Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca is going where no Maltese President has gone before: on the first-ever State Visit to Ghana, leading a sizeable trade delegation. She spoke to Matthew Xuereb.
The President is viewing her State Visit to Ghana this week in the spirit of exploring engagement with part of the world with which Malta has had very little contact.
Ghana is fast becoming a regional hub for opportunities in other West African markets, in the same way that Malta is being seen as a gateway to the wider Mediterranean and as a bridge to Europe.
“Malta is well-known and well-regarded in the North African region, thanks to significant trade and cultural engagement over a long period of time between Malta and our Mediterranean neighbours to the south,” President Coleiro Preca said.
“Yet, our historical engagement with sub-Saharan Africa has been less pronounced. I believe this is an excellent time for us to explore opportunities for further engagement.
“It is important for Malta to establish strong links with our neighbours to the north, mostly the EU, as well as our neighbours to the south. This will put Malta’s role as a bridge in the Mediterranean into practical action,” she added.
As in Malta, English is the official business language in Ghana and is widely spoken, while the judicial system is based on English common law principles.
Ghana provides access to the rest of Africa – a population of 1.2 billion – through a Continental Free Trade Agreement.
This potential to work with Ghana, as a gateway to West Africa, is being recognised as an important opportunity by the business communities in both countries
“There are various areas where our two counties can establish stronger and mutually beneficial relations, including in the transport and logistics sector, with Malta potentially offering a stepping stone for Ghana’s €5 billion export and import trade with the EU.”
She also sees a chance for Malta and Ghana to discuss opportunities in the maritime sector, in view of Ghana’s need to establish new trade routes to Europe, China and East Africa, as well as Malta’s ambitions to broaden its export potential in West Africa.
There are 54 countries in Africa. Why Ghana?
“Ghana is the first country in recent memory to have invited a sitting Maltese Head of State. It is also the first sub-Saharan country to establish a High Commission in Malta. I believe that this State Visit will provide us with the opportunity to refine our wider strategy for Africa, as an important first step to engage Malta with Africa through trade.”
The Government of Malta has contributed to setting up HopeXchange, an 80-bed hospital in the Kumasi region while, the President points out, several other Maltese initiatives are under way in various parts of Africa, including orphanages and water engineering and capacity-building projects in IT.
“This potential to work with Ghana, as a gateway to West Africa, is being recognised as an important opportunity by the business communities in both countries,” she said.
“In a recent survey by Trade Malta, asking Maltese companies where they would like to explore growth opportunities, Ghana came out top of the list, no doubt due to its economic growth and democratic credentials.”
Trade Mission to Ghana
The President will support the efforts of Maltese companies accompanying her to Ghana, where they will introduce their products and services.
Ghana exports around €2.5 billion worth of products to the EU and imports €2.8 billion worth of EU products. Trade Malta will lead the delegation of 25 companies, representing a range of business interests, to explore opportunities emerging in Africa.
Trade Malta Ltd is a public-private partnership formed between the Maltese government and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, helping businesses reach international markets.
The choice of Ghana as a preferred business destination is due to feedback from the Maltese business community regarding its diversification and internationalisation plans, explain Trade Malta chief executive Anton Buttigieg and Malta Enterprise’s representative for sub-Saharan Africa Ronald Micallef.
This reflects Ghana’s reputation as a stable democracy, a regional hub providing access to West Africa, a free market economy and the fact that it is an English-speaking, Commonwealth partner.
Africa’s GDP of $2.2 trillion in 2016 represents a more than threefold increase from the $600 billion registered in 2000 and makes Africa one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world, opening up untapped potential for Maltese companies in a number of sectors including education, IT, aviation, maritime, food production and engineering. All these sectors are represented in Trade Malta’s delegation to Ghana.
By 2100, the working age population of Africa will be both larger and younger and will account for 41 per cent of the global total population. This opens up further opportunities for Maltese companies in areas such as the digital economy and creative industries.