Honorable Minster of Trade and Industry, Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, our guest of honor,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Nana nom – Nii Meh – Naa Meh,
Your Excellencies & representatives of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Swiss compatriots,
It is a great privilege to stand before you as we celebrate the Swiss National Day tonight. It is a pleasure also at a personal level to deliver my first national day address in Ghana after my arrival to Accra in May.
The 1st of August 2019 officially marked the 728th year of Switzerland’s foundation: Over the centuries, the initial alliance of three valley communities evolved to modern Switzerland which is a confederation of 26 cantons with a population of 8 million habitants, divided into 4 diverse cultures and 4 official languages. Switzerland is a stable, democratic state in the heart of Western Europe - a country rather small in terms of territory and population but also a country with often punches above its weight especially when it comes to its innovative and highly competitive economy.
Relatively speaking, by describing Switzerland, I can draw some parallels with the Republic of Ghana. For example: I wonder at the richness of Ghana’s cultural diversity and admire the fact that the country gathers over 60 ethnical groups and at least as many languages and cultures combined. I also admire the democratic tradition with many free elections being held since independence and thus bringing political stability not only to Ghanaians but to the whole region.
Switzerland is also known for its neutrality. Such principle does not signify a wish for isolation, but should be viewed as our aspiration to listen to all views and to host and facilitate peace talks of conflict parties if requested. Switzerland also cherishes multilateralism and is proud to host dozens of international organizations in Geneva and other Swiss cities.
Knowing the responsibility of hosting international organizations, Switzerland is pleased that Accra has been chosen to host the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area or AfCFTA. Having earned the reputation of being at the forefront of progress, democracy, and pan-Africanist solidarity, it is only fair for Ghana to finally welcome such an organization. Let me express my hope that soon we will see a substantial increase of intra-African trade through the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers and reach the ultimate goal of a meaningful improvement of people’s lives in Ghana and the entire continent.
Allow me to elaborate shortly on the status of the bilateral relations between Ghana and Switzerland, which have strengthened over the years. In terms of trade, Ghana is Switzerland’s second most important trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa with a bilateral trade volume of 1.7 billion USD. Our trade balance remains however largely in favor of Ghana. Seen from a Ghanaian perspective, Switzerland is the country’s
third most important export destination. In the future, I wish that the trade balance will become more balanced and that it will contain many more non-traditional Ghanaian export products.
Job creation and trade definitively count - I do not have to emphasize this in the presence of our guest of honor. Switzerland is therefore glad to see Ghana becoming a stronger global competitor, making better strategic use of its economic potential. It is encouraging to look at the latest growth figures, and the vision of the government to move Ghana Beyond Aid.
The Swiss government contributes to this development through our economic development cooperation program. Earlier this year, for example, we launched our new Ghana Private Sector Competitiveness Program, a comprehensive program, which aims at contributing to the creation of more and better jobs in the private sector. The program specifically aims also at reducing the red tape for businesses and has the ambition to develop the cashew nuts and oil palm value chains.
Let me mention another innovative program of our development partnership in and with Ghana - the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa. This new initiative aims at improving the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. This will be achieved through joint learning and innovative public-private partnership approaches with the Swiss private sector.
Finally, in terms of peace and security, it is well known that Ghana is a significant African contributor to peacekeeping and peace operations. To that end, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center, stands out as proof of Ghana’s aim to play its part. Switzerland is a long-term partner of KAIPTC and organizes on an average two courses a year at the Center through the support of its permanent posted Swiss staff in Accra. Just yesterday, I had the pleasure to visit the Center again and to welcome the participants of ECOWAS countries to a new Swiss course.
Before concluding, let me quickly refer to a particular feature of my country, which is its direct democracy where Swiss people vote on numerous subjects at federal and cantonal level.
It is from such perspective that I look with much sympathy at the upcoming of a referendum in Ghana to allow for the direct election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives. As a foreign observer, I will not comment on the content. But let me say that Ghana’s democratic institutions have gradually consolidated and it is up to the Ghanaians now to decide on a next step which could enable the citizens to better hold accountable their local authorities in the future.
In my address, I tried to highlight some facets of the close collaboration between our two countries. When entering the Swiss residence, you have perhaps noticed our live-act and special attraction tonight which is not me but Mr. Pirmin Breu. Pirmin is a famous Swiss Graffiti artist from Baden who has been staying in Ghana on a residence-in-art program for two months. Through his spraying arts, he expresses the healthy and strong friendship that exists between Switzerland and Ghana. So, please, do not leave this reception after the speeches without having tasted our sausages from Switzerland, tried our famous Raclette cheese, and having visited the wall which is sprayed by our Swiss artist Pirmin.
Let me close with a word of appreciation towards the Swiss private sector in Ghana and all our sponsors who are listed on the invitations cards and the banners for their appreciated support towards the Embassy. Furthermore, I would also like to thank my staff at the Embassy.
On this final note, Honorable Minister Kyeremanteng, and dear guests, I have the honor to invite you all to raise your glass for a toast to the President of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and to the bond of friendship between the people of Switzerland and Ghana.
Thank you for your attention. Long live Switzerland and long live Ghana.