Edward Boateng, Ghanian ambassador to China. (Photo: Courtesy of the Embassy of Ghana)
The forthcoming Forum for African China Cooperation, (FOCAC) takes place at a critical time in the geopolitical dynamics of the world; when the East is seen widely as taking over from the West in the economic leadership of the world.
I have just completed my first year in China as the representative of the Republic of Ghana, that beautiful, hospitable country in the West of Africa; and I feel very privileged to have had a front row seat and to have witnessed firsthand the changes taking place in China in particular and the East in general.
Ghana, the first African country to break the yoke of colonization and whose founding president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was the father of Pan-Africanism sits deeply in the conscience of Africa and Africans.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah forged a strong alliance with then Chinese leader, chairman Mao Zedong as the conscience of the oppressed during their generation. Today, our leader Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo stands on the same pedestal with President Xi Jinping as they fight for a better future for mankind and find ways to alleviate poverty, President Akufo-Addo through his vision "An Africa Beyond Aid" and President Xi with his Belt and Road initiative.
The entire world has been fascinated by China's spectacular transformation and in Ghana, we are equally gripped by what many call the Chinese miracle. Relations between our two nations have always been great and date back to our independence in 1957.
One major diplomatic event cements this relationship and can never be forgotten. It was Ghana, and indeed our ex-president J.A. Kufuor, at the time, a deputy foreign minister, who moved the historic vote at the United Nations General Assembly for the admission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations in 1971. However, it is only during the late 1990s and especially during the 2000s that economic relations between our two countries began to flourish, with the entry into Ghana of many Chinese companies.
Over the past year in my privileged position, I have been asked repeatedly by my compatriots if I have discovered the answer to the Chinese miracle.
Having traveled extensively to over 16 provinces and several cities and towns last year and having met with several people, I have come to the conclusion that the Chinese model of decentralization, its strong local governance and firm leadership from the center, lie at the heart of their success story.
China's model of regional decentralization forms a crucial part of its status as a priority market that is growing at a rapid rate. Its impressive development trajectory is being driven by local-level growth patterns and it is now better off than at any time in its modern history. Within 40 years, China has been able to completely restructure its economy to become the second largest in the world and is expected to surpass the US economy by the year 2025. At the forefront of innovation and now one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, China certainly serves as a veritable benchmark for developing nations such as Ghana to emulate.
I believe that Ghana could use China as a mirror to reflect on how we can achieve a similarly successful development path. I note, in particular, the fact that China has been transformed into a major economic and technology powerhouse and how it has still been able to maintain distinct aspects of its rich culture.
I have observed that a combination of good policy decisions; starting from the "opening-up" legacy, a strong manufacturing base, investments in human capital, prevalent discipline, a serious approach to problem-solving at all levels of society, unceasing innovation and business growth and the expansion of infrastructure are some of the key elements that underpin China's remarkable success story.
As we sit down to engage on issues of mutual concern in the coming days, I hope we can focus attention on some of these issues which are critical for our success. I see a lot of possibilities for the rapid understanding of the Chinese way of doing things especially through the promotion of more people-to-people contacts and cultural exchange. After a year of living here, I have identified a number of things that I believe would benefit Ghana greatly, if we should decide to learn from them: use of time as a resource and determinant, focus on problem-solving mechanics and analytics, discipline of purpose and confidence in one's cultural/traditional and humanistic values.
It is also helpful that the Chinese believe it is possible for a country like Ghana to be transformed into a technologically developed and modernized economy within a generation; they have their own example and they know and they tell me every day that it is doable.
The Belt and Road initiative also presents new diplomatic and economic opportunities for Ghana and when implemented, could completely transform our manufacturing trade sector by connecting Ghana to new markets across the globe. We can learn from the Chinese models. In addition, China's emphasis on intensive infrastructure development especially in the transport sector, could play a major role in supporting government transformational initiatives such as the One-District-One-Factory, by opening up important transport routes for marketing our domestic products. Ghana-China relations can certainly be leveraged for mutual benefit across several areas.
I believe that it need not be a one-way relationship. There are things that China can also learn from Ghana. The Chinese companies that are operating in Ghana can testify that ours is a country full of business opportunities and a friendly and dynamic people.
Chinese companies with excess capacity can transfer to Ghana and use our market as a secondary base. The raw materials for production are available. I am certain that it is not only our precious minerals like gold and diamond that would interest enterprising Chinese, there is a lot to be exploited in our cash crops like cocoa, cashew and cassava.
In the tourism, creative and sporting arena, we present China with immense opportunities to partner with us, especially in relation to soccer, where they can learn a lot from us to develop their skills. Our unique tourist sites offer the Chinese tourists a different experience. After all, we are the only country in the world where one can have a ride on the back of a crocodile in water and also visit the slave castles to experience the horrors of the slave trade - man's inhumanity to man.
Another hidden fact: Ghana is at the geographical center of the world! We are the nearest human habitation on the globe to where the Equator meets with the Zero Meridian.
The China-Africa Forum Summit will, undoubtedly, provide a lot of opportunities for both sides to identify more areas, in which we can learn from each other and I am keenly looking forward to it as Ghana and Africa sit down with the Chinese leadership to discuss and find ways of working with each other on the challenging, but interesting, task of development and transformation.