By Ayuureyisiya Kapini Atafori
–Relations between Canada and Ghana span over a century. They continue to grow from strength to strength over the period. The relations are currently flourishing for the mutual benefit of the two friendly countries. These countries share similar pursuits.
Bilateral relations between Canada, a North American former British colony, and Ghana, Britain’s ex-colony in West Africa, have been moored on rock-solid diplomatic, economic, technical, humanitarian and cultural pillars that have improved the relationship to the envy of many a nation.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and Ghana are warm, and have been improving over the years. The High Commission of Canada in Accra has been at the center of managing the relations between the two friendly nations. Also, Ghana’s national interest is represented in Canada by her High Commission in Ottawa. Also, she has consulates in Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal.
Historically, the contact between the two countries is dated in 1906 when Canadian Roman Catholic missionaries from Quebec set up a church in Navrongo, a small village in the then Northern Territories of the Gold Coast (now known as Ghana). Today, apart from the archetypical spectacular 60-meter long mud brick cathedral, the people of Navrongo, and to a large extent, the people of the Upper East Region, have benefitted, and has been benefiting from many projects put up by the Canadian Government and nongovernmental organizations.
Ghana was the first African country to receive international assistance from Canada in 1957 when the Cold Coast obtained independence. Since that period, Ghana have received more than $2.5 billion of international assistance. The majority of the current international assistance is provided bilaterally ($46.06 million of a total $77.46 million in 2019-2020), with additional support provided through Canadian and multilateral partners.
From 2019 to 2020, $25.69 million assistance was focused on improving health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights and COVID-related programming.
At the multilateral level, the relations between Canada and Ghana are built in the offices of the United Nations (UN), Commonwealth, La Francophonie, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank where the countries’ respective representatives cooperate in matters of common interests.
At the intergovernmental level, Canada and Ghana are building a solid partnership through their shared goal of tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The partnership has been further cemented by the countries’ ongoing co-leadership (or as co-facilitators) of the UN conference. They are responsible leading countries to ratify a new legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), after over 170 UN member-states signed an agreement in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ghana also benefits from Canada’s regional programming in Africa, which complements programming in strategic areas such as disease control, tertiary education, and disaster risk reduction linked to climate action. It is a mark of the warm relations between the two countries that on 24th May, 2022, Hon. Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, visited Accra and announced $20 million over four years to support Ghana, Liberia, Gambia, and Togo – all West African countries.
Hon. Guilbeault made the announcement at a bilateral meeting with Hon. Kwaku Afriyie, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, and Hon. Benito Owusu-Bio, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources.
The climate finance project, administered by NovaSphere, a Canadian nonprofit organization, will help the countries track emission reduction progress as they work toward achieving their goals under the Paris Agreement. The cash is to help the nations build the capacity of their national climate measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) systems. MRV systems are a crucial step for nations to develop strong and effective mitigation policies and actions because they give government’s transparent, accurate, and comparable information on emissions sources.
Minister Guilbeault’s trip to Ghana provided an opportunity to understand the best ways international partners such as Canada can support their mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries, vital information for the G7 ministerial meetings this week in Germany as well as COP27 in Egypt in November, which will focus on climate change adaptation.
“Ghana is one of many countries that are the hardest hit by the impacts of climate change. Canada will work alongside countries such as Ghana to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, and today’s announcement will provide new tools to do just that. I am immensely proud of the strong partnership we are building with Ghana on climate financing and on the creation of a legally binding global treaty on plastics. This trip has strengthened Canada’s partnership with Ghana and deepened our understanding of how best to support developing nations with their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts,” Hon. Guilbeault stated.
In supporting Ghana’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s bilateral development program continues to prioritize programming that supports gender equality, inclusive economic growth, and improved health outcomes, with an increased focus on innovative solutions and financing mechanisms.
In June 2021, Canada contributed $8 million as part of a strategic partnership with the Ghanaian Government and UNICEF to strengthen lifesaving health, nutrition and sanitation services for children and women in response to COVID-19. “Canada is proud to support UNICEF and the Government of Ghana in addressing gender inequalities,” remarked Her Excellency Kati Csaba, High Commissioner of Canada to Ghana.
In March 2022, Canada supported Ghana, WHO and UNICEF with $6.5 million through the Improving Health Outcomes through Partnerships in Health Systems Innovations project aimed at facilitating health worker training and improved access to health services at the community, health facility, regional and national levels to in the Ashanti region.
In terms of economic relations, trade and investments between the two UN member-states have thrived. Being a developing nation which seeks socio-economic development for its people, Ghana has intensified its efforts in pursuit of its decades-long policy of economic diplomacy and self-sufficiency.
In 2021, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Ghana reached over $475 million. Canadian exports totaled more than $372.8 million while imports from Ghana reached $102.6 million. The main Canadian exports included cereals, vehicles and parts, machinery, textiles and beverages. The main imports from Ghana included cocoa, rubber, mineral ores and wood.
Export Development Canada has designated Ghana as one of its key markets in Africa. Other organizations of interest with a presence in the country are the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Canada Ghana Chamber of Commerce.
Usually, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) provides Ghanaian companies, business-persons and investors, like the firms and citizens of other friendly countries, with on-the-ground intelligence and practical advice on the market in the North American nation to help them make better, timely, and cost-effective decisions.
The technical support that Ghana receives regularly from Canada is enormous, and the government and the people have always expressed their gratitude to the Canadian government and people. Canadian technical assistance for peace keeping and security has been crucial for the domestic and international activities of Ghana’s security agencies.
For instance, Canada provides training to the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) through the Department of National Defense’s Military Training and Cooperation Program, which aims to enhance the interoperability of peace support operations among Canada’s partners, expand and reinforce bilateral defense relations.
In 2018, Canada and the GAF announced the establishment of a bilateral training and technical assistance partnership through the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations in order to increase the GAF’s deployment of women to UN peace operations. Ghana is also a member of the Elsie Initiative Contact Group.
The humanitarian commitments of the two countries are underpinned by their participation in UN peacekeeping in conflict-stricken areas all over the world. For instance, both countries sent troops to keep the peace from 1993 to 1995 in Rwanda when civil war broke out.
Canada was a leading contributor to a series of UN peacekeeping missions in eastern Africa and Great Lakes nations.
General Henry Kwami Anyidoho led a Ghanaian contingent to serve under the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) commanded by Major-General Roméo Dallaire, who led hundreds of Canadian soldiers to keep the peace. But Dallaire was not empowered enough by the UN headquarters to prevent the slaughter of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.
During the genocide, troops of most countries departed, leaving the Ghanaian soldiers to protect the noncombatant civilians. After the genocide, a new contingent of Canadian troops emplaned to Rwanda as part of UNAMIR II, with the task of restoring order and bringing aid to the distressed population.
Building of cultural relations saw exchanges between the two Commonwealth nations. There is a significant Ghanaian presence in the major provinces and cities of Canada such as Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Manitoba and others. Thus personal connections and shared experience are at the heart of the strong and long-standing relationship between Canada and Ghana.
The cooperation between Ghana and Canada in the education result in over a thousand Ghanaians complete their post-secondary education and postgraduate in Canada. Many of them return to Ghana where they become leaders in their fields of endeavor and ambassadors of Canada-Ghana relationship.
The High Commission of Canada in Ghana is building a Canadian Alumni Network that will bring together Ghanaians from all walks of life who share that important experience. Being part of the Network represent an opportunity to engage fellow alumnus, as well as members of the business and diplomatic community, to share the experience of studying in Canada and to keep abreast of upcoming events and activities.