Ghana and Russia building stronger economic ties

Moscow, For nearly six decades, Ghana and Russia have had an excellent diplomatic relations and still looking to build a stronger economic cooperation. In this exclusive GNA interview, Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botwe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, explains to Kester Kenn Klomegah, the Moscow Bureau Chief, a number of significant corporate projects being undertaken by Russians as well as some aspects of the current economic cooperation between the two countries.

Q: Hon. Minister, how would you assess the current diplomatic relations between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation?

A: Currently, Ghana and Russia have an excellent diplomatic relations, which has been developed over the years, precisely 59 years. Although, for a relationship lasting this long, one would have expected it to move past where it is now. In short, there is still room for improvement.

Q: Specifically, what is the level of economic cooperation between the two countries? And what are your priorities in the economic and business sphere?

A: Ghana and Russia are presently building stronger economic ties. Through the framework of the Ghana-Russia Permanent Joint Commission for Cooperation (PJCC), the two countries have pushed forward the agenda of fostering economic cooperation, first and foremost, in their relationship. Two sessions of the Ghana-Russia PJCC have been held already following the reactivation of the PJCC in 2013, with the last one taking place in Accra in September 2016.

The PJCC brings government officials and business leaders of the two countries together to discuss and forge cooperation on a wide range of issues of mutual interest to both nations such as Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy, Immigration, Narcotics Control, Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Trade and Industry, Geology and Mineral Resources, Education and Science, Health, Transport, Housing, Information Communication Technology, and the Military.

Q: Russia is an Energy giant. Ghana has persistent energy problems. Do you think Russia can play a significant role in providing long-term solution and most probably support the proposed nation-wide industrialisation programme of the current government?

A: Certainly, Russia can play, and is being engaged to play, a significant role in the long-term generation of power in Ghana. Negotiations are progressing steadily between the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Ghana and ROSATOM of the Russian Federation in the construction and operation of the first ever Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Ghana and West Africa, with Russian design power units 1000-1200 MW capacity, together with other affiliated nuclear projects. It is hoped that both sides would expedite the negotiations, come to early consensus and have the project take off in good time.

Ghana is open to all the support that it could get from its friends and development partners in the nation-building drive, particularly in the nation-wide industrialisation programme of one-district-one-factory of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration. Ghana could benefit a lot from the rich experiences of Russia, which has advanced knowledge, in the area of industrialisation. In any case, getting the power generating project going will impact considerably on the programme since the role of electricity cannot be downplayed in any industrial development.

Q: Hon. Minister, what opportunities and incentives are currently available for foreign investors especially in the medium scale (size) businesses in Ghana? What is your special message for potential Russian investors here?

A: Ghana has one of the most attractive investment packages for foreign investors in Africa. Opportunities abound in nearly all the sectors of the Ghanaian economy, for instance in transportation, construction, real estate, banking, health, education, manufacturing, energy, agriculture and commerce, for every kind of foreign investor and on any scale, being large, medium or small.

The investment incentives include tax holidays right from the start of operation up to five, seven and 10 years depending on the type of investment. Five years for real estate investment, seven years for waste processing investment and 10 years for free-zone enterprise or development are few of the examples. Besides these attractions, there are investment guarantees, beginning with the constitutional guarantee, investment laws that guarantee 100% transfer of profits, dividends, etc., as well as negotiations of Bilateral Investment Promotion Treaties (BITs) and Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs).

The message to Russian investors is that Ghana is the gateway to West Africa and, therefore, the right place to invest in West Africa and Africa as a whole. With solid political stability and security, together with the very attractive investment package and easy accessibility to the entire West Africa market, not to mention the legendary Ghanaian hospitality, investing in Ghana is worthwhile and extremely profitable to all foreign investors. Thus, Russian investors should seize the opportunity to invest in Ghana for it is the right time and the right place to be in Africa.

Q: Ghana celebrated its 60th independence in March. In your opinion, what are the landmark achievements in the economy? How important are these achievements for attracting foreign business into the country?

A: Sixty years ago on 6th March, 1957, Ghana attained its independence from Great Britain. The country has had its share of ups and downs as expected of any growing nation or individual for that matter. The country has come a long way. A number of landmark achievements in the economy could be identified in most sectors � human resource development, telecommunication, services and infrastructure, among many others.

However, the prevailing stable political climate and security could not be overlooked. It is viewed to be the striking achievement of the nation at this point in time, out of which outstanding achievements could be attained in all the sectors of the country, be it the economy, health or education.

Q: Finally, Ghana and Russia will also mark their 60th year of establishment of diplomatic relations in 2018. How would you like to see the diplomatic relations developed in the next few years?

A: As stated earlier, as much as there exists a very good relations between Ghana and Russia, greater efforts need to be employed in fostering stronger economic ties. It is hoped that as Ghana and Russia commemorate 60 years of formal diplomatic relations, the level of economic cooperation between them would catch up with the well-developed bilateral political relations in the coming years. Emphasis should also be placed on developing people-to-people relations, whereby the peoples of both countries would have better understanding of each other. Cultural cooperation, tourism, dissemination of information of each other’s customs and practices should be emphasised in bringing the people together for their mutual benefit.

Source: Ghana News Agency

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Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to pilot malaria vaccine trial – UN

The United Nations health agency’s regional office for Africa has announced that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will take part in a breakthrough pilot programme to make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018.

The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine, said Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, in a news release.

Announcement of the coordinated rollout comes as the international community marks World Malaria Day and the kick-off of World Immunization Week, 24-30 April, which celebrates the widespread use of vaccines that protect people against 26 diseases. Overall, vaccines prevent an estimated two to three million deaths each year, according to WHO.

The injectable RTS,S vaccine was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium parasites. It will be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool to potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.

Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa, Dr. Moeti added.

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 per cent reduction in malaria deaths between 2000 and 2015, yet approximately 429,000 people died of the disease in 2015 � the majority of them young children in Africa.

The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children aged 5 � 17 months old during Phase III testing can be replicated in real-life. Specifically, it will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths and its safety in the context of routine use.

Pilot implementation strategy

The three countries selected to participate in the pilot were based on the criteria of high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets; well-functioning malaria and immunisation programmes � a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs; and participation in the Phase III RTS,S malaria vaccine trial.

Each country will decide on the districts and regions to be included, with high-malaria-burden areas prioritized, as they are predicted to provide the broadest benefit. Information garnered from the pilot will help to inform later decisions about potential wider use of the vaccine.

The malaria vaccine will be administered via intramuscular injection and delivered through routine national immunization programmes. WHO is working with the three countries to facilitate regulatory authorization of the vaccine for use in the pilots through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum. Regulatory support will also include measures to enable the appropriate safety monitoring of the vaccine and rigorous evaluation for eventual large scale use.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the International Drug Purchase Facility UNITAID, are partnering to provide $49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme (2017-2020), which will be complemented in-kind by contributions from WHO and the British pharmaceutical company GSK .

Source: UN News Centre

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GHANA AMONG THREE AFRICAN COUNTRIES TO TEST NEW MALARIA VACCINE

BRAZZAVILLE, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been picked to take part in a World Health Organization (WHO) malaria vaccine implementation programme (MVIP) to make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in selected areas, beginning in 2018, says the WHO.

The WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced in a media statement received by the Ghana News Agency Monday that the injectable vaccine, RTS, S, was developed to protect young children from the most deadly form of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum.

The vaccine would be assessed in the pilot programme as a complementary malaria control tool which could potentially be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa said: The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot programme will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine. Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. Global efforts in the last 15 years have led to a 62 per cent reduction in malaria deaths from 2000 to 2015, but approximately 429,000 people still died of the disease in 2015, the majority of them young children in Africa.

The WHO programme will assess whether the vaccine’s protective effect in children from five to 17 months old during Phase 3 testing can be replicated in real life. Specifically, the pilot programme will assess the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS, S, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths, and its safety in the context of routine use.

RTS, S was developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK and is the first malaria vaccine to have successfully completed a Phase three clinical trial. The trial was conducted between 2009 and 2014 through a partnership involving GSK, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a network of African research sites in seven African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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