The Republic of Ghana and the Republic of Bulgaria have a longstanding relationship that can be traced back to the early 1960s during the presidency of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Indeed, the cordial relationship that was established during the period, blossomed over the years and led to the manifestation of increased cooperation between the two countries.

In commemorating this milestone of sixty (60) years of bilateral cooperation in
Ghana-Bulgaria relations, there is the need to review the highlights of the friendship between the peoples of Ghana and Bulgaria and chart a future for the mutual benefit of our two countries. The trajectory and progress of cooperation between Ghana and Bulgaria can be structured into:

1. the period after independence until the late 1970s;
2. the era of the 1980s through to the late 1990s; and
3. from the year 2000 to date.

The period after independence until the late 1970s

Relations between Ghana and Bulgaria after Ghana’s independence flourished under
the leadership of Ghana’s first President. The demonstrated cooperation and the close ties that were shared between the two countries was crowned by a visit to Bulgaria in 1961 by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah where pertinent issues on Ghana-Bulgaria relations were discussed.

The 1980s through to the 1990s

Cooperation between Ghana and Bulgaria between the 1980s and 1990s fell within
the era of Ghana’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). The leaders of Ghana during that era had a vibrant affinity with the Bulgarian government, thus, leading to an increase in cooperation on the bilateral front.

Continuing to build relations from the solid bilateral relations established during Ghana’s post-independence era, training opportunities were offered to cadres of the revolution and members of the PDC (Peoples Defence Committees) by the Bulgarian Government.

Diplomatic training opportunities were also extended to the staff of Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the period as well as to public servants in various fields such as medicine, tourism and journalism. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Bulgarian government offered several scholarship opportunities to Ghanaian students to study courses in Bulgaria.

A high point in the bilateral relations was the official visit of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, then the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to Sofia, Bulgaria, on 11th July 2007, with a high-level delegation. The visit was marked by a courtesy call the delegation paid on H.E Georgi Sedefchov Parvanov, then President of the Republic of Bulgaria to discuss issues of mutual interest to both countries.

The visit afforded the former Foreign Minister, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo an
opportunity to meet with the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the 240 member Bulgarian National Assembly, Dr Solomon Passy (MP), to discuss the possibility of forging links between the Parliaments of Ghana and Bulgaria.

Furthermore, a protocol to establish a process for bilateral consultations at the diplomatic level was signed between Ghana and Bulgaria to serve as a useful mechanism for promoting cooperation on regional and international issues.

Following the establishment of this protocol, Ghana and Bulgaria have engaged in
trading in commodities such as unground cement ‘clinker’, doors, windows and their frames and thresholds, made from aluminium, cocoa and non-defatted cocoa mass and cocoa butter, fat, and oil. Data from the United Nations Comtrade Database indicated that trade between Ghana and Bulgaria during the period amounted to fifty million euros with Ghana ranking 5th in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is pertinent to note, however, that trade between Ghana and Bulgaria has steadily declined over the years and therefore, commemorating 60 years of
relations between the two sides provides a unique opportunity to revamp trade relations.

Possible Areas of Cooperation between Ghana and Bulgaria

Notwithstanding the closing of resident diplomatic Missions in each other’s capitals, Ghana and Bulgaria have continued to maintain cordial relations. To further enhance cordial relations, the two countries need to identify opportunities that could be explored for mutual benefit.

In the area of trade and commerce, both governments could explore possible collaboration between the respective chambers of commerce to engage in ways of benefiting from trade and investment. This should be done taking into consideration opportunities presented with the recent coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement.

The Agreement would enable businesses from Bulgaria to take advantage of the 1.2 billion African market size, with Ghana as an entry point, and host of the Secretariat of the AÍCFTA.

As a business hub in the West African sub-region, Ghana could work with Bulgaria to acquire mutual benefits under the current implementation of flagship programmes like the “one district one factory” and “planting for food and jobs”, which seek to establish factories across Ghana.

The experiences of Bulgaria in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors and Ghana’s drive to establish these programmes could be explored by both sides for the benefit of the two peoples. Furthermore, Ghana and Bulgaria could explore the proposal for the establishment of a joint venture for the manufacture of quality but affordable medicine.

This proposal was discussed on the sidelines of the 43rd ACP-EU Council of Ministers held in Togo in May 2018, by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria. More importantly, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to manufacture medicines that aid in boosting the immune system is imperative, as it would contribute to curtailing the
negative effects of the pandemic on individuals. Collaboration in this venture would therefore be equally beneficial to the rest of the world.

Ghana and Bulgaria can also extend cooperation to the establishment of an annual
Political Dialogue or a Permanent Joint Commission for Cooperation (PJCC) to ensure further partnership in areas of mutual interest. Within this framework, both countries can explore training opportunities for citizens including cultural exchange programmes, strengthening of tourism cooperation, investments in agriculture and agribusiness, technical training in machine building and in ICT.

Ultimately, the opportunities for collaboration between the two
countries provide a means for further strengthening bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of the citizens of Ghana and Bulgaria.

Conclusion

As Ghana and Bulgaria reflect on 60 years of bilateral diplomatic relations, it is imperative that both countries continue to show greater commitment to increasing cooperation in various fields in order to strengthen the bonds of friendship that hold both countries together.

The rolling out of the African Continental Free Trade Arca (AFCFTA) agreement and the vast opportunities it presents with Ghana hosting the Secretariat provides a solid platform for the two countries to deepen economic cooperation for the benefit of their two peoples.

Source: Ghana Web

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