Discussing Denmark-Ghana bilateral relations with Ambassador Degnol

Discussing Denmark-Ghana bilateral relations with Ambassador Degnol
Source: Ghana| Chris Koney
Date: 16-11-2017 Time: 02:11:45:pm

Denmark is a Scandinavian country comprising the Jutland Peninsula and numerous islands. It is linked to nearby Sweden via the Öresund bridge. Copenhagen, its capital, is home to royal palaces and the colorful Nyhavn harbor, plus the Tivoli Amusement Park and the iconic “Little Mermaid” statue. In more recent times, Denmark has developed a highly competitive service-based economy with high employment levels and a generous social security system.

Ghana and Denmark enjoy a longstanding cooperation now positioned as a unique platform for leveraging a new strategic partnership, which seeks to strengthen the political alliance and also benefit growth and employment in both countries. From Ghana’s independence in 1957, Denmark has been a trusted partner to Ghana – a partnership based on development cooperation in social and economic sectors, human rights, and good governance.

After Ghana achieved middle-income status in the year 2011, it became necessary for Denmark to review its partnership with Ghana. This was followed by a decision to gradually phase out development cooperation and replace it with a new partnership driven by trade, investments, political cooperation and research.

At the recently held “Ghana Beyond Aid” forum, the Embassy of Denmark in Ghana together with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in Ghana shared key lessons learnt from private sector development in Ghana. This was after the Vice-President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia had set the tone for the event. This was followed by the presentation of publications on results and lessons learnt by the three countries in private sector development in Ghana to the Ghanaian Vice President.

On Wednesday 25th October 2017, I was privileged to have an interaction with the Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Tove Degnbol, at the Embassy of Denmark located at North Ridge, in Accra. I would say she was very welcoming, frank and honest. It didn’t take a long time for me to discover her passion to work across the African continent to make a meaningful impact on lives

Happily married with three children, Mrs Degnbol presented a background to the existing partnership between Denmark and Ghana. “Danida has supported numerous individual partnerships between private Danish and Ghanaian companies. From 2003, Danida’s support to Ghana’s private sector gradually evolved from individual projects to broader programme support.

"We have contributed to strengthening the capacity of the private sector to do business advocacy, to request law reforms among others from government and have also been in the forefront of supporting skills development and rural finance. We have remained focused and committed to this partnership, however, we are very particular about what our funds are used for. We have always ensured it goes into projects it is intended for and not otherwise”, she said.

On the renewed partnership, Ambassador Degnbol indicated that replacing development cooperation with commercial cooperation is not because Denmark does not believe in development cooperation or think there is too much corruption as some people might assume. Rather, development cooperation is more relevant in poorer countries such as South Sudan, Mali and Burkina Faso. Unlike these countries, Ghana has achieved a lot of progress and moved on from being a poor country.

“Our decision now to move from development cooperation to commercial cooperation is solely based on the level of development in Ghana. At the moment, there are much more resources in Ghana and therefore our development cooperation is much less needed. When you look at the total figures for Ghana, the total development cooperation to Ghana will amount to just about 1 or 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product.

"This is not a significant source of income in the society as such. But there certainly will be particular sectors that depend on development cooperation and we are trying to do the phasing out in a responsible manner. But overall, there are many resources in the Ghanaian society and what is required is prioritizing and also looking at new ways of generating an increased domestic revenue”, she added.          

As Denmark looks forward to moving its relationship with Ghana from aid to trade by the year 2020, Ambassador Degnbol lauded the Ghanaian government for certain policies it has implemented recently to create a convenient atmosphere for businesses to thrive and also position the private sector as an engine of growth.

According to her, “before we phase out our development cooperation by 2020, we will commit some of our funds to strengthening government tax systems to enable the country to generate funds from taxes and customs.  We are very encouraged by the government’s initiative to have paperless operations at the Tema port.

"We have been told by Danish companies how this has made a major difference in the number of processing days and reduced the requests for payment of illegal fees. We believe that this will pave the way for the generation of more funds for the government. There are a lot of encouraging things when we look at the business environment and digitization is one major and bold step”.      

Denmark pursues its zero-tolerance on corruption in policy and practice in Ghana. The Danish Anti-Corruption network for private companies was launched by the Danish embassy in Accra in the early part of the year and it supplements several other Danish anti-corruption efforts over the years. For several years, Denmark has supported the fight against corruption through the Good Governance Programme. In Ghana, Denmark has primarily given broader support to institutions such as the courts and human rights institutions as well as other organizations, including the GII, the Ghanaian chapter of Transparency International for training and advocacy. According to Ambassador Degnbol, whenever there is a suspicion of corruption, a detailed investigation into the matter is made and in instances of misappropriation of funds for a project, the Embassy goes the extra mile to ensure those funds are retrieved.    

At the invitation of His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Denmark’s Head of State, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, will be visiting Ghana from 23th to 24th November 2017 on an official state visit. Ahead of this all-important visit, the Danish government is hosting selected Ghanaian journalists on a press trip to Denmark from October 30 to November 2, 2017. This will include a unique opportunity for a press conference with Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II.

Commenting on the visit, Ambassador Degnbol said, “this is a very important visit for us and it will be great to have Her Majesty the Queen in Ghana. It will be a way to confirm the very good and long-lasting relationship between Ghana and Denmark as well as reaffirming our willingness to continue our cooperation now based on trade and investments.

"The visit also puts Ghana in the spotlight and brings it to the attention of Danish companies and investors as well as opening avenues for possible partnerships to lead to economic development. As we transition from aid to trade, this visit becomes very significant to pave the way for Danish companies to work with Ghanaian companies”.  

The interaction ended with the challenges faced by the Embassy of Denmark in Ghana in its operations.

“Interestingly, it is rather quite easy to work in Ghana as we get access to high-level decision makers and this relates to all the years we have been doing development cooperation. We have also built an extensive network within the private sector and civil society organizations. Our years of research in several fields have brought us into contact with the major think-tanks and the general conditions in Ghana have made it possible for our smooth operations.

"There are times when we need to come to the aid of Danish companies experiencing challenges which includes acquisition of land amongst other sensitive issues. We are usually able to assist them either directly or we refer them to the right agencies or organizations where they can get expert advice to address or mitigate the challenges they encounter”, she indicated.

  

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