A conversation with Czech deputy minister of defence for industrial cooperation

Dr. Tomas Kopecny

Chris Koney’s column

Every nation faces threats, they can be social, such as aggression from a neighbouring country, infiltration from a terrorist group or global economic trends that compromise the nation’s welfare. In other cases, threats can be natural, such as hurricanes or viral pandemics. Any threat challenges a nation’s power and disrupts its well-being.

All countries appoint people to be in charge of their national security and are responsible for safeguarding the country against such threats. National security protects not only citizens but also provides economic stability of national institutions. For this reason, national defence has been a guiding principle of almost all governments to ensure their countries enjoy the needed peace and stability for growth.

A week ago, I was invited by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ghana to a dinner event at the Marriot Hotel in Accra in honor of Dr. Tomas Kopecny, the Deputy Minister for Defence for Industrial Cooperation of the Czech Republic. He was visiting Ghana with a team of industry experts as part of a West African working tour.

I was privileged to have a conversation with the Czech Minister on the bilateral relations with Ghana as well as efforts by the Czech government aimed at maintaining the peace and stability within the West African sub region, especially in Sahel. The recent rise in violence, conflict, drug trafficking, piracy, extremism and other emerging threats have sparked concerns over future development within the sub region.

According to Dr. Tomas Kopecny, West Africa is making impressive progress in economic growth, democratization and regional cooperation. In spite of the pockets of violence and conflict across the continent, he indicated that there has been an impressive and improved effort at conflict prevention which has led to overall stability.

Dr. Kopecny was in Ghana four years ago as part of a delegation responsible for the defence industry and indicated that the sector has since expanded tremendously especially in defence and security. The sub region according to him has also changed significantly in several ways including cooperation and partnership among key players.

Giving the motive for his trip to Ghana, he highlighted key lessons he has learnt leading delegations to Africa for the last seven years on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. He revealed that Ghana remains an important partner to the Czech Republic with a legacy of projects from Ghana’s independence in 1957.

“In addition to a growing and healthy relationship between Ghana and the Czech Republic, there has been some important projects between the two countries and cooperation at the highest governmental level. I can easily mention the technical cooperation between both countries over the years. We are here to sign a memorandum of understanding to explore avenues to deepen our relationship and discuss new possibilities to enable us to share information, exchange technology and work towards peace and stability across the sub region,” he emphasized.

Czech Republic has a long history in the area of military pilot training provided for a wide range of countries. Five years ago, selected Ghanaian pilots were trained in the Czech Republic. In addition, there were modernization and overhaul of the MI – 17 helicopters done by a Czech company.

Dr. Kopecny spoke about new areas of possible partnership between Ghana and Czech Republic being discussed with the government of Ghana which will include equipping and training the security forces for Ghana’s Ministry of Interior.

“This is a project of great importance to both countries as it shows that we are partners that see eye to eye. We are talking about a substantial number of police officers and Special Forces to be provided with first class assault rifles from Česká zbrojovka, one of the three biggest manufactures of assault rifles and pistols in the world” he added.

The Czech government has expressed interest in developing the airport capacity of Ghana to a higher level which will take the form of an investment initiative. In addition to bringing more jobs to Ghana, this project will also position Ghana as a regional hub for airport services. There will also be training for Special Forces based on Czech’s experience over the last two decades in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another sector of interest mentioned by Dr. Kopecny is the exploration of mineral resources. “This is part of the agenda for my delegation and we have a member of the team very experienced in mining. I can say on authority that we have the expertise in this area in terms of security which will be of great importance to Ghana at the moment. We will be engaging further with all key stakeholders to see how we get into the space to deliver the best of services”, he revealed.

On the future prospects of Ghana – Czech relationship in the area of defence, Dr. Kopecny said: “I wish to state categorically that our vision is to be one of the strongest partners of Ghana in terms of technical expertise. At the moment we are working keenly with all our Czech companies to grow the relationship and also achieve our goal for mutual benefits.”

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