State Visit by President Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana
Bern, 28.02.2020 - Official address by President Simonetta Sommaruga to mark the State Visit by President Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana
Check against delivery
Fellow members of the Federal Council
Ladies and gentlemen
This state visit is a historic moment for Switzerland. But it is also a logical step. This visit is historic because it is only the third ever from a country south of the Sahara – and the first since Ghana obtained its independence in 1957.
At the same time, today is the logical consequence of a lengthy development, because relations between Switzerland and Ghana have for decades been characterised by mutual respect.
We will have an opportunity to appreciate our cultural exchanges tomorrow when we preview an exhibition of El Anatsui’s work at Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts. And indeed there is currently a Swiss documentary showing in our cinemas about Ghana’s fascinating music scene.
The strongest ties between our two countries are the shared values with regard to democracy and the rule of law, and our commitment to stability and peace on the world stage.
Both states help to end conflict through international cooperation.
Switzerland is known for its humanitarian tradition and its good offices;
Ghana is an influential member of the African Union. Ghana’s participation in UN peacekeeping measures is also extremely impressive. Switzerland supports these efforts through the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra since 2006.
Not every connection between our two countries can be deduced at first glance. Take the Goldvreneli and chocolate coins! Both products that every child here grows up with, and which are considered typically Swiss.
But neither would exist without gold and cocoa, which we import on a large scale from Ghana.
It is quite simple: we need the raw materials and you supply them. The resulting trade and business should benefit both countries; this principle is part of mutual respect. Gold and cocoa create work and wealth in both countries.
But it also brings with it a responsibility that both countries bear.
In Switzerland, the public and Parliament conduct heated debates about how companies here behave abroad, whether they take sufficient consideration of social, ecological and economic aspects in their business dealings.
Human rights are always an important consideration in economic development. Switzerland and Ghana can look back on excellent cooperation in this respect. Ghana was the first African country to commit itself to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights – in 2014 when Switzerland first chaired this initiative. The aim is for states, companies and NGOs to commit themselves to ensuring that human rights are actually respected in mining and in oil and gas fields.
And what can we target at today’s talks during this historic state visit?
I would like to see us discuss our joint economic relations in a spirit of partnership, and look concretely at where we can make further improvements. Ghana is already Switzerland's second most important trading partner in Africa. It is obvious that Ghana is increasingly striving to process raw materials in addition to extracting them. That way more added value remains in the country, which is a very understandable desire.
For its part, Switzerland would like to support broader economic exchanges. Ghana is one of our few partner countries in the field of economic development cooperation.
This programme is designed to promote sustainable growth in middle-income countries. Switzerland supports Ghana's public institutions in their efforts to provide efficient services, and it participates in the efforts of the private sector to diversify the economy.
One obvious area in which a closer exchange would be beneficial is environmental and climate protection.
Our countries are both particularly affected by climate change. Ghana's coasts are threatened by hurricanes and rising sea levels. Switzerland’s glaciers are melting, and temperatures here are rising at twice the global average.
It is of great importance to us to work closely with Ghana in implementing the Paris Agreement. We are also keen to explore ways of strengthening export controls on electronic waste under the Basel Convention.
Ghana and Switzerland are both committed to environmental policy and promoting peace, we have a large arsenal of common values, thriving cultural exchanges and flourishing economic contacts.
And there are symbolic ties such as the Goldvreneli and chocolate coins. It is also worth recalling that the World Wide Web was developed at CERN in Geneva – and that Ghana was the first African country to be connected to the Internet!
In short, there is great potential for future cooperation. And it is high time for this state visit! Mr President, the Federal Council in corpore wishes you and your delegation a very warm welcome to Switzerland!
Address for enquiries
Communication DETEC, +41 58 462 55 11
General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC