Ghana-India relations: What does the future hold? (Special pull out) Monday, Jan 26, 2015
Samira Alhassan does not miss any of her favourite television soap operas. But it is not South American shows that keep her glued to the screen – it is the Hindi series and the latest Bollywood releases.
“I like watching Hindi films and soaps,” said the 26-year-old housewife. “There is comedy, action and romance – all in one movie. I do watch some American and South Korean series, but prefer the Hindi movies,” she said before turning to her remote.
In front of the Dunia Cinema at Nima in Accra, a young man delicately arranges a number of pirated copies of movies on table on a busy street. He sells neither Hollywood Box Office hits nor Nollywood blockbusters. The collection is simply Bollywood movies and musical videos.
For many Ghanaians who had not stepped into the bowels of the world’s largest democracy—India—their imaginary walk on the streets of Indian cities and towns, including Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Rajkot, has been through the evergreen Bollywood, the thriving Indian movie industry.
Long before Bollywood began capturing the soul and heart of Ghanaians, the foundation stone of the long-standing relationship between the two countries had been laid by Ghana's first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and India's first Prime Minister, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru.
So deep is the friendship that the road on which the Indian High Commission is located has been named after Mr Nehru.
Politically, the two countries have enjoyed a very friendly relationship culminating in major visits to India by high-profile Ghanaian leaders including President Nkrumah in 1961, President Hilla Limann in 1981, President Jerry John Rawlings in 1997, President J.A. Kufuor in 2002 and 2008 and then Vice-President John Dramani Mahama in 2010.
Apart from other ministerial visits to Ghana, the most high-profile Indian leader to have visited Ghana had been Prime Minister Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1995.
A growing economic partnership
The flames of the two champions of South-South cooperation were carried further by hundreds of Indian merchants who have made Ghana their home, building flourishing businesses.
Predominantly, the Indian-origin people in Ghana are of Sindhi origin whose ancestors first came to the country more than 70 years ago. The Indian Association of Ghana was for instance founded in 1937. They are mostly in the trading business.
However, some of them have started moving to small-scale industries like pharmaceuticals, plastics, cement, and steel products.
Over the years, the likes of Melcom, the Mohinani Group, TATA, Mahindra, Ashok Leyland, Airtel, Larsen & Toubro, NIIT, Blow-Chem, have made significant contributions to the Ghanaian economy.
According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Indian companies have invested in 602 projects with total investment of US$637.34 million between September 1994 and September 2013.
This makes India the second largest foreign investor country in Ghana in terms of number of projects and ranked 9th in position according to value of FDI in Ghana.
Differences between India and Ghana pale in comparison to what brings them together.
Indian pharmaceutical products are fast becoming a major presence in Ghana to the advantage of Ghanaian consumers.
However, the only low point in the friendship between the two countries had been when the Food and Drugs Authority decided to ban some Indian pharmaceutical companies from exporting their drug to Ghana because of concerns for quality.
India has an impressive economic footprint in Ghana. Besides some of its citizens contributing significantly to job creation, India has been participating in Ghana's development by providing assistance in setting up projects through provision of Lines of Credit and grants.
So far, the Government of India has extended Lines of Credit amounting to US$224 million to the Government of Ghana for various developmental projects being undertaken by the latter.
Bilateral trade grows
Bilateral trade crossed US$1 billion mark for the first time in 2011-12. In 2013/2014, the trade balance sheet between the two countries reached US$1.201 billion.
While Ghana's main (traditional) exports to India has been gold, cocoa and timber products, India’s major exports to Ghana include pharmaceuticals, telecommunication, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, plastics, steel and cement.
Significant among infrastructure landmarks India has in Ghana is the seat of the Presidency, the Flag Staff House, which was constructed by Shapoorji Pallonji and Co. Ltd, an Indian construction firm.
In truth, India lacks China’s deep pockets. Analysts say India has often struggled to compete directly with China, especially for natural resources such as oil and gas.
As a result, India has embarked on a charm offensive as it seeks to stay relevant to resource-rich Africa.
Over the years, officials of the BRIC country are keen to remind African leaders of their common past of anti-colonisation struggles, as well as offer India's expertise in areas such as information technology and human resources.
It is probably for this reason that the Kofi Annan-Indian Centre of Excellence in ICT was established in 2003.
India’s energy sector worth celebrating
At a time Ghana’s electricity supply is suffering an epileptic seizure, there is a lot to learn from India, especially in terms of its knowledge in renewable energy.
Through the effective implementation of existing policies, India’s wind energy capacity could double over the next five years, latest estimates of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) show.
A 21.6 GW wind energy contributes about 67 per cent to the total renewable energy capacity in India. The country’s solar power capacity also crossed 3 GW in November last year.
On the foreign policy front, there are indications that political and diplomatic ties between the two countries will continue to flourish, given experience from past relations.
Additionally, the ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has historically engaged in a robust foreign policy and given that the strategic interests of both countries are well aligned, ties between India and Ghana would continue to grow.
What Ghana needs from India
Going forward, the path to real economic transformation in Ghana does not lie in the export of its raw materials and imports of finished goods.
It lies, first, in developing the country’s human capital and making manufacturing a basis for trade. These are all areas in which India has developed significant capacity.
As India celebrates its centrepiece of national day celebrations—the Republic Day—it is the expectation of many Ghanaians that the relations between the two countries grows from strength to strength for the benefit of citizens of both countries.