Siri Walt, Head of Sub-Saharan Division, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland: Interview

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Interview: Siri Walt

How might Ghana make its business environment more attractive for foreign direct investment?

SIRI WALT: Reliable and predictable framework conditions are important factors for companies looking to invest abroad. Reducing unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles and simplifying the investment process can go a long way in facilitating the entry into a new market. This is in line with the Ghanaian government’s goal of making the private sector the driving force of economic transformation. Ghana has been one of the priority countries for Switzerland’s economic development cooperation since 2002. The main objective of Swiss support is to contribute to a resilient and prosperous Ghana, which requires boosting its reputation as a sound investment destination. Our top priorities include promoting attractive framework conditions for sustainable growth, and supporting initiatives that create more and better jobs.

What role should international companies play in the development of local expertise?

WALT: Ghana is the second-largest African trading partner for Switzerland. In 2020 Switzerland’s trade volume with Ghana totalled some $3.1bn, 97% of which were gold imports from Ghana. Switzerland is working with Ghana to improve human rights and environmental standards in the extraction of raw materials.

Ghana is also Switzerland’s main supplier of cocoa. In 2017 Switzerland launched the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, which invests in projects in Ghana. By 2025 the platform seeks to ensure that 80% of Switzerland’s imported cocoa stems from socially, environmentally and economically sustainable production.

In which sectors do you see the greatest potential for Swiss investment in Ghana?

WALT: The Ghanaian Covid-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support, or CARES, programme aims to transform the economy through industrialisation, among other goals. This concerns agriculture and manufacturing in particular, but also sectors such as renewable energy and transport infrastructure. The expertise of Swiss companies across an array of relevant sectors can contribute to Ghana’s transformation. Ghana is also pursuing an ambitious digitalisation agenda across government and the private sector, to which Swiss entities can offer valuable contributions. Lastly, with Ghana being a positive example when it comes to democracy, rule of law and stability, its market offers interesting potential for Swiss companies seeking an entry point and a central destination for their investments and activities in the West African region.

In what ways can Switzerland and Ghana cooperate on environmental sustainability and protection?

WALT: Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows signatory states to count emission reductions achieved abroad in their national balance sheet. Switzerland is the first country to seize this opportunity in order to reach its CO reduction targets by 2030. Signed by Switzerland and Ghana in November 2020, this framework allows Switzerland to offset part of its CO emissions through climate initiatives in Ghana and enables the implementation of projects aimed at protecting the climate, while reinforcing the development of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies. As a result, this supports Ghana’s development towards a low-carbon society.

To what extent can Ghana and Switzerland capitalise on their long history as trade partners to boost economic growth in both countries?

WALT: Ghana is a strong and stable democracy. President Nana Akufo-Addo’s visit to Switzerland in the first quarter of 2020 was a clear testimony of our long-standing and deep relations based on shared values and mutually beneficial exchanges. In Switzerland’s new Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021-24, Ghana is identified as a “lion economy” due to its economic potential, particularly in terms of investment and trade.

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