Hail Ghana-Ivorian Relations!
By: Mohammed Abu
The recent two-day official visit by the Ivorian President Ouattara to Ghana was in reciprocation of President Nana Ado’s earlier visit to Ivory Coast in May this year.
The major output,of the visit ,was a historic Strategic Parnership Agreement that is an add-on to the Joint Permanent Commission,the conventional tool for cooperation.This is no doubt is commendable act as it is the collective interest of both countries and for that matter sub-regional integration.
Deffence and Security
On Defence and Security, the two countries agreed to reinforce the relationship among the relevant agencies, to organise joint exercises and operations and to establish joint training programmes.
How to effectively police and fight crime within the context of sub-regional integration is very crucial.Insecurity no doubt is a big affront to peace and development.
“In order to effectively fight terrorism, maritime piracy, cybercrime, human trafficking and narcotics, the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons, and the spread of destabilizing acts from one territory to the other, the two Governments have decided to strengthen their cooperation in the field of information exchange and intelligence,” the agreement read.
Common Problems Need Integrated Approach
“In order to exercise better control over the international price of cocoa, the two Governments, through their respective cocoa institutions, namely the Coffee-Cocoa Board for Côte d’Ivoire and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) for Ghana, agreed to adopt common policies on the marketing, storage and processing and promoting local consumption of cocoa.
“Additionally, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire pledged to put in place a common strategy, including the need to converge towards a harmonised and consolidated price to be paid to farmers, to contribute to the eradication of smuggling of cocoa and cashew”
This development is most welcome and long long over due but better late than never .This is granted that,Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer while Ghana on her part is not only the second leading producer, but the world’s best quality cocoa beans producer with her produce being the benchmark in the global industry .
Indeed,the two neigbours account for about 60 percent of global output of cocoa beans .This constitutes the collective competitive edge of the two sister countries in the global cocoa landscape.
The intriguing question we of the African Development magazine(ADM) dare to ask is, to what extent have the governments of the two countries collaborated over the years to address common challenges and to maximize benefits for their people so far?
Sadly,the two countries still export a greater bulk of their raw cocoa beans and suffering the implications that go with buyer dictating price for seller who is also the producer.
Quantification of Losses
The two countries cannot quantify their collective financial losses for the past sixty years due to this.It could be in trillions of US dollars while both countries have been borrowing through Eurobonds issuances with heavy pay back costs which negatively impacts their economies.
Both countries since their independence have relied and uptill date continue to rely,on raw cocoa beans exports for the greater bulk of their national agro-produce revenue earnings.
This tends to expose their economies to global primary commodity market price volatilites and periodic external economic shocks.Both countries are sometimes caught between the interpaly of global inflation and foreign exchange fluctuations during periods of long protracted fall in primary commodity exports as is currently the case.The two countries are feeling the pinch as cocoa prices continue to nose dive.
Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Minister,Dr.Owusu Afriyie Akoto recently disclosed that the country had lost USD1.1 billion over the past ten months due to the continual fall in prices in the international market .
This wasn’t the first time we are hearing this as a nation and will not be the last either .At least, we will continue to grapple with this problem over time since Ghana dont seem to have a strategic plan that captures an exit point for raw cocoa beans exports within projected time frame.
The Minister elaborated on measures having been put in place to achieve an 850,000 metric tonnes output target for 2017 without mentioning a corresponding increase in processing infrastructure capacity
What percentage of total annual cocoa beans is processed(grinding),manufactured and retail traded in Ghana and Ivory Coast since their independence in 1956 and 1960 respectively,is crucial .
Cooperation/Collaboration, not Competition!
Competing for world’s leading cocoa producer status,between Ghana and Ivory Coast must be avoided .But rather working together on their collective competitive edge as not only producer of the greatest chunk of global cocoa beans output,but more so,the best in quality .
Even though,Ghana for decades lost her status of world leading producer of cocoa to its sister nation,Ivory Coast,nonetheless,Ghana didn’t lost her world’s best quality cocoa beans status. Ghana’s cocoa beans boast the lowest oliec acid content of 7% in the world .
Hence Ghana’s produce is the benchmark in the global cocoa market Ghana’s cocoa on a stand alone basis, is excetionally palatable and doesn’t require blending with other other beans in order to be palatable like is done by other cocoa producers elsewhere.
There was this reported incident of the Ghana’s Consular General in Saudi Arabia discovering originally made-in-Ghana chocolate being traded in one of the Kingdom’s supermarkets by an East Asian exporter whose address was inscribed on the product.
From the foregoing,how can the two countries strive to achieve a merger and leverage upon this exclusive collective competive edge for their mutual good?
If both countries could really put their axes together and be able to come out with game changing projects and implement them within the context of the agreement under discussion, that would best annure to the benefit of their economies and enhance the socio-economic development and prosperity of their peoples .
This is what would actually give real meaning to being the collective bulk producer of global cocoa beans.There is a local African proverb that goes that “two heads are better than one”.
Verily, Ivory Coast and Ghana can ensure a paradgm shift from being producers of the greater bulk of world cocoa,yet their countries are still entagled in the dragnet of economic stagnation with poverty mockingly staring in the faces of a large section of their populace.
Tackling the Cocoa Price/Revenue loss Conondrum
To this end,the ADM wishes to humbly propose that,the two countries consider going further than what has been captured in the agreement to pull resources and jointly invest in the worlds largest cocoa processing/manufacturing plant to correspond with their joint status as world’s greater bulk and best quality producers of cocoa.
The proposed facility should have state of the art machinery and technology,that could produce not only just chocolates and beverages alone,but more to that,products from the various cocoa by-products with pharmaceutical, cosmetological and other industrial applications.The African continental market should be the primary focus for its products.
Leading Ghanaian Scientist and Engineer,Professor Robert Woode has many a time during presentations and radio programmes trumpeted how Ghana could derive ethanol from cocoa beans “Sweatings” that emanates through the fermentation process.Brazil now runs over 70 percent of its transporation system from this biofuel by extracting it from cassava.
Promoting domestic consumption of cocoa products as stated in the agreement is a step in the right direction .Why is cocoa eaten daily arround the world? Basically, it is because of its nutritive value and immune system boosting properites in particular.
Some Lessons from Arab Gulf Region
Dubai based Khaleej Sugar Company,in the desert country, United Arab Emirates(UAE) has the world’s largest sugar refinery when it cannot as a country even produce one tonne of sugar cane due to its agri-climatic condition limitations?.But this didnt dent the spirit of the Dubai emirate .
Where there is will and a tenacity of purpose, impossibilities can be turned into possibilities .Khaleej Sugar today exports icumsa 45 which ably comforms with and meets the highest Brazilian sugar products manufacturing standards, to East African countries .
Ghana and Ivory Coast must take a cue from that. Both countries can use the Public,Private ,Partnership(PPP) to put in place such a facility that comes with a strategic plan behind it to end the export of raw cocoa beans over a time period .
This merger approach is the best and most prudent way to go and not individual country approaches . “They are coming is better than he is coming” a wise Africa proverb puts it.To wit, we are more poised and stronger in combating a problem by drawing upon collective strengh rather than an individual one.
It is laudable that the two neighbours sought arbitration to the maritime boundary dispute at the most appropriate place leading to an amicable settlement without leading to any physical confrontation.
“In this light,on Maritime Co-operation, the two Governments reaffirmed their commitment to abide strictly by and cooperate to implement the ruling of the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delivered on 23rd September, 2017, in the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean.
Responsible Extractive Industry Practice
Sharing of ideas and comparing of notes in sustainable natural resource exploitation that strikes a meaningful balance between wealth generation and environmental health, is very important.
“In accordance with their commitment, the two Governments agreed to develop practical arrangements for the joint exploitation and management of trans-boundary oil and gas and other resources.
“They will also work to achieve stronger cooperation in the areas of oil research, hydrocarbon exploration, development and management, and sharing of information,” the agreement added further.
“Taking into account their rich mining potential, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire reiterated their commitment committed to strengthening their co-operation in the areas of mining, policies, increase in national participation and exchange of information, and capacity building.
“A specific emphasis shall be put on combatting the proliferation illegal small- scale mining with the view to eliminating its negative impact on the physical and social environment. Furthermore, cooperation should be strengthened as far as climate change and coastal erosion is concerned,” the statement added.
Good transportation infrastructure in all aspects between the two countries is very important for fast movement of persons,goods and services thereby enhancing cross border trade, the basic and active ingredient for economic integration.
“The two Governments also decided to strengthen their cooperation in the area of air, sea, rail and road transport. In the short term, they have agreed to speed up the Abidjan-Accra highway project”.
“The people of the two countries can witness a great leap in their socio-economic advancement if they consciously do the needful. In order to create a prosperous society, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire pledged to increase the volume of trade between the two countries, and to create a stable inclusive economic environment, commit to execute the relevant instruments and take the necessary measures towards closer convergence of their economic policies.
“To this end, a Conference of Heads of States shall be established within twelve (12) months of the signing of the Agreement, which will be responsible for guiding and promoting the implementation of the common strategic policies defined in this Agreement.
“Additionally, a Joint Implementation and Monitoring Committee shall be established, consisting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Ministers of the two Governments in charge of the strategic areas defined in this Agreement. The Joint Committee shall be responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the decisions of the Conference”.
This partnership agreement look excellent on paper and should not end up as another white elephant .No doubt ,its strict implementation and sustainability is what would breathe real life into it .
The governments of both countries must therefore be up and doing. Civil society groups,NGOs,security operatives,the private sector and indeed the entire citizenry of both countries ,too would have their own roles to play in its success .It shouldn’t be soly dependant on their governments alone to succeed.
Ghana and Ivory Coast Relations :A brief Historical Survey
Taking a quick dash into our historical past,the people of Ghana and Ivory Coast were and are still today, the same people.It was the partision of Africa an outcome of colonialism, that tore their people apart with the introduction of artificial barriers on the aadvent of colonialism.
Indeed before the intrusion of the colonialists,West Africa was one family without barriers .Pre-colonial West African economy was one of primitive simplicity .The means of transportation of the people then were their feet,horses and donkies,yet they were great achievers in trade among themselves .
The cowry was more or less their common curency.Comtemporary West Africa has been strugging for decades now to put in place a common currency but all to no avail.
The people were free to move about between,tribal lands, nation states or kingdoms.Countries as we have them today never existed during those days. The people cris-crossed without let or hindrance.They inter-married,traded among themselves,sought aquistion of artisanship skills from each other leading to technology transfer among others. This in actual sense is what the Ecowas Protocol sought to revive.
The Northern Factor in Ghana-Ivorian Relations
Today we have,in Northern Ivory Coast,the Ligbis(orginally migrated from Dagbon in present day Northern Ghana in the late 17th to early 18th century ).
As of today,every afternoon one hears greetings in Djula in Northern Ivory Coast,”Antire”(good afternoon) and in the evening “Aninwula”(good evening) .
Interestingly, at the same time, same words meaning the same thing,are heard at Bole,Yendi,Tamale,among others in Northern region and Wa,in the Upper West regions of Ghana silmultaneously.This cannot be treated as a mere coinsidence .
People of the mentioned areas in Ghana and Bouna,Bondoulou and the historical town of Kon in Northern Ivory Coast have been interconnected since ancient times up till today.
Historical accounts has it that the Kon Empire also known as as the “memorial Cote d’Ivoire” which was founded in the 16th Century by Sekou Ouattara,the great grandfather of sitting President Ouattara, in the days of its glory, covered parts of president day Burkina Faso and parts of the Gonja Traditional area in Northern Ghana which is only seperated from Bouna in Northern Ivory Coast by the white Volta.
The linguistic ,cultural and historical ties between Bole and Bouna Boukou,Bounduku and the historical town of Kon in Northern Ivory Coast binds the people of the Northern parts of their countries together.
Ivorian Djulas still as of today attach great importance to this historical linkages by traveling to Wa in the Upper West region and other places during certain occasions.
The DCE of Bole District travels with his entourage to Bouna to participate in Ivorian Independence celebrations and the vica versa. It is worth adding that President Ouattara’s brother died a couple of years ago as the Mayor of the historical town of Kon.
The colonial barriers cannot stand against the deep historical bonds that predates their coming into being. They were only later introduced to divide us for colonial administrative expediency but that nothwithstanding, our original oness as a people would continue to play out and shall always prevail against these man-made barriers.
This is a natural daily resonation of the cultural,lingusitic and blood ties that esisted between us as a people before the advent of colonialism .It is deeply rooted in history and no one can change that.
The Southern/Western Factor
Historical accounts exist that the present day Ivorian Akans originally migrated from today Ghana’s Ashanti region, in the 18th Century then Ashanti Kingdom,under its first King Osei Tutu 1 and settled in the central parts of present day Ivory Coast.
The Ivorian Akans are today found in the Central part of the country at Yamoussoukro,the birth place of first and late President Hoephoet and Daukro,the birth place of fomer President Konan Bedie among others.We also have the Ivorian Nzemas and Brong people as well.
Colonialists blame Game
To this end,for us at the ADM,we no longer as a people,today have sufficient justification to keep blaming the so-called white man for keeping us apart despite our over 60 years of independence from them.
The aim of the Founding fathers of Ecowas was to bring about a reconnection to our lost historical past and for that matter,our re-integration. Indeed,the ECOWAS Protocol of 1975 provided the legal framework .But what do we still hear and see today at our borders ?
What are Francophone and Anglophone west African countries doing pragmatically to over come the French-English language barrier? We are of the opion that this should have been covered under the Strategic Partnership Agreement .
In the light of this,we could have language exchange programmes between educational institutions in Ghana and Ivory Coast supported by the two goverments governments with scholarships and far reaching interventions . This one of the contributive factors to our poor inter-regional trade statistics and which we ought to work on.
Cross border Issues
Since then and up till date, Intra-regional trade as a percentage of our trade with the rest of the world is still not too impressive .Cost of doing business among ourselves is still highly complicated by numerous check points at which irresponsible and recalcitrant border officials extort monies without justification from travellers with reckless abandon.Is it still the white man who tasked the border officials to do what they are doing?
Yes,if we are not willing to make selfless efforts towards our re-integration , but still want to play to the galaries,good ridance then. Our being apart no doubt serves the interest of others and we knowing this very well,should rise up and take up the challenge.
Contineous brooding over problems emanating from our colonial past history without any concrete plans and actions to effectively address them is unproductive.After all, we are not the only humans on earth who had once been colonialised.Others elsewhere also were, but they have since worked to come out of it .
The Ecowas Secretariat is not happy about this money extortion business and had been known to have considered applying punitive measures against offenders but as to how far they have succeeded overall,is another matter.
Accra-Abidjan by Road Travel Blues
Even though the numerical strengh of check points between Ghana and Ivory Coast has since been drastically brought down to the bearest minimum,some recalcitrant Ivorian boder officials at the Elubo border still post a great nuisance to travellers.
Even if one were still in the possesion of all the valid travel papers including national passports,they still would apply very intimidatory methods of collecting money from one.
Only those travelling by the STC buses are the ones spared of this ordeal. The state owned public transporter has devised a better organised way of ensuring prudent management of the travelling comfort of its passengers. With this Strategic Partnership Agreement now in place,it is hoped that road travel between the two countries,would strive to address this and make travel a much more better experience .
The cultural,linguistic,historical and blood ties between the Northern and Southern people of the two countries are potent tools begging to be used most effectively for their mutual benefit.
This is based on the fact that,we were once integrated as one people in one subregion but were at a point in time, delibrately disintigrated by others to serve some parachial interest .This interest frankly speaking wouldn’t die easily any time soon.So concerete and conserted efforts are very crucial .
Presidents Ouattara and Nana Akufo Ado over to you .The time is now .Your people expect to practicalize what has been wonderfully put on paper .