should be our collective mantra. This is already happening in Ghana with the government’s “Ghana beyond aid” campaign and you are bound to attract foreign direct investment,” he added.
Painting a picture of how trade between the US and Africa had declined in recent times, Mr Ross said: “US exports for Africa in 2017 were only $22 billion, which was not more than half of what they were in 2014.”
“US imports from Africa also fell around the same period by nearly one-third to $25 billion from last year,” he added.
On corruption, the US Commerce Secretary urged African nations to be extremely comfortable engaging US companies because the American firms operating in Africa were required to abide by the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited US companies from bribing foreign officials or engaging in other corrupt practices to win contracts.
He said he was happy that Ghana was already instituting measures to fight corrupt practices and added that the appointment of the Special Prosecutor from the hub of the opposition was proof of the government’s determination to clean up the situation.
He stressed that the office should be provided with more financial support.
The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who was the special guest of honour, gave an assurance that the government was putting measures in place to ensure that the macro-economic gains that the country had made so far were not reversed.
“I understand that there are concerns in the investor community about fiscal discipline post the conclusion of Ghana’s IMF programme but we are committed to maintaining fiscal discipline for our own sake,” he pointed out.
Dr Bawumia also outlined some of the structural measures being implemented to tackle some of the long-term structural issues, such as a new fiscal responsibility law which would cap the budget deficit not to exceed five per cent for a fiscal year, from 2019, along with limits for the debt to GDP ratio.
“As part of the new law, we will establish an independent fiscal council to oversee the implementation of fiscal policy and also operationalise a Treasury Single Account (TSA) to consolidate all government funds at the Bank of Ghana,” he said.
The vice-president also said government would also adopt the competitive tender process to eliminate wastage and also prevent corruption.
“As we lay a solid macro-economic foundation for businesses and the private sector to grow, we have not lost sight of key strategic elements that hold the greatest potential to anchor the investments we desire,” he added.
Nearly three decades ago in 1989, the Association of American Business was founded in Ghana. This was followed nearly a decade later in 1997 with the formal establishment of the American Chamber of Commerce, Ghana. Ghana has benefitted from the activities of the chamber by expanding the export market for Ghanaian products to the US. It has also assisted government agencies to market the investment potential of Ghana.