Sunday, March 11, 2012

Obama: Ghana is "model" of African democracy

Obama in Ghana

Article by: EKOW MENSAH-SHALDERS with additional files from Reuters
United States President Barack Obama praised the West African nation Ghana as a model of democracy and growth in a continent that many associate with poverty and violence. "There's sometimes a tendency to focus on the challenges that exist in Africa - and rightfully so," said Obama, who sat beside Ghana's president, John Atta Mills, in the Oval Office.
Obama in Ghana
"But I think it's important for us to also focus on the good news that's coming out of Africa, and I think Ghana continues to be a good-news story," he said, warmly thanking Mills for the hospitality shown the U.S. first family when the Obamas visited the country in 2009.

Ghana, the world's second biggest cocoa producer, posted double-digit growth in 2011 and is one of the more stable countries in West Africa.

The U.S. president commended Mills for his action on human rights and governance, voicing Washington's approval of the stability that Ghana provides in a fragile region of Africa.

Its neighbour, Ivory Coast, suffered months of violence last year after a disputed election, and other near-neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced years of brutal conflict.

"Ghana has proven, I think, to be a model for Africa in terms of its democratic practices," said Obama, noting that both leaders faced re-election in 2012.

Mills told Obama, "We are going to ensure that there is peace before, during, after the election, because when there is no peace, it's not the elitists who will suffer, it's the ordinary people who have elected us into office."

Ghana’s democratic and economic development successes exemplify the integral relationship between democracy, good governance, and development.
Ghana also exemplifies many of the positive economic trends in Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, including Ghana, offering enormous potential for enhanced trade and investment by U.S. companies.

A growing trading partner

Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product grew by at least 13.5 percent in 2011 and will sustain a growth rate of at least 8 percent in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Two-way total trade between the United States and Ghana was valued at $1.9 billion in 2011, a 56 percent increase over 2010. U.S. exports to Ghana were valued at $1.2 billion, up from $963 million in 2010, and over the past five years exports of U.S. goods and services have increased over 186%.

U.S. companies are among Ghana’s largest and highest profile partners, and U.S. companies are increasingly helping to build Ghana’s infrastructure, while adhering to strong environmental and social standards, and ensuring better development outcomes.

Over the last twelve months, including new contracts signed this week, the U.S. has provided crucial assistance that has made $1.47 billion in U.S. exports possible. A few recent examples include: Miami-based Belstar is implementing a $250 million project providing medical equipment, services and infrastructure to benefit up to 100 hospitals throughout Ghana.

The project will make a significant impact on Ghana’s ability to meet its growing need for modern health care infrastructure. The project is expected to generate $147 million in U.S. exports through initial procurements, with an expected total procurement amount of $253 million.

In the past year and a half, companies such as General Electric and IBM have set up offices in Ghana, and others are expected to soon follow. U.S. companies are involved in a wide range of sectors from oil to cocoa processing, and Ghana now has three direct flights from the U.S., on American carriers.

Partners for growth 

The United States continues to support Ghana's economic development and reform efforts through bilateral and regional assistance programs.

Ghana recently completed its five-year, $547 million compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation to improve agricultural production, transportation and rural development.

U.S. development initiatives seek to partner with Ghana to hasten the day when foreign assistance is no longer needed. This includes shared work to build on accomplishments to date and address the remaining constraints to economic growth through the Partnership for Growth.

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