On Thursday November 16, 2017, Ambassador Jackson hosted this year’s Annual General Meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana. He emphasized the U.S. government’s commitment to work together with both American businesses and the Government of Ghana in our quest to improve trade, create jobs, and make Ghana a place where companies can flourish.
AMCHAM Annual General Meeting
Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
Chief of Mission Residence
Thursday, November 16, 2017 | 10 a.m.
American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana President, Mr. Joe Mensah,
AMCHAM Board of Directors and member companies,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
Akwaaba! It’s good to see all of you again. Babs and I always enjoy hosting you in our home.
American businesses and investors have long been at the forefront of deepening ties between our two countries. We appreciate the leadership of our American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana in advancing that partnership.
Much has happened since we met at Labadi Beach Hotel last November. Ghana once again demonstrated its political maturity to the world, celebrating a free, fair, and transparent election and a peaceful transition of power. Back home, we also welcomed a new administration with the election of President Trump.
With political change in both our countries, many people have asked me how that affects the work we do here in Ghana. I am here to tell you today that America’s commitment to Africa and to Ghana remains strong.
In fact, less than three months ago, we hosted a Congressional delegation led by Senator Chris Coons from Delaware. During that visit, our legislators expressed unequivocal bipartisan support for Africa. Their presence here alone demonstrated their sincere interest in Ghana, and their desire to better understand Africa and its potential.
The United States continues to work toward making improvements in Ghana’s power sector. Senator Coons reiterated support for U.S. government initiatives like Power Africa — which will help make President Akufo-Addo’s “one district-one factory” vision a reality, through the provision of reliable and affordable power.
Our Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact continues to move forward. The Compact will provide $498 million to improve Ghana’s power distribution. The Government of Ghana convened the second bidder’s conference here in Accra in early October. Four potential concessionaires remain interested in the tender. The successful bidder will invest an additional $500 million in the power distribution sector.
We look forward to the Millennium Development Authority issuing its final revised request for proposal this month. The government will select the concessionaire in the spring of 2018, and the project must reach financial close by September of next year.
Through Power Africa, we are also working closely with American companies General Electric and Endeavor to bring the Early/Bridge Power project to financial close by December. Once completed, this project will bring 400 megawatts of affordable and reliable gas power to Ghanaian homes and businesses. It will also generate $90 million in U.S. exports.
Speaking of exports, the United States will continue to work with Ghana and other African countries to increase bilateral trade. We want to sell more American products and services to the world!
It is exciting to see that American companies are finding success in Ghana. In June, we welcomed the opening of a new Pinkberry frozen yogurt franchise, not far from the embassy. A second facility opened in East Legon a few weeks ago. We also witnessed the expansion of Pizza Hut into a second location at Palace, even larger than its first storefront in the Accra Mall. We eagerly anticipate the opening of the new Marriott hotel near the airport — in early 2018, we hope. Major American companies like Motorola and Exxon-Mobil are also exploring the possibilities provided by the Ghanaian market.
I have and will continue to advocate on behalf of your interests. I want to see your businesses grow! We definitely want to see more American jobs created back home, but we also want to see new jobs created for Ghanaians. There is enough room for both our economies to grow and prosper. As Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon said recently, “The Trump administration seeks to do business not just in Africa, but with Africa, moving the focus of our economic relationship … from aid to trade and investment.”
We applaud President Akufo-Addo’s focus on making Ghana a better place to do business. Indeed, the government has taken important steps to improve business processes, lower taxes, and reform customs clearance processes. We appreciate the positive steps already made, but we must continue our joint encouragement for the government to do more:
- to protect intellectual property,
- to improve transparency in public procurement,
- to honor contracts,
- address land disputes,
- enforce laws, and
- to hold people accountable when they defraud the public and break those laws.
Moving beyond business, we will continue to build upon our substantial peace and security cooperation. We are exploring even more ways to collaborate with the Government of Ghana to address security vulnerabilities, protect against the threat of terrorist activities, and support multiple peacekeeping operations.
U.S. Africa Command is considering Ghana as a partner country for the West Africa Logistics Network. This is a “spoke and wheel” approach to more efficiently answer logistics demands across Africa’s vast distances. We are also continuing negotiations for a more robust Defense Cooperation Agreement with Ghana. Our militaries continue to partner in major exercises that greatly benefit both institutions. In fact, during Exercise United Accord, Ghana became the first African nation to train U.S. Army troops, when more than 60 U.S. soldiers underwent the rigorous program at the Jungle Warfare School.
Ghana has proven again and again its commitment to being a steadfast partner in regional and global security. We value and reciprocate that commitment.
Last but not least, I must address an issue that I know is a top priority for everyone in this room — VISAS! The Embassy remains committed to facilitating legitimate travel to the United States. Each year, we issue thousands of visas for Ghanaian businessmen and women, tourists, and students to travel to America. My consular team has been working hard to ensure our visa adjudication process is lean and efficient. I’m proud to tell you that over the last three months, the average wait time for a visa appointment has fallen from more than three weeks to just a few days. We will strive to keep our wait times under one week — a key service delivery standard that will promote business travel and trade. We may not be able to approve every application, but every applicant will be treated with respect and professionalism while they are visiting our consular section.
In closing, I am reminded of the proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” My commitment to you today is that my Embassy team and I will continue to walk in step with American businesses and the Ghanaian government. We will go together, as we work to improve trade, create jobs, and make Ghana a place where companies can flourish.
Thank you again for joining us in our home today. I look forward to taking a few questions from the audience.