Tuesday, September 21 marked the 57th independence anniversary of the Republic of Malta. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the High Commission of Malta in Accra had to limit the celebration to an online campaign and key stakeholder engagement in remembrance of the day the country gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
I was privileged to have received an invitation from Jean Claude Galea Mallia, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Malta to the High Commission for a conversation on the independence celebration and the state of bilateral relations between Ghana and Malta.
Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Italy and the North African coast. It’s a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British. It has numerous fortresses, megalithic temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to about 4000 B.C.
Diplomatic relations between Malta and Ghana date back to 1974 when the two countries first established contact. Since the last couple of years, relations between the two countries have flourished with two consecutive state visits, one in 2017 and the other one in 2019, which were followed by the official opening of the High Commission of Malta in Accra.
Speaking on the state of the bilateral relations between the two countries, High Commissioner Mallia said: “even though COVID-19 still affects movement between the two countries, efforts are still being made on both sides to keep the momentum going. We are focused on people-to-people exchanges, sharing of knowledge and ideas leading to growth and innovation. I intend to continue working towards raising awareness about the opportunities for trade and investment that exist in both countries and between the respective regions. We hope to witness more collaborations across all fields in the coming years.”
The High Commission of Malta in Ghana is Malta’s first diplomatic mission in Sub-Saharan Africa and has been very instrumental in furthering Malta’s foreign policy agenda with Ghana. As Malta’s first Head of Mission in Ghana, High Commissioner Galea Mallia spoke about the direction of the mission under his leadership.
“One of my main objectives is to build a solid foundation as well as a forward-looking framework for bilateral relations between Malta and Ghana. Solid political foundations are indispensable and genuine cooperation is required to formalise each other’s interests in collaborating. From 2019, the High Commission assisted with several high-level exchanges, including reciprocal state visits. These high-level visits led to the signing of several Memoranda and Agreements between the two governments and respective entities, with the intention of establishing a compact legal framework for closer cooperation,” he revealed.
He added that such agreements are necessary not only to advance, but also to protect mutual interests by the setting up of common requirements and standards such as the agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation (DTA), which was signed in 2019. Malta has completed internal procedures for the implementation of the Double Taxation Agreement and is waiting for its ratification by Ghana. He is optimistic the entry into force of the DTA will further improve the business and investment climate between the two countries.
The High Commissioner highlighted the need for increased capacity in standardization, which he believes will raise the quality, reliability, and market-accessibility of goods made in Ghana. He stated that “by sharing best-practices, Malta may assist Ghanaian manufacturing companies with getting the necessary GMP certification for their products to be exported to new markets in Europe.
Such cooperation is active in niche sectors such as – healthcare, medicines, and aquaculture. Standardization is also key for the effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Common standards will boost inter and intra-regional trade, lower trade costs and lead to streamlined border procedures. These are crucial to reap the full benefits of the continental free trade area.”
The mandate of the High Commission is in line with the Maltese Government’s renewed strategy for Africa, which highlights the importance of increasing trade, youth exchanges, education, training, and capacity building. The High Commissioner considers such exchanges to be very important for sustainable development and growth, and very much in line with the government of Ghana’s agenda for ‘Ghana beyond Aid’.
In the area of education, a number of scholarships and internships are offered for Ghanaian students in various fields – such as diplomacy, maritime law and applied sciences in Malta. These opportunities are being offered by several Maltese institutions including the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the University of Malta, the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC), the Institute for Maritime Law (IMLI) and the Malta Medicines Authority (MMA).
High Commissioner Galea Mallia lauded the Ghanaian government’s bold agenda to move Ghana beyond aid. “Having lived in Ghana for over a decade has enabled me to truly appreciate Ghana’s attributes and potential. Both Malta and Ghana rely heavily on foreign trade, commercial partnerships and share a record of having fast-growing economies in their respective regions. With its natural and human resources, political stability and sound economic policies, Ghana has the potential to grow further and attract investment that is needed for the country to industrialise and transform itself to an export-driven economy,” he added.
In order to achieve a Ghana beyond aid, there is a general drive towards commercial cooperation. According to the Maltese High Commissioner, “key commercial sectors of mutual interest to Malta and Ghana include health and pharmaceuticals, education, training and capacity building, digitization, aquaculture and others. The Maltese private sector has a significant focus on industries that are vital to the growth, development, and self-sufficiency of Ghana. By acquiring more knowledge and best practices in these sectors, Ghana may continue to establish itself as a solid economic driver and role model in the West African sub-region.”
On bilateral trade between Ghana – Malta, the High Commissioner recalled successful ventures of Maltese companies in Ghana. “We have witnessed several successful endeavors of Maltese companies in Ghana and I hope these success stories will motivate more Maltese and Ghanaian entrepreneurs to trade and partner where possible. State investment promotion agencies, such as TradeMalta and GIPC, contributed significantly towards providing guidance and facilitating contacts that lead to these successful operations”, he emphasized.
Through various initiatives, the High Commission compliments the efforts of investment promotion agencies by facilitating interactions between business incubators and start-ups, while providing them with sound advice and recommendations to help them understand the respective business environment.
With Ghana’s economic credentials and the country’s positioning within the African Free Trade Area as host of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Maltese companies are viewing Ghana as an obvious entry point to access other markets in Africa. On the other hand, Maltacould be an access point to larger markets in the Europe for Ghanaian companies.
His Excellency Jean Claude Galea Mallia is optimistic the work of the High Commission will lead to the deepening of relations between Malta and Ghana. “The opportunities for cooperation are endless and I hope that we will continue building on the synergy we have so far. It is only through such connections that misconceptions about each other can be dealt with.
We will continue to encourage the Maltese private sector to continue looking at Ghana as a viable destination for investment in Africa and we will continue to push key exchanges that will help Ghana move closer towards achieving its development goals,” he concluded.