It is with great pleasure that I welcome the President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, His Excellency M. Alassane Ouattara, and his delegation to Ghana. Mr. President, we are very honoured to have you in Ghana. You are amongst a people renowned for their sense of hospitality. Akwaaba, as you know, is our word of welcome, and I hope you and your delegation enjoy your stay with us.
Mr. President, let me thank you, once again, for the exceptional welcome accorded my delegation and I during our 3-day visit to Cote d’Ivoire, in May, when I began, earlier this year, my tour of the countries of West Africa. During the visit, you conferred on me your country’s highest National Award, La Grande Croix dans L’Ordre National Ivorien. I was deeply honoured and moved by that exceptional act, for which I reiterate my gratitude.
I am happy to say that I have known and enjoyed good relations with President Ouattara for nearly two decades. As I indicated to him and the Ivorian people in May, it seems as though the events of our lives are intertwined and similar – whatever happens to him, happens to me – from being high functionaries of a ruling government, to being leaders of the Opposition, and now, here we are again, as Presidents of our respective countries. And, in this regard, I recall with joy the role played by my former boss, the former President of the Republic, the great Ghanaian statesman, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, and my modest self, then Ghana’s Foreign Minister, at Accra III, in bringing about the rapprochement of the democratic forces in Cote d’Ivoire, which laid the path to him becoming President of his country.
It was, nonetheless, a most welcome surprise that, even though there were disturbing events in Abidjan on 7th January, 2017, the very day of my inauguration, which could have provided an easy excuse for his absence, President Ouattara insisted on coming to Accra to fulfil his invitation as guest of honour for the occasion. The Ghanaian people and I will always treasure that show of solidarity. You are, indeed, a great friend of Ghana, and, dare I say it, of myself, too.
Mr. President, the Ghanaian people and I are grateful for the show of concern from the Ivorian people and yourself, when you called me to console us for the tragic gas explosion at Atomic Junction, in Accra, on Saturday, 7th October, which led to the loss of 7 lives, 132 injuries and destruction of valuable property. On my part, and on behalf of the Ghanaian people, I convey also our deepest sympathies to you and the people of Cote d’Ivoire for Saturday’s cargo plane crash, which led to the deaths of four persons and injuries to six others.
Mr. President, under your leadership, the world has attested to the sterling work you have done in diversifying Ivorian agriculture, and, thereby, enhancing, dramatically, its productivity; reviving the general economy, and ensuring, consistently, the fastest rates of growth of any country on the continent in the last decade. This has vindicated the choice the Ivorian people made. I recollect vividly how, in the run-up to the 2016 election, I made constant reference to the Ivorian success story, and urged the Ghanaian people to vote for me, so I could do for them what Alassane Ouattara is doing for the people of Cote d’Ivoire.
Mr. President, our relations with Cote d’Ivoire are for us of the highest priority, for reasons which are self-evident. Together, we produce 65% of the world’s cocoa, and, if we work together and coordinate our policies, we can protect our farmers and guarantee a better life for them. We are amongst the biggest economies in West Africa. We are bonded by common history, by common ethnic ties, by common culture, and by common geography. These ties impose on us the necessity to work together, and to live as good neighbours, with each one being the other’s keeper. That is why, on my first official visit to the nations of the ECOWAS Community, I came to Abidjan, which is regaining its past glories of the era of the late doyen, the first President of Cote d’Ivoire, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, to renew those ties.
It is my fervent hope and expectation that one of the highlights of President Ouattara’s visit to Accra, which was evoked when I was in Abidjan, will be the signing of an Agreement for a Strategic Partnership (Accord de Parteniriat Strategique). This Agreement will bind our two countries in even closer intimacy, and go beyond the conventional tools of co-operation, and, I am confident, will yield results of a historic and enduring nature for our two peoples.
Being the two largest producers of cocoa, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have begun to co-operate to ensure that we do not continue to be victims or pawns of a global cocoa industry that is dependent on the work of our farmers. It is worth stressing, again, on this occasion, that, in 2015, our two countries earned from our output, which accounted for 65% of the world’s cocoa production, some $5.75 billion, at a time when the global chocolate market was worth some $100 billion. It meant that our farmers, through whose toil and sweat the cocoa industry is founded, earned 5.75% of the global value chain of the industry. This is manifest injustice. It cannot and should not continue.
President Ouattara and I have decided to work together to provide the necessary leadership for technical and political co-operation that promotes the interests of our farmers, and addresses effectively the international cocoa price decline in the short-to-medium term. We are fashioning far reaching policies towards achieving a shared vision of an industrialised and prosperous domestic cocoa economy. This will reduce our vulnerability to the volatility of the markets, and help deliver prosperity to our farmers and peoples.
Again, when the verdict of the litigation in Hamburg on the delimitation of our maritime boundaries was read on 23rd September, 2017, our two countries, in a joint statement, declared that we were going to work in a healthy manner of co-operation to deal with the consequences of the judgement. We reiterated the mutual commitment of our two countries to abide by the terms of the verdict from the Special Chamber, and to collaborate fully for its implementation. Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana accepted the decision, in accordance with the Statute of International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). What is of paramount importance to our two populations is the peaceful exploitation of the maritime resources for their benefit, and our decision to establish a joint implementation committee to oversee the orderly execution of the judgement will reassure them.
Mr. President, whilst working for even closer and stronger ties between our two countries, we should also co-operate even more closely to ensure the full engagement of our other sister countries in the process of West African integration.
The European Union, today, has a market of 508 million people, one currency, and the free movement of goods, services and people across twenty-seven countries. The EU in 2016 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 16.5 trillion US dollars, making it the second largest economy by GDP in the world. The overall effect has been to make Europe a much stronger economic and political player on the world stage.
While the EU is central to the lives of Europeans, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is somewhat peripheral to the lives of most West Africans. And it is not for the lack of plans or even rules and regulations. It is simply that the political will to make integration real has been less evident than in Europe.
Our problem over the years, I suggest, has been leadership. We need leadership that is focused on the region, and not on individual countries. The European Union took off because the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work. Once the political will is evident, we can then work together to make out of ECOWAS a true regional community and market.
Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are two of the most important members of the ECOWAS community, and are at the heart of its geography and make-up, one Anglophone, the other Francophone. Together, we should be the motor that powers the integration of our region. I have made it clear on several occasions, and in the countries I have visited so far in the region and on the continent, that I am willing to do whatever I can to strengthen the ECOWAS Community. I am fully committed, and I know President Alassane Ouattara is too. It is extremely important for the welfare of the 350 million people of the region, which will reach some 500 million in 20 years time, that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to make the project of regional integration an economic and political success, and make it a reality in the lives of our peoples.
We cannot but look upon this juncture of history as one of great opportunity for West Africa. For the first time in her history, all 15 nations of the region have democratically elected leaders. Despite the security and other challenges still confronting the region, this advance of democracy represents a great promise that the rapid social and economic transformations of our nations and societies, which we seek, can take place in conditions of responsible government, and of respect for individual liberties and human rights, the rule of law, and the principles of democratic accountability. This is the way forward to a new dispensation in the lives of the peoples of West Africa, and beyond.
In conclusion, Mr. President, thank you, once again, for coming, and we hope that you and your impressive delegation have enjoyed your visit so far. I wish to assure you that the Ghanaian people will remain steadfast in their brotherliness and friendship with the Ivorian people.
Monsieur le Président de la République de Cote d’Ivoire, cher Alassane, c’est vraiment un grand plaisir de vous voir ici à Accra, et d’avoir l’occasion de vous féliciter pour la grande œuvre que vous avez entamé pour le peuple Ivorien, pour les relations entre Cote d’Ivoire et Ghana, et pour la commaunite de la CEDEAO. En effet, vous étés, véritablement, le grand héritier du feu doyen, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Je vous souhaite encore plein succès dans la réalisation de votre haute mission.
May God bless President Alassane Ouattara, the peoples of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, the peoples of ECOWAS and Mother Africa. Thank you, and let me ask all of you to be upstanding, and raise your glasses to toast to the health and success of the President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, His Excellency Alassane Ouattara.