Ambassador Cretz Independence Day Remarks

Mr. President;

Honorable Ministers;

Honorable Members of Parliament;

Your Excellencies, my fellow members of the diplomatic corps;

Distinguished representatives of civil society and of the media;

Representatives of regional businesses;

Students and educators;

Members of my embassy staff; and


Good evening. Akwaaba – welcome.

Thank you all for joining us. Tonight, we celebrate the independence of the United States, marking our birthday as a nation. This day commemorates the historic events of 1776, when our Continental Congress issued a Declaration of Independence from British rule.

Some years later, another colony of Britain – Ghana – also gained its independence. Today, these many years later, Ghana is one of the United States’ most important partners on the African continent. And we continue to celebrate our strong relationship as partners and friends.

Tonight also marks a significant occasion for me personally. This month, after having the privilege of working for the American government for 35 years, and having the honor of serving as the Ambassador to Ghana, I will retire and Annette and I will begin a new chapter in our lives.

The state of our bilateral relationship remains excellent: we are committed to the people of Ghana and to fostering continued progress in this wonderful country. I have seen firsthand the wide range of issues that both the U.S. and Ghana care about, and I’m so proud that our efforts have touched, changed — and even saved — lives. I am pleased to recall a few examples:

Earlier this month, USAID unveiled a $71 million grant—the largest of its kind — to support learning in Ghana’s primary schools. This grant, in partnership with Ghana’s Ministry of Education, will increase literacy throughout the nation. The U.S. prioritizes education at all levels, and the American people have funded the building or renovation of over 500 schools in Ghana in the last decade. We have assisted thousands of Ghanaian students and scholars to study and conduct research in the U.S. through our marquee Fulbright educational exchange program, our EducationUSA advising program, and our regular e-Resource, entrepreneurship and social media training sessions.

To support health and wellness, we have collaborated with the National Malaria Control Program to increase the number of nets available to the public that are insecticide-treated—more than doubling the percentage up to 68 percent. We’re pleased to help improve child survival, where malaria-related mortality among children under the age of five has declined from 80 per 1,000 in 2008 down to 60 per 1,000 in 2014.

We value our fruitful partnerships, such as the Nkwanta South District Nutrition Rehabilitation Center, which has become a beacon of hope for the Volta Region and for Ghana as a whole. The Center is the first of its kind, and will play a critical role in preventing malnourishment in children under the age of five. What began as a grassroots project by an American Peace Corps volunteer transformed into a major health center through the input and assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of State and USAID. I am pleased to report that because of initiatives like these, U.S. government nutrition programs have reached more than 600,000 Ghanaian children under 5 years old in the past few years.

It is clear that the whole country benefits when the government hears the voices of all the citizens. 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are pleased to support disability rights here in Ghana through a $47,000 Democracy and Human Rights Fund grant.

Recently, the U.S. Congress authorized the Child Protection Compact Partnership, or CPC, in Ghana. This five-year, $5 million initiative aims to eradicate human trafficking, especially trafficking of children. The U.S. Government works closely with the Government of Ghana, the Ghana Police Service, the office of the Attorney General and civil society groups to prosecute, protect, and prevent human trafficking.

The United States and Ghana work together to support peace and security. With support from the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, we have detailed an Assistant U.S. attorney to mentor and train Ghanaian prosecutors. Additionally, the law enforcement Regional Training Center which with operate jointly with the Government of Ghana continues to work to boost prosecution capacity and train law enforcement, prosecutorial, and judicial personnel in Ghana and throughout West Africa.

The U.S. worked with the Ghana Police Service to create a new training academy in Aiyanase, in the Western Region. This state-of-the-art training center, called the Ghana Marine Police National Training Academy, provides a dedicated venue for the Ghanaian Marine Police Unit to train competent law enforcement officials on tools and techniques for combatting offshore narcotics trafficking, piracy and other maritime security threats. The U.S. is also in the process of advancing a communication system that will enable both the Marine Police Unit and the Ghana Navy to communicate effectively with other maritime partners in the Gulf of Guinea.

I am happy to report that the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation’s $498 million compact continues to move forward. This five-year compact will transform Ghana’s energy sector and address the future of electrical generation in Ghana. As the largest U.S. Government transaction under our Power Africa initiative, the compact is expected to catalyze billions of dollars in private energy investment. Such initiatives, continue to attract the interest of American companies to invest in Ghana.

Lastly, I want to mention the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, which adds to the robust slate of U.S.-sponsored exchange programs. YALI is a major effort by our government, along with top American corporations and partners across Africa, to invest in the next generation of African leaders – the young people who will increasingly shape political, economic, and social progress in Ghana and across Africa.

YALI has already broadened our engagement with Africa’s youth, and I believe this initiative will be part of President Obama’s lasting legacy. Currently, 19 young Ghanaian leaders of the 2015 cohort are in the U.S. taking part in leadership development programs.

The 2014 cohort of YALI Fellows returned to Ghana with newly developed skills, leadership training, and enthusiasm to drive change in their communities and in their nation. In May, Ghana played host to over 150 West African Washington Mandela Fellows during the first-ever YALI West Africa Regional Conference. This conference allowed Fellows to share stories of success, create a platform for networking and idea exchange, and address pressing regional issues such as Ebola.

During my three years as Ambassador to Ghana, I have had the privilege of traveling throughout this nation and meeting people — from farmers to teachers to government officials. In the Brong Ahafo region, I was able to visit cocoa farms and witness how chocolate is made. I will no longer look at a chocolate bar the same way.

During a trip to Tamale, I sat down with a group of rural women farmers. They told me they are now able to pay their children’s school fees and increase their agricultural output due to U.S. financial support. This conversation really touched me. It demonstrated how the partnerships that we forge with Ghana have direct, tangible impacts on the lives of real people.

Speaking of tangible impact, I should thank the American companies that helped make this event a success. We greatly appreciate the partners who stepped forward to sponsor tonight’s festivities. Their support is emblematic of how companies that represent the “American brand” in Ghana help to develop this nation.

As Ghana is the final Foreign Service posting for Annette and me before I retire as Ambassador, this beautiful and historic nation will always hold a special place in my heart.

Thank you for having welcomed us into your nation.

Happy Independence Day! Please enjoy!