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German-Ghanaian bonds grow stronger

Article - March 28, 2012
Trade fairs showcase the potential to increase industrial links between the two nations

Germany and Ghana have a long tradition of friendly relations and close political connections. Even before Ghana’s independence from the UK in 1957, there were close ties between the two nations, especially in the region east of the Volta River, which formed part of the former German colony Togo and was later fully integrated into Ghana. Today, Germany is a key trade and investment partner of Ghana and an advocate of its stability and economic potential.

“Ghana is one of the places to go to if you want to look for new markets which are not yet saturated,” says Germany’s Ambassador to Ghana Eberhard Schanze, who has described it as a beacon of hope for Africa and urges German and European companies to invest in the economy “early before all seats are taken.” 

“The country is suffering from a lack of energy and it needs new power plants for traditional combustibles or renewable energy,” Mr Schanze explains. “The current consumption exceeds the country’s capacity, which is rather modest – around 2,000MW. This will need to triple or quadruple over the next 10 years to keep up with economic change in the country.”

Speaking in Accra last September at the opening of the fourth German industrial trade fair “GEREU 2011 – The Nº 1 Industrial Trade Fair in Africa”, Mr Schanze pointed out that over the next 20 years Ghana’s economy would absorb a great deal of revenue from the country’s nascent petroleum sector, which would feed into and benefit the development of other industrial sectors.

“By diversifying the economy, we create more jobs, reduce poverty and develop the economy,” says Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany, Paul King Aryene. “We cannot depend on what we have in the market to provide the kind of jobs that would let the country develop. Even when one talks about oil and gas, production by itself does not create a lot of employment. It is the establishment of secondary industries that would create employment. For instance, you have factories that convert the waste from oil. They are the ones who create plastic petrochemicals, etc. Those are the industries that create employment. That is the second step. Oil is going to serve as an anchor that will allow us to develop the way that we want. Oil will allow the government to reinvest into other sectors.”

Mr Aryene adds: “We had an investment forum in Frankfurt last year, in association with Afrika-Verein, as well as forums in Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Berlin. I know that German investors are interested exploring the opportunities that Ghana has in the areas of gas production and energy – particularly, renewable energy.”

The GEREU 2011 fair showcased private sector opportunities in a wide range of areas in addition the oil and gas sector, including the automotive industry, plant installation, mining machinery, ICT, logistics, building materials, construction, printing, renewable energy, water treatment, telecoms and the chemical industry.

GEREU 2011 was one of many events organised by the Ghanaian-German Economic Association (GGEA) and the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Ghana (AHK Ghana). Founded in 1999, the GGEA is an alliance of Ghanaian and German companies, entrepreneurs and institutions with business and commercial interests in the two countries. Similarly, AHK Ghana is the official representation of German industry and commerce in Ghana, and helps companies in Germany that are planning to establish in Ghana, as well as Ghanaian enterprises interested in setting up in Germany.

AHK Ghana is organising a three-day conference to focus on Ghana’s oil and gas, renewable energy and environment sectors, as well as water and waste management. From November 6-8 2012, the Accra International Conference Centre will host the first West African Clean Energy and Environment Exhibition and Conference, WACEE 2012. It will provide a platform for power generators, technology suppliers, investors, industry experts, and political and economic decision-makers to explore the sustainable development of the region’s energy potential and ecosystems, and highlight the latest scientific developments in products and services.

According to Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science and Technology: “WACEE 2012 is the right event at the right time to address environmental challenges and therefore enjoys the full support of the Ministry.”

Ghana’s Ministry of Energy launched its Energy Sector Strategy and Development Plan in 2010 that aims to raise Ghana’s power generation capacity from 2,000MW to 5,000MW by 2015, and achieve universal access to electricity and increase the renewable energy supply in the national mix to 10 per cent by 2020. Energy Minister Joe Oteng-Adjei believes that the WACEE 2012 trade fair “is the ideal platform for achieving our ambitious goals” and extends the Ministry’s full support behind the event and its participants.

Delegate at AHK Ghana and former Executive Secretary at GGEA Patrick Martens believes that although Ghana alone may not represent a particularly large market, many European investors preferred to adopt the country as their West African hub because of its economic and political stability.

The German Ambassador in Ghana also highlights its social and political harmony as a major advantage. “It is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious, but everyone I have met says they are Ghanaian, even though they belong to different religions, regions or tribes,” says Mr Schanze. “This is very important, because it explains the remarkable stability in the country. Nobody expects the country to split due to internal strife, and having political stability for almost 20 years allows for the peaceful democratic transfer of power. This is not always available in the region.”

His Ghanaian counterpart in Germany Mr Aryene, concurs: “Politically, our efforts have earned Ghana international acknowledgement as a peaceful, stable, democratic state. We have achieved this feat through hard work and sacrifice. There must therefore be no complacency in protecting our gains.”