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Ghana, Russia set to promote cooperation

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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The Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted on May 26 the Russia-Ghana business forum which attracted representatives from Russian industrial and commercial sectors. The forum was also attended by a Ghanaian delegation.

It was meant to highlight investment opportunities as well as find ways of promoting trade opportunities/strategies for public as well as private sector engagement between the two countries. There were various presentations on the economic and investment potential of Ghana.

In a welcome speech, Ghana’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Dr. Kodzo Kpoku Alabo, noted that Ghana is rich in gold and diamond, in addition to which it recently found oil and gas reserves.

According to him, Ghana is investing heavily in industries including agriculture, timber processing, telecommunications and tourism. He also told the business gathering that the country‘s stable political atmosphere contributes to the attraction of foreign investors, and expressed the hope that Russian investors and business people would engage in joint projects with local Ghanaian partners.

Russia and Ghana are linked by nearly 60 years of diplomatic relations, but business relations are not well developed, as markets in both countries still remain largely untapped and unexploited.

Ghana is one of the fastest developing countries on the African continent, interested in attracting foreign capital. The factors that attract foreign investors to Ghana can be attributed to the favorable investment climate, rapidly developing infrastructure and a skilled labour force.

The country has developed a stable political environment in the last two decades, leading to economic growth. Ghana’s positive democratic credentials coupled with its vibrant ports that serve as a transport hub for its landlocked neighbours make it one of the most preferred destinations for investment capital and for doing business in Africa.

In his contribution, the Russian Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Vladimir Padalko noted that relations between Russia and Ghana can be regarded as f riendly and partnership. In recent years, constructive dialogue at the political level, both in bilateral and multilateral formats, have been established between the countries.

However, it has to be acknowledged that the economic activity between Russia and Ghana is insignificant. Ghana is Russia’s 6th trade partner among African countries South of the Sahara. In 2015, bilateral trade increased by 32 per cent and amounted to $216 million dollars.

Mr Padalko pointed out that perspective directions of bilateral trade, economic and investment cooperation between the two countries include mining, energy, housing, utilities, transport infrastructure, agriculture, information technology, telecommunications, tourism and health.

But a significant deterrent to the development of bilateral relations is the absence of information on Russian companies doing business in Ghana.

To resolve this task, the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2009 created the Coordinating Committee on Economic Cooperation with Africa (South of Sahara), combining about 120 Russian companies and organizations interested in working on African issues.

In addition, the Regional Council for Development of Relations with Africa under the Chamber of Commerce and Trade (Moscow Region) was created last year to facilitate trade and corporate investment between Russia and African countries. Since its creation, it has already been working to gain market access at business-to-business level with a number of countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Quite recently, the African Business Initiative (ABI) under the Institute for African Studies was formed with similar aims.

Mr Padalko therefore urged representatives of Russian companies to make relentless efforts to obtain the most relevant information about the current economic situation in Ghana, its investment potential, as well as discuss promising areas of business in the country.

In his discussion, the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, who is also the co-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Russia-Ghana Commission on Trade-Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation, Mr. Yevgeny A. Kiselyov, drew attention to the implementation of the already signed agreements between Russia and Ghana, in particular, the contract Russian State Corporation “Rosatom”, with the Government of the Republic of Ghana on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy.

According to Kiselyov, Ghana also has an excellent prospect as a country with a large number of minerals.

Mr Alexander Dianov, the Deputy Chairman of the Intergovernmental Russia-Ghana Commission on Trade-Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation, said with the resumption of the work mechanism, the Commission must significantly step up cooperation in trade, economic and scientific-technical spheres.

Speakers at the forum expressed the optimism that both Russia and Ghana had the chance to strengthen their business contacts, increase exchange of visits and participation in economic events to significantly promote trade and investment between the two sides.

Russia and Ghana will soon sign two agreements, one on protection of investment and the other on avoidance of double taxation, as additional measures to bolster mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

Ghana and Russia have accumulated a valuable experience of mutual respect and trust for nearly 60 years of cooperation in their diplomatic relations. Relations are very friendly and close. Ghana-Russia relations refers to the bilateral relationship between the two countries, Ghana and Russia. Russia has an embassy in Accra and Ghana has an embassy in Moscow.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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A bio-based, reuse economy can feed the world and save the planet

MD Staff

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Transforming pineapple skins into product packaging or using potato peels for fuel may sound far-fetched, but such innovations are gaining traction as it becomes clear that an economy based on cultivation and use of biomass can help tackle pollution and climate change, the United Nations agriculture agency said on Friday.

A sustainable bioeconomy, which uses biomass – organic materials, such as plants and animals and fish – as opposed to fossil resources to produce food and non-food goods “is foremost about nature and the people who take care of and produce biomass,” a senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  official said at the 2018 Global Bioeconomy Summit in Berlin, Germany.

This means family farmers, forest people and fishers, who are also “holders of important knowledge on how to manage natural resources in a sustainable way,” she explained.

Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources, stressed how the agency not only works with member States and other partners across the conventional bioeconomy sectors – agriculture, forestry and fisheries – but also relevant technologies, such as biotechnology and information technology to serve agricultural sectors.

“We must foster internationally-coordinated efforts and ensure multi-stakeholder engagement at local, national and global levels,” she said, noting that this requires measurable targets, means to fulfil them and cost-effective ways to measure progress.

With innovation playing a key role in the bio sector, she said,  all the knowledge – traditional and new – should be equally shared and supported.

Feeding the world, saving the planet

Although there is enough food being produced to feed the planet, often due to a lack of access, estimates show that some 815 million people are chronically undernourished.

“Bioeconomy can improve access to food, such as through additional income from the sale of bio-products,” said Ms. Semedo.

She also noted its potential contribution to addressing climate change, albeit with a warning against oversimplification.

“Just because a product is bio does not mean it is good for climate change, it depends on how it is produced, and in particular on much and what type of energy is used in the process,” she explained.

FAO has a longstanding and wide experience in supporting family farmers and other small-scale biomass producers and businesses.

Ms. Semedo, told the summit that with the support of Germany, FAO, together with an international working group, is currently developing sustainable bioeconomy guidelines.

Some 25 cases from around the world have already been identified to serve as successful bioeconomy examples to develop good practices.

A group of women fishers in Zanzibar are producing cosmetics from algae – opening up a whole new market with sought-after niche products; in Malaysia, a Government programme supports community-based bioeconomy; and in Colombia, a community is transforming pineapple skins into biodegradable packaging and honey into royal jelly – and these are just a few examples of a bioeconomy in action.

“Together, let’s harness the development for sustainable bioeconomy for all and leave no one behind,” concluded Ms. Semedo.

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Belarus: Strengthening Foundations for Sustainable Recovery

MD Staff

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The speed of economic recovery has accelerated in early 2018, but the foundations for solid growth need to be strengthened, says the latest World Bank Economic Update on Belarus.

The economic outlook remains challenging due to external financing needs and unaddressed domestic structural bottlenecks. Improved household consumption and investment activity, along with a gradual increase in exports, will help the economy to grow, but unlikely above three percent per annum over the medium term.

“The only way for ordinary Belarusians to have better incomes in the long run is to increase productivity, which requires structural change. While macroeconomic adjustment has brought stability, only structural change will bring solid growth to the country,” said Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus. “Inflation has hit a record low in Belarus, driving the costs of domestic borrowing down. However, real wages are now again outpacing productivity, with the risks of worsening cost competitiveness and generating cost-push inflation.”

A Special Topic Note of the World Bank Economic Update follows the findings of the latest World Bank report, The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018, which measures national wealth, composed of produced, natural, and human capital, and net foreign assets. Economic development comes from a country’s wealth, especially from human capital – skills and knowledge.

“Belarus has a good composition of wealth for an upper middle-income country. The per capita level of human capital exceeds both Moldova and Ukraine. However, the accumulation of physical capital has coincided with a deterioration in the country’s net foreign asset position,” noted Kiryl Haiduk, World Bank Economist. “Belarus needs to rely less on foreign borrowing and strengthen the domestic financial system, export more, and strengthen economic institutions that improve the efficiency of available physical and human capital.”

Since the Republic of Belarus joined the World Bank in 1992, lending commitments to the country have totaled US$1.7 billion. In addition, grant financing totaling US$31 million has been provided, including to programs involving civil society partners. The active investment lending portfolio financed by the World Bank in Belarus includes eight operations totaling US$790 million.

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Economic Growth in Africa Rebounds, But Not Fast Enough

MD Staff

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth is projected to reach 3.1 percent in 2018, and to average 3.6 percent in 2019–20, says Africa’s Pulse, a bi-annual analysis of the state of African economies conducted by the World Bank, released today.

The growth forecasts are premised on expectations that oil and metals prices will remain stable, and that governments in the region will implement reforms to address macroeconomic imbalances and boost investment.

“Growth has rebounded in Sub-Saharan Africa, but not fast enough. We are still far from pre-crisis growth levels,” said Albert G. Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa Region. “African Governments must speed up and deepen macroeconomic and structural reforms to achieve high and sustained levels of growth.”

The moderate pace of economic expansion reflects the gradual pick-up in growth in the region’s three largest economies, Nigeria, Angola and South Africa. Elsewhere, economic activity will pick up in some metals exporters, as mining production and investment rise. Among non-resource intensive countries, solid growth, supported by infrastructure investment, will continue in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), led by Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. Growth prospects have strengthened in most of East Africa, owing to improving agriculture sector growth following droughts and a rebound in private sector credit growth; in Ethiopia, growth will remain high, as government-led infrastructure investment continues.

For many African countries, the economic recovery is vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices and production,” said Punam Chuhan-Pole, World Bank Lead Economist and the author of the report.  “This underscores the need for countries to build resilience by pushing diversification strategies to the top of the policy agenda.”

Public debt relative to GDP is rising in the region, and the composition of debt has changed, as countries have shifted away from traditional concessional sources of financing toward more market-based ones. Higher debt burdens and the increasing exposure to market risks raise concerns about debt sustainability: 18 countries were classified at high-risk of debt distress in March 2018, compared with eight in 2013.

“By fully embracing technology and leveraging innovation, Africa can boost productivity across and within sectors, and accelerate growth,” said Zeufack.

This issue of Africa’s Pulse has a special focus on the role of innovation in accelerating electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its implications of achieving inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. The report finds that achieving universal electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa will require a combination of solutions involving the national grid, as well as “mini-grids” and “micro-grids” serving small concentrations of electricity users, and off-grid home-scale systems. Improving regulation of the electricity sector and better management of utilities remain key to success.

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