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AMCHAM holds farewell luncheon for Robert Jackson

By: Charles Benoni Okine
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Mr Robert Jackson
Mr Robert Jackson

The American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Ghana has hosted a farewell luncheon for the outgoing American Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Jackson.

Addressing the members of the Chamber, he said Ghana is taking greater advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the outgoing American Ambassador to Ghana.

“Ghanaian non-oil exports to the United States (US) doubled in 2017.  We saw continued growth in apparel, as well as new products such as frozen orange juice and dried mango. Ghana’s apparel exports increased from approximately $500,000 in 2010 to $8.5 million in 2017. That number is expected to double again over the next two years,” he stated.

He said US exports to Ghana also increased last year to $885.7 million, reversing a two-year decline and maintaining “our positive trade balance”. 

Mr Jackson, who is scheduled to leave the country at the end of July after a successful three-year stint, said: “This is good news. But the really exciting story in trade is what has happened with Ghana’s exports to the US during my tenure.”

 Diversifying the economy
The outgoing ambassador said diversifying the country’s exports beyond cocoa, gold and oil was good for Ghana. 

“Developing the manufacturing sector is good for Ghana. In fact, those two things are essential for Ghana; and what’s good for Ghana is also good for the US. An economically independent Ghana that is thriving and creating new jobs for its citizens maintains regional stability and is in America’s national security interest,” he noted.

Bilateral trade
Moving forward, Mr Jackson expressed confidence that the bilateral trade and investment between the two countries would continue to flourish. 

“Since I arrived in Accra in January 2016, 10 new American companies have launched businesses here, and I know more are coming soon,” he stressed.

Mr Jackson also noted that: “We are also excited about potential Ghanaian investments into America. In June 2017, eight Ghanaian businesses traveled to the US for the Select USA Summit, the highest profile event to promote foreign direct investments in the US.” 

According to him, that was not just the first time a delegation from Ghana attended the summit but it was the first time a delegation from Africa attended it.  

Mr Jackson said much as a lot had been done over the past years, there was so much more work to be done and so many more achievements to look forward to in the coming months.
 
Other project support
Mr Jackson said “Alongside education, we’ve worked with the government to invest in the health of Ghanaians, with significant results.  Malaria deaths declined 52 percent between 2016 and 2017.  Under-five mortality and neonatal mortality are also on the decline.”

He said for instance that: “In the north, where most of our assistance is targeted, skilled delivery has increased from 36 to 59 percent.  Last year I participated in inaugurating the first phase of the Greater Accra Regional Hospital at Ridge.  This 420-bed expansion project, financed by the Government of Ghana with a credit facility from U.S. ExImBank and HSBC, provides a thoroughly modern health facility in the heart of Accra.”  Mr Jackson said the US is “putting our efforts behind rural health facilities, too: USAID has supported the construction and delivery of eight Community-based Health Planning and Services compounds, with 18 more currently under construction.  We have also supported pre-service training for more than 10,000 health workers.”

 “Through ongoing work at the national, regional and district levels, we’re strengthened Ghana’s capacity to respond to Ebola, AIDS, and other pandemics focused both on human health and preventing zoonotic disease.  One of the most interesting sites I’ve visited during my time here is the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary in the Brong-Ahafo Region, home to our PREDICT project,” he said.

Mr Jackson said: “The local Mona monkeys are revered, and often enter people’s homes.  By conducting disease surveillance on the monkeys, scientists are strengthening Ghana’s biosecurity and its national surveillance and laboratory systems.  Another favorite project is the Digni-Loo.  USAID has partnered with private sector innovators to design an affordable, hygienic, easy-to-install and durable household latrine.  To date, 539 Digni-Loos have been installed in rural Ghana.  With a healthy, educated population, Ghana’s potential is limitless”.
 
General elections
On the issue of the 2016 elections, Mr Jackson said “we can all be proud of the role we played in the 2016 elections.  The U.S. government, mostly through USAID, provided approximately $7.3 million for nonpartisan, technical assistance for the elections”.

According to him:  “Our investments in the Electoral Commission, the National Peace Council, civil society efforts, and observer missions resulted in the best possible return on investment:  a peaceful, transparent election that made Ghanaians proud and set this country apart from many other African nations;  Perhaps most importantly, a $2 million USAID grant enabled the Centre for Democratic Development — an independent Ghanaian NGO — to deploy observers to 7,000 of the 29,000 polling stations to conduct a parallel vote tabulation;  Using data gathered from these observers they were able to independently verify the officially declared results”.

AMCHAM gratitude
The President of AMCHAM, Mr Joe Mensah, described the relationship between the chamber and the American embassy as fruitful and more cordial, particularly during the tenure of Mr Jackson; and expressed the hope that his successor would also notice the value of AMCHAM to raise the bar even higher in the best interest of Ghanaian and American businesses.