Discussing Ghana – Canada bilateral relations with High Commissioner Kati Csaba

Kati Csaba

Chris Koney’s column

July 1st is Canada Day, a federal statutory holiday marking the anniversary of Canadian confederation. It commemorates the unification of the three North American British colonies—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada, which consisted of Ontario and Quebec—built on the ancestral lands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Canada Day is an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s history and celebrate the values that Canada aspires to uphold, like equality.

This year’s commemoration will be without the usual large gathering of dignitaries and friends of Canada at the Official Residence, however I was privileged to have an enlightening conversation with the High Commissioner of Canada to Ghana, Kati Csaba, to mark the occasion.

Our discussion focused on the High Commissioner’s six months in Ghana so far— her experiences, and the direction of the High Commission under her leadership as Head of Mission. We also spoke about the state of Ghana’s bilateral relations with Canada and some of the key cooperation programmes between the two countries.

Ghana-Canada relations formally began more than 60 years ago and have been strengthened through various programmes across several sectors over the years. Describing the relationship between the two countries, High Commissioner Csaba indicated that Canada shares a bond with Ghana more than 100 years strong. “I am proud to say that Ghana is a strategic partner which Canada has supported over the years to increase prosperity, peace and development, in addition to enhancing the general wellbeing of Ghanaians.

Arriving in Ghana in December 2020, High Commissioner Csaba described it as a very difficult time for most countries around the world due to the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic. I sought to know what the direction of the mission under her leadership would be considering the challenging times in which we find ourselves.

I’m concentrating on inclusive economic growth—through our development and trade programs—and gender equality and women’s empowerment. My priorities are to continue to support Ghana’s inclusive economic recovery from the pandemic through our support to climate-smart agriculture, women’s economic empowerment, technical and vocational education and training, and access to finance and business training for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

We’ll also step up our efforts to increase our trade and investment ties in order to promote inclusive economic growth in Ghana that Canadian companies can benefit from as well,” she outlined.

The High Commissioner indicated that about 70 percent of Canada’s bilateral international assistance to Ghana supports inclusive economic growth in order to contribute to Ghana’s economic recovery, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and empower women and girls to play important roles in national development.

Within that broad framework, High Commissioner Csaba listed some special projects of importance. “Sustainable agriculture is a major focus. The CAD 135 million Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) programme is the cornerstone of our development cooperation at this time. In lock step with the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, MAG helps small scale farmers, particularly women, undertake climate-smart agriculture across the country,” she revealed.

According to the High Commissioner, the activities of the High Commission are governed by Canada’s feminist approach, which puts gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at the centre of all of Canada’s engagement overseas.

This includes Canada’s Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations. “Ghana contributes significantly to UN peace operations and we see Ghana as a key partner in this area. Through the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations, Canada is working with the Ghana Armed Forces to develop innovative approaches to increase the meaningful participation of Ghana’s uniformed women in peacekeeping.

Last week, the High Commissioner travelled to Kumasi to unveil a new Premium Foods Ltd processing factory, which was funded in part by Canada through a CAD 19.9 million initiative with the World Food Programme. During the same trip, the High Commissioner announced a CAD 10 million contribution to support hospitals and other medical facilities in the Ashanti region in collaboration with UNICEF. According to the High Commissioner, this initiative addresses specific challenges faced by pregnant women, nursing mothers and children as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ghanaian government has made a bold step to declare its intention to move Ghana beyond aid and has assured the creation of an enabling environment to increase trade with its partners and to encourage direct and indirect foreign investments into the country. I enquired if this is likely to affect development cooperation between Canada and Ghana.

Ghana has made a lot of progress in becoming a lower middle-income country. We know that Ghana Beyond Aid is a long-term priority of the government of Ghana, which we welcome and are happy to support to become a reality. In this regard, the path that we are choosing to take is to continue providing development assistance that helps ensure the economy is moving in the right direction, which will at the same time pave the way for us to increase our trade and investment relationship,” she emphasized.

In an attempt to increase the trade volume between the two countries, the High Commission has an active team of trade officers from Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) who, through a robust network and data system, connect Ghanaian stakeholders and businesses with Canadian companies, technologies, expertise, education and training opportunities. In other words, they match Ghanaian needs with Canadian solutions.

In addition, the Canada-Ghana Chamber of Commerce—with a membership of about 100 companies—promotes bilateral trade relations and investment between Canada and Ghana. The Chamber is the main conduit for sharing information to facilitate trade and business projects between Canada and Ghana.

Apart from the traditional areas of collaboration such as mining, infrastructure, energy and education, the High Commission is looking out for opportunities in new sectors including cleantech, ICT, sustainable agriculture and financial services. The High Commission’s commercial team is positioned to engage Canadian companies/investors to take advantage of opportunities.

The High Commissioner recently paid a courtesy call on Yofi Grant, CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), to discuss opportunity areas for growth in the commercial engagement between Canada and Ghana. Canada is one of the countries that the GIPC has been engaging with to promote investment and business partnerships. The High Commissioner shared that, in her view, “GIPC is doing a wonderful job working hard to facilitate foreign investment.”

High Commissioner Csaba previously worked at the Canadian mission in Addis Ababa as Minister-Counsellor responsible for Canada’s development programme with Ethiopia between 2015 and 2017. Before her posting to Ghana, she served as the Ambassador to Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro from 2017 to 2020.

In her concluding remarks, she expressed her delight to be in Ghana and indicated her preparedness to contribute her quota to strengthening the great relationship between Ghana and Canada.

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