Ecobank to drive Ghana-China trade past US$10bn

Joana Mensah, Ag. Managing Director, Ecobank

The local arm of Pan-African financial services provider Ecobank is well-positioned to deepen trade between Ghana and China and take it well beyond the US$10billion recorded in 2022, its Acting Managing Director, Joana Mensah, has said.

Speaking at an event in Accra dubbed Ecobank China Trade Forum, she touted the bank’s reach, product offerings and establishment of a dedicated China Desk in 2011 as contributory factors to quadrupling the trade value between both countries from US$2.5billion a decade ago.

“The Ecobank China Desk was born out of a collaboration with the Bank of China and marked a pioneering endeavour. Since its inception, the desk has been strategically positioned to provide substantial business support to facilitate trade for Chinese enterprises in Ghana and across the continent by surmounting the challenges of language and cultural barriers, and the results are there to see,” she explained, pointing to the bank’s presence across 35 African countries as well as a banking licence in Paris and international offices in London, Dubai and Beijing.

At the meeting, which brought together stakeholders from the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment and real estate and heavy industry, among others, the Ecobank MD also argued that the lender’s track record and recent performances should provide assurances about its ability to be the go-to facilitator of Sino-Ghana trade.

Ecobank closed 2022 as the country’s biggest bank across several metrics, and in the first nine months of the year maintained top-spot in share of industry deposits – 13.1 percent; share of industry advances – 15.2 percent; share of industry total assets – 12.4 percent; and share of industry shareholders’ equity – 12.6 percent.

“Our record speaks for itself; and with this, we can offer reassurance to our clients that we can meet their trade financing needs,” the MD said.

Describing Ecobank as “a beacon of prosperity in Africa over the years”, President – Ghana Association of Chinese Societies and Ghana Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tang Hong, said the bank offers an ideal platform for a mutually beneficial partnership.

“The Chinese business committee is ready to lead the quest to unlock new paths for economic growth, foster innovation and prepare Ghana toward a future defined by prosperity and inclusivity in a spirit of mutual benefit. Chinese businesses in Ghana will serve as the catalyst for deeper partnerships between the two countries,” he added.

He charged the bank and business persons present to stay abreast with emerging technologies and their implications for business operations and economic growth.

“We can see how quickly technology has opened the door and is connecting people from remote communities and transforming businesses. Innovative technologies have provided new opportunities for women, vulnerable groups and young people,” he noted.

Trade trend

While China has come under criticism from some quarters for its seemingly lopsided trade with Africa – as its exports have far exceeded imports, the Asian country has announced a raft of initiatives to boost imports from the continent to over US$300billion by 2035.

Over the last two decades, China-Africa trade reached a record US$254billion in 2021. However, although US$148billion worth of Chinese goods were exported to Africa that year, China’s imports from the region stood at 71 percent (US$106billion) – most of which were raw materials.

Closer to home, as of June 2023, China’s exports to Ghana and imports from Ghana amounted to US$747million and US$183million respectively, as reported by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). This resulted in a positive trade balance of US$563million for the Asian giant.

During the same period, China’s primary exports to Ghana included coated flat-rolled iron (US$32.4million), pesticides (US$29.5million), rubber footwear (US$17.6million), large construction vehicles (US$15.4million), and motorcycles and bicycles (US$14.8million).

The corresponding top imports from Ghana during the same period were crude petroleum (US$159million), manganese ore (US$49.7million), sawn wood (US$1.44million), cocoa paste (US$1.16million) and rough wood (US$1.09million).

However, year-on-year comparisons revealed a decline in China’s exports by US$158million (-17.5 percent), dropping from US$905million to US$747million between the midway point of 2022 and 2023 respectively. Similarly, imports also experienced a decrease of US$123 (-40.2 percent), falling from US$307million to US$183million during the same period.

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