In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to interact with Christoph Retzlaff, who had just arrived in the country as the newly appointed Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Accra. What made it special for me at the time was the fact that I was going to be the first Ghanaian journalist he would grant an interview.
Five years on, it is time for Ambassador Retzlaff to bring his Ghanaian assignment to an end and return to Berlin this weekend. He agreed to my request for a conversation on his time in Ghana and review the current state of the bilateral relations between Ghana and Germany under his leadership at the German mission in Ghana.
Recounting some of his memorable moments, Ambassador Retzlaff described his stay in Ghana as a very fulfilling and rewarding time. “Five years is unusually long for a German ambassador to stay at one post, it is mostly three or four years. I am privileged to have stayed here in Ghana for five years and during this time, I worked with some amazing and great people across various sectors in the country, from governmental to civil society level. It has been a great time for me and my family and I will always cherish it,” he added.
Ghana has enjoyed a very good and positive relationship with Germany which dates back to Ghana’s independence in 1957. The last years have witnessed several significant collaborations in addition to an impressive growth in the bilateral relations between the two countries.
The Ambassador indicated that “we have always had strong and friendly relations with Ghana, a country which we now consider a key partner in Africa, sharing the same values as democracy, human rights and rule of law. We have together been able to deepen and broaden our friendship with new political partnership formats and exchanges at a very high level.
In the year 2018, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ghana after our Federal President, Frank Walter Steinmeier had visited Ghana in December 2017. President Akufo-Addo has also travelled to Berlin several times since taking office in 2017 and we have hosted visits of many Ghanaian ministers to Germany and vice versa. This tells you the level of engagement and the sort of importance attached to this relationship from both sides.”
Maintaining friendly and trusted relationship between Ghana and Germany has largely contributed to the substantial increase in development cooperation. It is important to note that the current financial volume in German’s development cooperation has almost tripled over the last couple of years.
Without a doubt, Ghana has become a key partner for Germany within the West African sub-region and Subsahara Africa. In 2017, Ghana was included in the G20 Compact with Africa initiative at a conference in Berlin, which was followed by the introduction of a Reform- and Investment Partnership agreement between the two countries in December 2017. New instruments to foster investment in Ghana and other African countries followed. The German government has for instance launched a €1 billion Africa Fund to facilitate investments in Ghana and the rest of the continent.
Ambassador Retzlaff highlighted the bilateral cooperation over the last couple of years with the establishment of new frameworks to focus on investment partnerships. According to him, it is important to enhance economic diplomacy between the two countries with emphasis on strengthening economic relations leading to an increase in investments, job creation in Ghana and in the trade volume between the two countries.
“One of the best new adjustments in our cooperation is that we have refocused our development cooperation. We went from a kind of traditional development cooperation to one that is more focused on bringing in investment to Ghana and to create jobs in Ghana. There is a new German initiative called Invest for Jobs which was launched with Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry a couple of weeks ago. Volkswagen car assembling in Ghana has been a major step forward and we will certainly soon see other German companies investing in Ghana soon,” he added.
Currently, there are about 40 cooperation projects between Ghanaian and German institutions in the field of science, academia and universities. There are partnerships between Ghanaian and German universities with the recent major one being MIASA (Merian Institute of Advanced Studies in Africa), a unique project between the University of Ghana and the Freiburg University in Germany, launched during the visit of the German Federal President in 2017.
In addition, there is also the new German West Africa Centre for the Prevention of Pandemics, a cooperation project between the University of Berlin, University of Bonn and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). The centre will be located in Kumasi at KNUST with a three million euro funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
On the financial sector, Ambassador Retzlaff was positive about the prospects of the soon to be launched Development Bank of Ghana which is being supported by Germany. “In the coming months, the Development Bank of Ghana is expected to become operational. The German Development Bank has played an advisory role for the establishment of the bank and also supported with capital for the bank, which has the potential to be a game changer for Ghana if managed wel,l, he explained.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has affected the global economy with devastating effects on several countries around the world including Ghana. The Ghanaian government has received support from bilateral partners including Germany to help the government’s efforts to sustain the economy and livelihoods of its citizens.
Ambassador Retzlaff revealed that “Germany has tailored a twenty – five million euro support package for Ghana in the fight against COVID – 19. We are also supporting Ghana in finding ways to produce vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases here in Ghana. There are concrete measures running at the moment and we are cooperating with the Presidential committee on the production of vaccines with the German development agency, GIZ, actively involved.
In his concluding remards, Ambassador Christoph Retzlaff stated that “the excellent relations between Germany and Ghana have enormous potential. Ghana and Germany share the same values and Ghana is a key partner and an anchor of stability in West Africa. 15 German institutions present in Ghana, such as GIZ, KFW, Goethe Institute, AHK, the German Army Advisory Group, Political Foundations and many more are very actively contributing to our vibrant and strong partnership.”