In the wake of multiple Boko Haram attacks in the region, what can be done to enhance security within the region?
The new Nigerian government has done a lot to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram and has essentially put that organization on the retreat. However, we still have to maintain a greater level of vigilance. We have to use the peace building architecture that we have devised and the early warning systems we have already established in our regions and use those mechanisms to protect our citizens. ECOWAS is an integrated region that allows for the free movement of citizens, which creates a greater imperative for national structures to be more effectively integrated. Increasingly, regular communications with one another will naturally promote the sharing of information and provide as much intelligence as possible on request, allowing us to work together to deal with any security challenges that may arise. We currently allow for free movement among member states for a period of three months without a visa or any form of residence requirements. This will change, as we are planning to launch the ECOWAS biometric identity card, which will operate as an identity card, travel document, residence permit, and work permit.
What are the key countries you are working with to return to Ghana's 2011-13 GDP growth levels?
Our focus is on developing new partnerships to deal with key infrastructure challenges and to increase investment in other growth areas while developing economic opportunities, jobs, and improving the standard of living. We are no longer in a position to take on additional debt to deal with the infrastructure challenges we have, and investments now have to be commercially viable. The focus is on developing PPPs (but not PPPs that are backed with sovereign guarantees) whereby we can assure our investing partner that any funds generated from investments are available to repay any financing facility and create a platform for greater investments in our economy.
In which sectors have you identified key opportunities for growth?
The number one issue for us right now is energy. We must expand our power generation, improve transmission, have more efficient distribution, and even push our generation capacity in excess of our national demand, as we have the infrastructure to export it. Some of the challenges we are facing right now are due to our infrastructure not being able to keep up with domestic demand, hence the energy sector is the number one area where we would like to attract new investments. Transportation infrastructure and supporting logistics infrastructure are also important. We are looking for partnerships to expand our existing ports and harbors and develop new inland ports, because Ghana is an important transit hub required for trading with our landlocked neighbors. Likewise, we have seen an upswing in the domestic air travel market, and there is potential in that sector as well. The provision of water is also a basic utility that we all need. Dealing with the challenge of waste management is something that every country, city, and municipality has to deal with. We have had some PPP projects that have been interesting, but there is room for more. The government is looking for investments from the private sector in order to deal with the infrastructure deficit we have. The agricultural sector is still Ghana's largest employer, even if it is not our largest contributor to GDP. Our major exports include a mix of non-traditional exports namely fruits, vegetables, and other horticultural products, mainly to the EU. We are restructuring investment programs to make the power sector much more commercially viable. The service sector has been the fastest-growing sector in our economy over the last couple of years and is currently the largest contributor to Ghana's GDP. Our reputation for peace, security, stability, and the state of our infrastructure has attracted a lot of the high-end tourism in the West African region, especially when it comes to conferences, which has created a demand for those services throughout the country. The ICT sector is something that has generated a lot of enthusiasm, especially among our young entrepreneurs. ICT is promising because it is the sector of tomorrow. The sector has been lucrative in Ghana and has been expanding considerably, especially for those that provide solutions to our unique challenges and solutions that can also be replicated across developing countries.
Are there plans to expand trade agreements between the EU and Ghana?
We have been negotiating EPAs for some time now. We have been negotiating and have finalized a West African partnership agreement with the EU. Under the terms of that agreement, all 15 member states of ECOWAS have to sign that agreement before it comes into effect. Nigeria and the Gambia still have not yet signed on to this agreement, but once they do, it will essentially create a trade agreement between one region and another, which has more potential than a bilateral agreement between our country and the EU. It provides for the liberalization of tariffs from selected imports from the EU over a period of 20 years. We will liberalize our tariffs in five-year periods and we will be eliminating tariffs over a 75% bands, but we are also keeping 25% of the tariff bands where we will not be liberalizing our tariffs at all. That agreement not only continues to give us duty-free, quota-free access to EU markets, but it will also allow us to import not only finished goods, but also components and goods to which we will add value. The EPA will allow us to bring in those things on a duty-free basis, and help us to reduce production costs and allow for adding value domestically to give us competitive advantage.
What do you want your legacy to be?
As a government, working through the Foreign Ministry, we have tried to ensure that we promote the values and initiatives we believe in, regional integration being an important example. We have a focus on multilateralism and the protection and promotion of universal human rights. We also have a focus on protecting and promoting the rights of women. We have given a greater emphasis to issues affecting gender and social protection in this government, not just nationally, but internationally as well. We have also focused on making sure we reach out to our own diaspora in other parts of the world so that Ghanaians abroad feel that they also have a stake in the progress of our country. We are much more likely to be able to achieve our objectives if we do so in a more integrated world, while at the same time reaching out to our own people and giving them a reason to believe in Ghana, and work with us to achieve our goals. If at the end of my tenure, it can be said that we have achieved any of those things, then I will have achieved my goals and objectives as Minister.