Africa Confidential, a Pan-African news magazine, is reporting that it has uncovered how Bolloré Africa Logistics won the right to build and run the new container port of Tema.

The deal, which the magazine described as “lifeline” was “not only for Ghana but for landlocked Burkina Faso and Mali, through their 70% owned joint venture with the Ghana government, Meridian Port Services (MPS).”

“It is a tale of intrigue based on the Westerners’ ‘lack of transparency and ethical discipline’, according to the secret ministerial report drafted by Ghanaian officials,” which the magazine said it has seen and confirmed from its own research.

According to Africa Confidential, “The terms of the agreements between MPS and the state are so tilted against Ghana’s interests, concluded the report, delivered to ministers in February 2018, they should be renegotiated immediately. Yet the much-criticised contracts are still unchanged.

The French ports-to-media conglomerate partnered by the Danish shipping giant Maersk’s ports arm, APM Terminals, opened a state-of-the-art container terminal at the Tema harboured port in July 2019, the Africa Confidential reported.

It said the latest link in a chain of 18 West African container terminals run by the French billionaire and his partners.

The bi-weekly newsletter said Ghana’s ministerial investigation and its research show “how Bolloré and his foreign partners persuaded then-President John Dramani Mahama to award MPS a new container terminal contract in secret, with no tender or bids, in 2014, violating procurement laws; 

• overstated the planned investment by a factor of two which won tax holidays worth $832 million from an unwitting parliament; 

• surreptitiously cut Ghana’s equity in MPS to 15% after first agreeing to 30%; 

• persuaded the government to allow it a monopoly on handling containers, putting thousands of jobs at other port concerns at risk and driving up prices, and to set tariffs; 

• reduced the fees payable to the government over the life of the concession by $4.1 billion (see bar chart). 

It said the terms under which MPS operates the new terminal were “‘gravely detrimental to the government and people of Ghana.’ They do ‘not reflect honest business ethics between parties.'”

According to Africa Confidential, the history of those relations show ‘serious ethical professional deficiencies’ with the result that ‘the engagements have to be carefully and deliberately reviewed’.

It said President Nana Akufo-Addo inherited the situation when he won the 2016 election and “Instead of blaming the scandal on his predecessor he has chosen to leave the contracts as they stand while friends and officials of his New Patriotic Party (NPP) take up posts with MPS.”

The newsletter said although Akufo-Addo faced Mahama in December 2020’s general election, “the topic of the Tema deal did not come up in campaigning.”

“The two men appeared to observe a pact of silence on this and several other instances of alleged bad governance and corruption. Akufo-Addo narrowly won the election (AC Vol 61 No 25). This is the story of how the deal took shape, and how a fightback within the Transport Ministry and the NPP against the MPS deal was finally quashed, and the legendary ability of Vincent Bolloré to accommodate political change asserted itself,” it added.

Read the full report below.