U.S. Diplomatic Relations with Ghana
Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
University of Cape Coast
Friday, March 23, 2018 | 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Thank you all for your warm welcome. My wife, Babs, and I are honored to be here at the University of Cape Coast.
I often talk about the fact that our relationship with Ghana is strong, and that it goes back long before Ghana’s independence 61 years ago. We cannot ignore the fact that our connection with Ghana began here, at one of the lowest points in history, when so many journeyed against their will to the Americas — victims of the brutal slave trade. We are still dealing with the repercussions of that injustice, but the spirit of those ancestors lives on in the United States. Their voices and their resilience are woven into the heritage and the fabric of the country I serve. They shaped who we are as a nation and influenced generations of leaders, from Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Barack and Michelle Obama.
Today I want to speak with you about that relationship between Ghana and the United States — and about the work we do at the U.S. Embassy in Accra. Most of all, I want to talk about how it affects you, as the future leaders of Ghana. We’ll have time for questions at the end, and I look forward to hearing from you.
First, I would like to share a little about me, which you may not know. Before I became a diplomat, I taught English and American Civilization at a French university. I feel at home any time I’m meeting with students at university campuses. There’s so much energy and enthusiasm. You’re the ones who will lead this nation, this continent and, indeed, our world. I hope you feel that excitement, and I hope you never lose it. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, keep that passion — to tackle challenges; to fight corruption; to create jobs; to empower all Ghanaians to reach their potential.
Babs and I have called Ghana home for more than two years now. However, this is not the first African country we have come to know and love. I have focused on Africa throughout my diplomatic career, and we have made our home in seven African countries, from Morocco all the way to Zimbabwe.
The friendship between the Republic of Ghana and the United States is well established. American diplomats were posted here before Ghana’s independence. In 1957, we elevated our consulate in Accra to a full embassy. Today, hundreds of people—Americans and Ghanaians—work at our embassy, focusing every day on how we can further strengthen our bilateral relationship.
As young people, you know well that Ghana has tremendous promise. President Akufo-Addo has established a bold vision for the future — a future where all Ghanaians live in dignity and are able to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities — a future where the government can provide for its citizens. It is, as the President stated, a vision of “Ghana Beyond Aid.”
The United States fully supports this vision, and our work here helps Ghana make concrete steps toward achieving that feat. Specifically, our work centers on the following four areas of mutual concern:
1. Economic growth;
2. Health and education;
3. Peace and security; and
4. Good governance.
Now, obviously, if we’re going to achieve “Ghana Beyond Aid,” we need economic growth and prosperity for all Ghanaians. After suffering in recent years due to factors such as declining prices for cocoa, gold, and oil, Ghana’s economy has rebounded last year and this year. There’s promise here, and President Akufo-Addo has been very outspoken about wanting Ghana to be the most business-friendly country in Africa. That’s an ambitious, admirable and achievable goal. We’re working together with the government, as well as with entrepreneurs, NGOs, and communities to make that happen.
Why does this matter to you? Well, like young people all around the world, you may wonder what you’ll do for work after you finish your degree. There are far more graduates than there are jobs. This, understandably, causes concern and anxiety for students—and their parents. We’re concerned about that, too. That is why we want to help create that environment in which Ghanaian businesses will thrive. A climate in which you can establish a business and thrive. You can be the one who creates new jobs — providing not just incomes, but dignity, that will sustain families and communities.
Part of our efforts includes developing a strong and efficient power sector through the U.S. government’s Power Africa Initiative. Unreliable and inadequate power stifles economic growth. In fact, economic research shows that Ghana’s economy lost more than $24 billion between 2010 and 2016, as a result of dumsor. If your business can’t operate due to lack of electricity, you can’t make a profit. If you have no profit, well, that’s the end of your business—and your employees’ incomes, as well.
With the second Millennium Challenge Compact, we’re investing $498 million to transform the power sector. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the Compact, perpetuated by people who profit from the status quo. So let me be clear: ECG will still be owned by you, the people of Ghana. The goal is to transform ECG so that it can serve as a reliable and affordable source of power for you. We believe that with proper management, ECG will grow, necessitating more employees, not fewer. I have said it many times and will continue to say it: I absolutely believe this Compact is good for Ghana.
We also want to expand trade and investment.
Diversifying Ghana’s exports beyond cocoa, gold, and oil is good for Ghana. How many of you have heard of AGOA? It’s an American law called the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Under this law, more than 6,000 goods from select African countries, including many Made in Ghana products, can be exported to the United States duty free — and our customs experts regularly visit Ghana to ensure exporters know what goods qualify as duty free. Working with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, we have identified a dozen products with great potential in the U.S. market. These include cashew, shea butter, handicrafts, gold jewelry, and garments. In fact, we have seen dramatic growth in apparel exports, which increased from approximately $500,000 in 2010 to $8.5 million in 2017. That number is expected to double again over the next two years. New Ghanaian exports such as frozen orange juice and dried mango are also increasing. Last year, overall, Ghana’s non-oil AGOA exports to the United States doubled.
Developing the manufacturing sector is good for Ghana. In fact, those two things are essential for Ghana! And what’s good for Ghana is also good for the United States. An economically independent Ghana that is thriving and creating new jobs for its citizens maintains regional stability and is in America’s national security interest.
American brands and franchises are rapidly expanding to new markets all over the world — fueling job growth at home and overseas. As the gateway to Africa, Ghana plays a key role for U.S. companies developing their presence on the continent. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hertz and Avis have been operating in Ghana for years. Since I arrived in Ghana in January 2016, I have witnessed other American franchises opening their doors to the Ghanaian market, including Pizza Hut, Pinkberry, Counter Burger, and Steak Escape.
Uber now employs more than 3,000 drivers in Accra and more in Kumasi. ExxonMobil, the American oil and gas leader, recently signed an agreement with the Government of Ghana to begin exploration and production off the coast, not too terribly far from here. It will take some time, maybe three to five years, for Exxon to potentially make an oil discovery and begin production. But we are optimistic about the long-term economic benefits of Exxon’s presence. More American firms are on the way. These investments create employment opportunities for Ghanaians and help stimulate economic growth and development.
When the United States and Ghana work together to improve the economic environment, you benefit.
So, let’s say you’re one of the entrepreneurs in this room. You’ve now graduated and you’ve started your own business. You have reliable electricity, thanks to the Power Compact. What else do you need? You need a healthy, educated workforce. That’s why we support government initiatives to combat malaria; improve nutrition and maternal and child health; and address HIV and AIDS. That’s why we inaugurated eight Community-based Health Planning and Services Compounds and are constructing 18 more. They bring health services closer to you, so you can make the most productive use of your time.
Our Partnership for Education programs support the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service as they promote reading and literacy among primary students — both in and out of the classroom. Over the last two years we have provided public primary schools with approximately five million books and teacher training aids to help children learn to read in 11 indigenous languages and English, and we have trained over 30,000 Ghanaian primary school teachers, head teachers, and curriculum leads in phonics and reading. We are also helping Ghana expand access to education for adolescent girls, because we know that when girls are educated, societies are transformed.
And even if you haven’t started your own business: when you get a job after graduation, you want healthy, educated co-workers, right? Trust me, you will want colleagues who can pitch in side-by-side with you and help your organization thrive.
… So we can see how economic growth, health and education are tied together. Let’s add peace and security to that mix. Instability kills economies and threatens global security far beyond any one country’s borders.
I suspect you have questions about this aspect of our bilateral relationship, so let me be clear: There’s a lot of misinformation out there that misrepresents the partnership we have with Ghana — and it truly is a partnership. When I visited Elmina Castle this morning, I was reminded of the agreements that Ghanaians entered into with the Portuguese, Dutch, and British prior to Ghana’s independence. The proposed Defense Cooperation Agreement is not that kind of one-sided agreement. Ghanaians and Americans both stand to benefit from this accord.
Ghana is noteworthy for the way it maintains peace and stability within its borders. Ghana is also well respected for the way it advances peace on the continent, and around the world, through participation in peacekeeping operations. The international community faces countless security threats, and Ghana’s ability to contribute to countering those threats is invaluable.
For more than 20 years, we have had ongoing coordination and training exercises with the Ghana Armed Forces and with law enforcement. Sometimes U.S. military personnel come to Ghana. Sometimes Ghanaian security personnel go to the United States or other locations.
This training is designed to help Ghana’s security forces tackle the global issues that could impact your daily life and threaten Ghana’s development: issues like crime, terrorism, trafficking in persons and narcotics, border security, maritime security, and even cyber security.
I said it truly is a partnership, and it is. Here’s one example: Last year, the Ghana Armed Forces became the first African force to train U.S. Army forces. U.S. soldiers participated in training at your Jungle Warfare School, under the leadership of your armed forces. If you haven’t seen the reporting on this, I highly recommend that you check out the videos online. U.S. armed forces described the training as eye-opening, demanding, and grueling … but also as important, memorable, and critical to our ability to work alongside the Ghana Armed Forces to counter global threats.
These are U.S. soldiers who are now better able to defend the United States and our allies because of training they received here. That’s the partnership we want with Ghana.
Let me also be clear that when U.S. military personnel come to Ghana temporarily to lead or receive training; that is exactly what they do: They come to Ghana. They lead or receive training alongside the Ghana Armed Forces. And then they leave. There is no U.S. military base. We have not requested a U.S. military base. Within the Embassy, we have our own detachment of Marine Security Guards, and a handful of Department of Defense personnel who manage our relationship with Ghana’s Ministry of Defense.
I absolutely agree with those who are say that Ghana is a strong, sovereign nation. That’s exactly why we’re renewing our agreement with the Government of Ghana. Ghana has shown that it has the capability to be an anchor of stability in the region and a significant contributor to global security. The provisions in the Defense Cooperation Agreement mirror the agreements we have with other key security partners, such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and Senegal. Let me be clear: We are asking Ghana to partner with us in the same way we partner with our allies in Europe, Asia, and around the world. We want to work more closely with you, because together, we are stronger.
And that brings me to the final focus of our partnership with Ghana: good governance. I have not placed it last because it’s the least important. On the contrary: I’ve saved it for last because I am absolutely convinced that “Ghana Beyond Aid” cannot happen without good governance …
And that brings me to the final focus of our partnership with Ghana: good governance. I have not placed it last because it’s the least important. On the contrary: I’ve saved it for last because I am absolutely convinced that “Ghana Beyond Aid” cannot happen without good governance.
Now, part of good governance is … just that: improving the ability of the government to provide services to citizens at the national and local level, strengthening institutions, and holding government accountable. We’re partnering with the government on programs that help MDAs better manage their budgets and keep citizens better informed. You can promote good governance by advocating for passage of the Right to Information bill, the ability of Members of Parliament to introduce legislation, the creation and implementation of a meaningful asset declaration system, and direct elections for District and Municipal Chief Executives — a change that will bring greater accountability and help government respond more nimbly to citizens at the local level.
But true good governance goes beyond that.
“Ghana Beyond Aid”is a bold vision. To achieve it, we must be equally bold about eliminating the injustices that inhibit development. We must eradicate trafficking in persons. We must ensure women have equal rights and girls have equal access to education. And we must pledge that we will tirelessly fight against corruption — in all its forms, wherever it is found.
To be clear, these are not Ghana-specific problems. Injustice exists everywhere. That’s why it’s even more effective when we come together and demonstrate our shared responsibility for addressing the issues we face.
Pervasive corruption has a direct impact on some of the areas that are most critical to Ghana’s growth and development. Corruption is not a victimless crime. It steals directly from the pockets of citizens. Corruption steals from you. We talked about investment earlier. Corruption stymies investment and inhibits free enterprise. Would you want to start a business or invest in a company if you knew you had to throw away your hard-earned money on bribes? No one does.
Corruption compromises the quality and availability of much-needed services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure development. When you have to pay a bribe for a doctor to check on your hospitalized relative, corruption threatens lives. Whether through bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, or in some other form, corruption eats away at the livelihoods of ordinary people. It eats away at your opportunities.
Another injustice that will prevent Ghana from reaching its full potential is trafficking in persons. This is an issue that is close to my heart. We must do more to fight trafficking in persons. It is modern-day slavery. Men, women and children are held against their will in humiliating, harmful, crushing slave labor. We were all outraged by the images of Africans being sold in Libya, but what about the children who are sold here in Ghana for 100 cedis and are now forced to work day and night in harsh — and even dangerous — conditions? What about the 11-year-old who is forced to cook, clean and serve, rather than read, learn and play? I have traveled to fishing villages in the Volta Region and have seen children working on boats — in the middle of the day, when they should be in school. I have seen how the illegal mining industry uses children. Children who should be in school.
You have completed your basic and secondary education. Now you’re at university, getting further education so that you may contribute to Ghana’s development. Other Ghanaian children, at the very least, must have the same opportunity to complete their secondary education. The more educated citizens are, the more likely they are to be integrated into the economy and to participate in democracy — just the kind of citizenry needed to move Ghana beyond aid.
As I said earlier, this is not a Ghana-specific problem. Trafficking exists in every country, including the United States. That’s why we must work together to ensure all men, women and children can pursue their dreams as productive members of their communities. We must ensure that those who profit from exploiting ordinary people in this manner are arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and punished. We have ongoing programs with local communities, law enforcement and the judiciary to help identify and rescue victims and capture and punish perpetrators. I challenge you to recognize the warning signs of trafficking and enslavement, and speak up if you see something.
Together, we must be relentless in our efforts to promote good governance and human rights for all citizens — not just some citizens. Every person deserves a chance to succeed in life.
So I’ve talked about what we do and what it means for you. To end, I want to address “Why.” Why does the United States care about what happens in Ghana? It’s pretty simple, really.
Just decades ago, the distance between us seemed so much bigger. It took months to sail across the Atlantic. Then propeller aircraft brought us closer — but not close enough. You still had to connect through Europe. Now, you can get on a plane in Accra and arrive in New York or Washington, D.C. 10 hours later — and vice versa.
People and goods travel back and forth daily. Last year, the U.S. Embassy in Accra issued visas to more than 20,000 Ghanaians for travel to the United States. We communicate instantly via Skype or Facetime. We are all connected in ways that seemed unimaginable just 10 years ago. Because of that, when Ghana succeeds, you anchor stability throughout the region. That stability contributes to global security. When Ghana succeeds, you can export your high-quality products to the United States — and your citizens have the disposable income to purchase American goods. When Ghana succeeds, your citizens can work with our citizens to tackle the global issues that threaten peace, health and prosperity. Success is not a zero-sum game. We can all win.
You are the next generation that will take on the task of developing Ghana and shaping this more peaceful, more prosperous, more democratic world we all want. We want to play a role in equipping you to be great leaders. Let me tell you how.
One way in which we want to engage with all of you is through the Young African Leaders Initiative, which you might know as YALI. We just concluded the selection of our fifth cohort of YALI Mandela Washington Fellows. They will travel to the United States for six weeks of leadership training. Working with the private sector, we have also expanded the opportunities for young people to receive leadership training here at home. Four YALI Regional Leadership Centers — including one in Accra —bring together young leaders according to sub-region. But improving your leadership capability can be as simple as joining the YALI Network, a virtual community that links hundreds of thousands of young people across the continent and offers free online courses on the topics that matter most to you.
Education is critical to our mutual success, and your education is the greatest investment you will ever make. If you want to explore opportunities to study in America, we have EducationUSA Centers in Accra and in Kumasi that advise students looking at the United States for their next degree. In fact, there are more than 3,100 Ghanaian students enrolled at colleges and universities in the United States, and our institutions are looking to recruit more. If you’re interested in learning more about these programs and about our work, please check out our website and follow the embassy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thank you for your attention today. I will be happy to take your questions. The floor is yours!