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Ghanaian ambassador underscores importance of people-to-people exchanges in advancing bilateral ties
ChinAfrica talks with Ghanaian Ambassador to China Edward Boateng in Beijing on the development of China-Ghana bilateral ties
 VOL.12 July ·2020-06-29
A sttaff worker unloads medical supplies from China for 18 African countries at the Kotota International Airport in Accra, capital of Ghana, on April 6 (XINHUA)

July 5 marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Ghana. Over the past six decades, China-Ghana relations have been strengthened gradually, with cooperative achievements being made in various fields, especially under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

In 2019, China became Ghana's biggest source of inbound visitors, with economic and cultural relations on the rise. ChinAfrica sat down with Ghanaian Ambassador to China Edward Boateng in Beijing, discussing the development of the bilateral ties. Edited excerpts of the interview follow:

ChinAfrica: What do you think have been the highlights of the China-Ghana relations over the past decades? How do you see the future development of the bilateral ties?

Edward Boateng: Sixty years of diplomatic relations between China and Ghana have seen a lot of positives. Ghana was the second country in Sub-Sharan Africa to establish diplomatic relations with China.

There has been a lot of cultural cooperation. Today, we have two Confucius Institutes in Ghana. We have some Chinese students studying English and African culture in Ghana, and the number of Ghanaians studying in China is the highest in Africa. We have about 6,750 students studying all disciplines and also have sports exchange and people-to-people exchange at children's level. In 2018, we had 25 Ghanaian children visiting China for the first time, and we received a lot of Chinese children in our embassy.

Looking ahead, I think it is the time now for Africa and China to cooperate more, or Ghana and China to cooperate more, because Ghana has the same ambitions as China.

Over the last 40 years, China has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty. It is also our wish to lift all our people out of poverty. And it is something we are aggressively pursuing under our Ghana Beyond Aid vision. We would like to work with China in terms of infrastructure development, people-to-people development, and agricultural development.

Edward Boateng, Ghanaian Ambassador to China (Zhang Wei)

What should be the focus of China-Ghana cooperation in 2020?

This year, the focus should be more on people development, taking care of people, ensuring that we survive. That is the message from Ghana's president.

We can rebuild economies, but we cannot bring people back from the dead. As the government work report delivered by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Third Session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing said, what is the most important is about survival. I think that was impactful.

The most important thing is that we should be able to keep our citizenry alive. If the people recover from the pandemic and are alive, our recovery process will start. That was the message I got from my president, the same with the government work report of China, to a large extent. The Chinese premier announced that China has set no specific economic growth target for 2020, which means their focus is on people.

In your opinion, what can China and Ghana do in order to strengthen cooperation in the public health area to better cope with emergencies such as COVID-19?

COVID-19 has been a major disruptor to the politics and economic, cultural and sporting activities of the world. But COVID-19 also provides an opportunity for countries like Ghana and China to work together to make the world a kind and gentler place for future generations.

It is imperative for all of us to look at what is the best way to manage some of these public health challenges that we face. It is important for us to strengthen international organizations, like the World Health Organization, so that they can be a major force in advising all of us and guiding us against such pandemics in the future. Preventing pandemics totally may not be possible, but we can manage it.

Another challenge shown up by the pandemic is the area of food security. The world needs to have sufficient food and water supply, because in a lot of countries we saw people rushing to shops [to stockpile], creating a shortage of food and products. It shouldn't be like that.

COVID-19 has also brought to the fore the issues of climate change and environmental concerns. These are issues we believe that we, as a country, can cooperate with China to ensure that the world becomes a better and greener place.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the FOCAC. How can China-Africa relations be further consolidated under the framework?

I think FOCAC has come a long way. A lot of projects under FOCAC 2018 have been rolled out. Obviously, COVID-19 is not going to stop the momentum, but it may slow down the process of these projects. In the next 10 years, I'd like to see a lot of improvement in the relationship between Africa and China.

I hope more cross-cultural cooperation can be carried out. There is indeed a lot of exchanges at the top [level], but not too much among the people of Africa and China. We need to get to know each other a bit more [at people level].

So in the next 10 years, we can always build bridges, we can always build hospitals, but we can do it better if we understand each other better and appreciate each other's culture. We can do it better if our children start playing together at an early [age]. I think Africa and China, Ghanaians and Chinese, need to know each other better. The relationship has to be deepened at the people-to-people and cultural level, and I don't think we have done well enough [in this regard]. At the political level the cooperation is fantastic, [but] at a people to people level it is weak. We need to do more.

China is expected to eradicate poverty this year. What can Ghana and China do to promote the cooperation in the poverty-relief area?

I think to lift 800 million people out of poverty is a remarkable achievement. I have travelled around China, and I am very impressed. People live well. We want to do the same thing. Ghana's president has declared a Ghana Beyond Aid program, which means that all Ghanaians, regardless of age, should have a decent livelihood.

For that [to happen], we will continue to send our experts to China, observing what China is doing, so that we can cooperate. Ghana doesn't have many people, so if we put our minds to it, in a few years we would be able to lift all our people in poverty out of the circumstances. In terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Ghana is one of the countries that are able to meet almost all the targets. We are pretty much on course.

(Print Edition Title: Broadening Exchanges)

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