CAS-CITI FM Forum on Ghana-China Relations

On Thursday, 13th September, 2018, the Centre for Asian Studies (CAS) partnered with Citi FM for the Second Citi Business Forum on the theme After China, What Next? The well attended event took place at the Swiss Spirit Alisa Hotel, Accra. 
The ball was set rolling with a short presentation on China by CAS’s Director Dr. Lloyd G. Adu Amoah. Dr. Amoah in his presentation he looked at Ghana’s relations with China from a historical perspective. He traced the interest of some Ghanaian scholars who had written on Africa’s relations with Asia. Dr. Amoah pointed to Casely-Hayford’s Ethiopia Unbound in which the Gold Coast nationalist reflected on the Russo-Japanese War and interpreted it as exemplifying the potential of emergent nations for technological advancement. Dr. J. B Danquah had also provided his analysis on Ghana-Japan-China connections in his The Ghanaian Establishment (edited by Prof. Albert Adu Boahen). Underlining Ghana’s early interest in Asia,

Dr. Amoah traced the CPP’s overtures into that continent which saw the editor of the Evening News, James Markham, appointed the party’s representative in(1954) Rangoon, Burma and subsequently the African Secretary of the Anti-Colonialist Bureau of the Asian Socialist Convention. Dr. Amoah argued that this interest in Asia will be given full expression after independence when Nkrumah sped up the establishment of diplomatic ties with China just four days after the celebration of the West African country’s Republican status on July 1, 1960. Subsequently on August 5, 1960, the first Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Huang Hua, arrived in Accra. Interactions with China continued through former President Jerry Rawlings’ tenure during which he met Deng Xiaoping of China in keeping with close politico-economic ties between the two countries.

In Dr. Amoah’s view the theme of the forum triggered what he termed ‘3D’ (Three Dimensional) questions. Along the ‘3D’ axes he indicated the questions implicated:what Ghana should have done as China was rising and what Ghana should do now and in the future. Dr. Amoah called on Ghana, as a country, to consider very critically the ‘China’ she was dealing with – is it the China of the 60s, the late 70s, the early 2000s or the current China that is locking horns with the major economic and military powers of the world? In his view clarity about the kind of China Ghana is dealing with will definitely inform the kind of interactions with it and most importantly the kind of strategy to adopt in such dealings. Dr. Amoah insisted that such a comprehensive strategy was yet to be fully detailed in any known document. He argued that what passed as Ghana’s strategy was “ more gestures than a strategy. There’s a lot of gesturing – visits, statements, loans, pledges; but I don’t see the strategy.”

The panellists who dissected the theme after the presentations were CAS’s Dr. Lloyd Amoah; Dr. Yao Graham, Executive Director of the Third World Network; Dr. Glenn Gyimah, Ghana-China analyst, and the minister-designate for Information, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah. Godfred Akoto Boafo of CITI FM was the moderator.

Hon. Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah provided an overview of the current Government’s dealings with China. To him, before answering the question of the night, there was the need to first ask Why China? In his view China was looking for resources for its economic development. It also needed a market for its finished goods and Africa, on the other hand, has the resources and at the same time offers such a market. “China has answers to some of the problems we are trying to deal with,” he said.

On the just ended 7th FOCAC, Mr. Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah argued that the US$2billion Sino-Hydro deal had been well thought through and reflected as part of the current government’s China strategy as Ghana sought to rapidly industrialize.

Dr. Graham described Ghana’s China approach as captured in the Sino-Hydro deal, as the same “old fashioned raw material exportation” model. He was of the view that beyond that model some profound lessons could be drawn from the Chinese experience, which Ghana could learn from – the role of the state in the economic development agenda, the role of research and innovation, and the effective management of public-private relationship. Dr. Graham’s was also concerned about whether what Ghana considered a strategy fitted at all into the West African or the continental strategy. He argued that the regional and continental perspective needed to be taken into full and active account as Ghana and other African countries engaged China.

Dr. Amoah in a comment argued that the Ghanaian engagement with China thus far in the 4th Republic seemed to be driven in the main by “financialised thinking – we need money; they have it. So we go for it. The Chinese have two policy documents on Africa. But on what concretely do we base our dealings with China? So clearly, they know what they want and are focused on it. But we do not seem to have a comprehensive strategy (anchored in a policy document) in dealing with the Asian country. What at all are we after?”

Dr. Glenn Gyimah (a mechanical engineer) focused in his comments on technology acquisition and skills upgrade as Ghana engaged China. In Dr. Gyimah’s view Ghana had to consider very carefully the skill levels of Ghanaians while negotiating technology linked deals such as those involving the acquisition of machines. In his view these machines should be ones that Ghanaians can independently operate and repair when they break down . The Chinese, he noted, customised the technology they acquired – making them useful and applicable to their peculiar context and purposes.
The event was carried live by Citi FM and was marked by a lively Q & A session.

(A CAS Report with additional files by Seth Adjei)