Episode 1 - Emerging Business Opportunities and Strategic Alliances
Nadia: Welcome to our first episodes from the series of insights, Malta and Ghana were together with my colleague, Dr Robert Lepre, CSR specialists and our resident guests. Mr. Christopher Busuttil-Delbridge, who is Evolve’s managing director and our esteemed guests, Excellency, Merci Bampo Addo and His Excellency Jean Claude Galea Mallia.
We're going to discuss business opportunities and strategic alliances between the two countries. Thank you for being with us today. And thank you for accepting our invitation.
HE Addo: Thank you.
Nadia: Thank you all.
HE Addo: We are honoured to be here.
Nadia: Thank you very much. And so perhaps we start with a first question for Your Excellency, Merci Bampo Addo regarding the COVID, obviously, COVID-19 is a pandemic, it has hit not only Ghana and Malta, but the rest of the world. We're all going through it and we're still going through it in different ways, and means, how does this has affected Ghana's economy, perhaps and in which ways and is this potentially could be a challenge or an opportunity for Ghana and more than to continue the relationship and the business opportunities which we have already initiated in the past months?
HE Addo: Yes, the climate pandemic has affected the whole world. And when it comes to national economies, even developed countries are suffocating under the strangulation of COVID. So when you come to Ghana, all sectors of the economy have been impacted. And quite severely. When you talk about banking and finance, there are challenges, trade and commerce challenges. When you go into the creative arts, agriculture, every sector, both formal and informal, have felt the impact of COVID.
If I give an example of agriculture, government is really pushing agriculture now. Both for internal consumption, job creation, and then for exports. So with a lockdown, closure of borders, now, those who are exporting, they are crying, because they see their products getting missed, you know, going bad. In every sector, you can tell so many harrowing stories about how COVID is impacting. But then they also interesting stories, in the sense that when you go to industry, for example, you get businesses responding positively helping government to work to contain the COVID pandemic.
Government and textile industries, then they reorganize themselves to start sewing and supplying facemask. It is a good response. It's in the economic sector. So we've had it both ways, the impact has been quite severe, you know, but people are also rising up within the economy, to make sure that we are not unduly overwhelmed, and that at the end of it, something can be salvaged, you know, from the economy.
But as far as Ghana and Malta relationship is concerned, I see just a temporary interruption. I said temporary, because the relationship is based on solid pillars. We have signed agreements and memoranda of understanding on a number of areas of interest. And these agreements enable us to define the parameters within which the two countries are going to work. So I don't think COVID is going to undermine the relationship. It has just put it on hold for some time, some businesses have been working online, communicating online. So they haven't stopped completely. But when it comes to personnel interaction, because when you are nurturing a relationship, person to person, you know, warm feelings, smiles and that all count. Those paths have been put on hold. But I don't think quality is going to undermine the relationship that will have started naturally, between Ghana and Malta. I don't think so.
Nadia: I think I do agree with you, Your Excellency, I think that was the main reason as well, why we've established this platform to ensure that we continue communicating and engaging the different businesses from different countries to and despite the difficulty of meeting face to face. But there is an online platform to make this a possibility. Your Excellency Jean Claude. I know you've worked quite a lot to translate the, all the political ties into the private sector, and ensure that you nurture and you bring and you develop different opportunities for both countries. And for that we really appreciate we really appreciate your efforts a great deal. So from your aspects you as you're definitely you're sitting in Ghana, what how were what was the experience so far? Let's start from there?
HE Galea Mallia: Well, first of all, the success story is not only from our mission, or our ministry, it is based on collaboration with our colleagues in Ghana, the foreign ministry in Ghana, and also my dear colleague, Her Excellency, HE Merci Bambo Addo, I've known her for a couple of years, even before I was I took the post of High Commissioner. So we've been working together for a very long time.
Having said that, if I may continue to build on what Her Excellency just mentioned, apart from the obvious disruptions and trade lines etc. on the socialized people. Obviously, there is the question of liquidity. If the if the country can actually maintain its consumption patterns, because that would obviously affect the GDP and the growth of other businesses in various sectors. So that's something which we will have to look at a later stage when we actually see the figures. Obviously, it is a bit more critical this year for Ghana for the simple reason it is also an election year. So there's that concept of campaigning while find the fighting the pandemic, which becomes very critical. And an election is not just a question of who wins, it's a question of moving to the next step. So it's not a question of political desires, but rather of having a president for after the election date. So that's very critical.
Obviously, we've had a number of shortfalls in tax revenues. And Ghana being an oil dependent country, the sharp decline in prices has affected it affected fiscal revenues, but also its foreign exchange. So that's also something very important to mention.
In hindsight, the economic crisis have also created opportunities, as my colleague also mentioned, and usually when there's an economic crisis, people turn away from currencies and turn to gold. Ghana is the number one exporter of gold in Africa and top 10 in the world. So this has actually helped in terms of gold export. And more personally, if I may add, I see that COVID sparked a better future for Africa.
One, it is testing the economic and social and political resilience of the country. It has highlighted the gaps in the healthcare system. And obviously it forced the government to close those gaps and invest drastically in the healthcare. In fact, they are the government recently came out to say that they will be opening 88 regional and district hospitals in Ghana, which is a big number. But apart from that, I think the most important thing is that it actually triggered the debate on industrialization. And that will play a focal point in Africa, not just Ghana, and Africa’s future in general.
Yes, the government. The Ghanaian government has already started pushing on this agenda as it pushes from an input based economy to an export based economy through its various programs such as the one district one factory planting fruit for jobs. But it is one thing trying to push policy and some other thing when you realize that the policy actually needs to be implemented immediately. So that's very interesting to see.
Obviously, it's easier said than done. But definitely we see the positive end to corporate too apart from the negative side, there is definitely some positive perspective. And you asked the question about our relationship with has changed, or it's how we're going to move forward from this from our perspective?
Well, from the political perspective, the plans have not changed whatsoever. The truth of the matter is that Ghana will always remain an important partner to Malta. We see Ghana as an entry point to West Africa. And we hope that we try to portray ourselves as an entry point into the EU. And our objectives remain in line with achieving the SDGs. mostly focusing on green sustainable approach. And also the importance of digitalization. And this is something that actually was already top of the agenda of the Ghanaian government in fact the VP has been pushing a lot for digitalization, and you can only comment his efforts. And we hope that we can push and help and stimulate further growth, or further this rotation in a post COVID era.
Roberta: Your Excellency. You were also very much in touch with the business community. How would you say that they have reacted to this disruption? Have they managed to somehow adapt to the situation? And are there any specific measures that are worthy of mention which businesses have implemented in order to ensure that longevity?
HE Addo: I think businesses are quite adaptive. Businesses that do not adapt to changing situation, there fold up. And I don't think businesses in Ghana are any exception. And already, the government has focused a lot on businesses, especially in the private sector, we talk about models for a very long time, we're focusing on the public sector to generate employment, which is ridiculous, because it is not the duty of the public sector, to generate employment. And this is why this government changed the model, focusing more on the private sector, and creating opportunities. Opportunities in agriculture, when you talk about agriculture, I'm talking from the pre-planting all the way through the chain to the table. So immense opportunities have been created. And people are responding to it when it gets to manufacturing.
So the whole idea is, my colleague talked about industrialization. And the idea is to make it agro-based industrialization to start with. So when you have produced, then you try to make sure that all along the chain, you need people to go into warehousing, that is an area of a new area of business, you knew those who do marketing, it's a new area of business, you need those who will do packaging, you know, a whole team. And people have started responding to this, and the government is supporting it.
Last year, there was a bumper harvest of rice, you know, and we import a lot of rice. So there's need to cut down and you cut them only when all parties, government and private sector come together, to work, to change the habits of people so that they begin to appreciate what they have and start to eat what we'll have produced. So the business opportunities that we have at the moment are massive. And we are responding very, very positively to it.
So this COVID, and its impact on the economy, as Jean Claude said, the liquidity aspect of it, and government is making credit available, those who have already gone into business and are being affected, there is opportunity to work with the banking sector to renegotiate terms of payment, so that businesses will not feel too depressed within the current situation.
So a lot is being done. And I think that business people have realized that they have a rare opportunity at this moment. And then the COVID has also given new thinking, new ways of doing things, new approaches, and I think all these things will come together, at the end of it for a new level of confidence, which maybe was not there, or had not been that well developed before the COVID forced everybody to think afresh, to think in new ways. That is how I see it, I say that it's a really responding. And our [unintelligible] relationship with Malta, in the sense that new areas are coming up.
So when we started, we looked at areas where Malta was strong, like tourism, we know we can link up and learn so much from Malta, and they will also give so much so a win-win situation. Now, as I said, there are new areas, Jean Claude talked about gold, and I know that a refinery is being set up. There is a relationship between MCAST of Malta and the Technology University of Ghana. It is a new area that people may have to look at, because now you have the opportunity to refine and when you refine, you can also have more of the gold for you to go into jewellery making. We had it some time ago, then the whole place was flooded with important jewels. Talking refinery, if you are very strategic, then you start thinking of what comes after the refinery. And these are new areas that the relationship you know, should be geared to. So that the old places that we already strong aim we are exploiting, but the new areas that are coming up, offer more opportunities for the relationship to blossom.
Nadia: Very interesting in Your Excellently Jean Claude, would you like to add anything as well as about how businesses are adapting, in both countries.
HE Galea Mallia: So I think it's important to understand the distinction between Ghana's private sector and the Maltese private sector. So the reaction was automatically a little bit different. In Ghana example, you have 90% of the population that is in the informal sector. We had a two week lockdown, an extension to that lockdown would have been a disaster, which raises the question of the usual saving lives versus livelihood. You can't save lives if you destroy livelihoods. Ultimately, it affects the population and we're talking about 90% of the population, which can't stay locked at home for a long time without going to work.
So there is that distinction, and that is the underlying understanding of how people would presume or react to COVID. And we're not always talking about companies that are big companies and offices with a number of workers that have to be employing people, etc., etc. It's not always that case. I want to discuss, discuss from a different angle I want to portray what has COVID created in terms of opportunities also for changing the system or the modus operandi of the businesses. And if you look at how the world has been affected, it's obviously changing a new dimension of how things are done. The trade routes, yet, also even the routes to market. So we're seeing a change, or we're being pushed towards a new understanding where Africa might actually be the new factory of the world. So the shift from China where everything mostly has been produced in China, will possibly be produced in Africa. And that is very interesting in itself.
So it's like pressing the reset button, and everyone sat down for a couple of months and said, How can we improve things? How can we do things differently? Where are the opportunities? Why have we been doing this? All this? The same approach for God knows how many centuries just because it started from there. So those questions raised during this particular period is extremely interesting. And the reason is that it is it coincides with the launch of the ACFTA which is the African Continental Free Trade Area. So basically, sorry, excuse me. So basically, I'm getting excited. I think.
Basically, what we're, what I'm saying with the AFCFTA is that we're consolidating one big market, which is the African continent, which comprises 1.2 billion, it's a huge market, it is way bigger than the European market and the American market put together just to put things in context. So we're questioning how things are done. At the same time, we're creating a huge market. So there are the restrictions of traveling of moving goods etc. etc. So example Ghanaians that we're exporting Ghanaian companies that were exporting into the EU are now saying, Oh! So I was exporting to the EU, I was having such difficulties and now I realized that I have a neighbouring country where I can export without duties, etc., etc.
So it raises the question of not only having new ideas, but having new ideas at the same time launching a new opportunity. And might I add and congratulate Ghana for hosting the secretary of the AFCFTA here in our Accra, which means that Ghana will be playing a vital role in Policymaking. And that's why Ghana has become more and more important. They're part of being very friendly and very constructive in our dialogue with definitely, we look forward to pushing forward to these opportunities.
Now, just to mention from the Maltese perspective of doing business, it's also very important, I can assure you that it has not diminished the appetite of business, actually, it has probably excelled or increased for the simple reason that the AFCFTA has presented more opportunities, the idea of industrialization, all these things have even made more people hungry. Obviously, the Maltese private sector is very cautious, takes baby steps. I don't expect people to just be jumping into Ghana and saying, Yes, Ghana’s is open for business. And let's open and etc. etc. Now. This is something that we started years ago. And we're growing gradually.
We have companies like for example, that has already had quite a few success stories. But not only there are others, still limited, we're still growing. And we also have Ghanaians who are interested in Malta and showed interest and collaborating with Maltese entities and exploring the market. So it's a contrast three, it's both sides. But the important thing is that the interest has not diminished. Not one bit. Yes, obviously there are underlying issues internally where it could obviously affect the export or it could affect the capital investments that could be pushed forward into exploring new markets. But obviously, the appetite remains arose. A key point, why because money can be regenerated eventually. So it's not stopping a direction, directive or an objective. It is rather slowing down that the implementation phase of such a directive.
But definitely I can assure you that a lot of companies keep asking me when the airport will reopen so that they can continue following the leads that were generated. Example, in March, we had our second Business Forum, very successful visit, very well attended by both sides. So yes, so the opportunities are there, the resources are there. So we look forward to continue pushing the strategy or linking the bridge between Ghana, Malta, and the private sector included.
Roberta: Excellent. Chris, so interesting to hear your reaction to all of this, and perhaps your experience and that of your peers as well.
Chris: Yes, it's been extremely interesting to hear both Her Excellency and the High Commissioner as well make the observations, and the comparisons and distinctions between Malta and Ghana.
I have straddled both, I can say, I've been with my business for Malta for over 20 years. And present in Ghana, I think, for the last three years, joined the first Trade Commission, second Trade Commission, have a couple of projects that we're doing at the moment. And I have seen incredible reactions on both parts. There's huge similarities that we give some examples, which I was personally involved.
So a challenge came along, there are always challenges, but the difference is how you react and COVID came along, not a usual challenge. Huge. So I was involved in a project in Malta, which was about building a small ventilator to help people which was low cost. It's ready, it's done. And this can help not only small town, but it can also help other countries such as Ghana. At the same time, I was observing the quick response in Ghana, of another company, private entity, that was building disinfection gates for people to go through such an innovation, which we were still starting to market here in Malta as an important solution. It's an opportunity for further collaboration, the Maltese can export the ventilator, and the Ghanaians can export their disinfecting solution.
Another case, it's true that more than handled COVID, especially the first lady extremely well, with a very low number of cases close to our borders, which is exemplary. It was even mentioned by WHO. However, something that I saw in Ghana, where it as they say, Necessity is the mother of invention, was a very great idea whereby to test so many people and with admitted to keep the costs down. What Ghana did was, for the first time invented pool testing, so many samples of many people were grouped together and tested, if it all came negative, then that group of 2030 people were all negative. Obviously, if it came back positive, they will retest it for positive, but the chances are mostly that they will be negative. So they spent much less than any other country and reached so much more in less time. By creating this innovative solution. We both have a lot to learn from each other.
Nadia: That's the key takeaway, Chris over here. Both companies from different countries, we can learn so much even on the same project. Obviously, the context is different because Ghana is different as a country, obviously bigger than Malta, not only in size, but also in terms of population and different aspects, both on the economic level as well as social level. But there's so much that businesses can learn and cross share knowledge between one country and another. That is significant and remarkable I think. And this is why we're creating this platform for more companies. In fact, we have a line-up as well, of interesting episodes following this one of interesting companies who actually bought from both countries who wanted to join and share their experience going forward. So that would be interesting in itself. Roberta, did you want to mention anything?
Roberta: Yes. Once again, this question is addressed to both of our esteemed guests, Your Excellency, Jean Claude Mallia, you touched upon the Sustainable Development Goals earlier in your intervention. I would really like to hear a little bit more about this and perhaps your vision as to how, as a business community both in Malta and in Ghana, we can work together to, let's say, shift our economic models to stop focusing solely on economic success, but perhaps look at a more holistic wellbeing of the population with our business activity.
HE Galea Mallia: It's a complex question. Definitely. Yes. And you need a few experts on the matter, too. But yes, sustainability has been the highlight of all. And I think one thing that just put everything in perspective is that I believe that COVID highlighted dependence and importance of building stronger ties between countries, that's for sure. Not only within the European for a but also beyond. It is clear, we are all connected one way or another. And therefore, a unanimous voice is required to fight global examples, this global pandemic.
So we definitely need to address this together. Sustainability is a common issue to everyone, and not just a few. So we definitely need to give more importance to pushing sustainability as a core function of any operation. Now, if we look from the perspective of the private sector example, as you mentioned, I come from the private sector. So I like talking about the private sector. The truth of the matter is that the vision or the director of the company will not change regardless of COVID. The truth of the matter is that the principle of the company is to one, make profits and look for opportunities and resources. That is true. So the directive and the perspective does not change, but doesn't mean that the modus operandi would not change, that needs to change, and it will change regardless.
Obviously, it is up to the various governments to put policies in place to actually motivate and push companies to actually adapt because not every single company would see the necessity to adapt. We obviously, or at least companies would be looking at the product life cycle of any item, or any sector basically. So we're talking about circular economy. That is another whole topic by itself. But I can assure you that that is something that even at EU level, we were pushing even before COVID. So it's the fact is that sustainability has always been a key factor. It has always been important for us. And I think now it's the question of Listen, we can't waste more time.
The Green Deal is there, we need to push it, and we need to implement it as soon as possible. And we need everyone to be on board, I think that is extremely important. And most importantly, is that the changes are done not only at the top, we have to start from the micro and going all the way to the top. If not, we will not get the desired changes. And we will obviously want to terms of sustainability because sustainability has is diverse in so many aspects that even if we go to work, we're using our vehicle, we're it's not eco-friendly. It's not everything. So everything in a way is to sustainability, and even a simple change of working patterns where I believe and I've already talked to a number of companies that they realize that adding teleworking to their normal post COVID work ethic will actually or might possibly even assist them in getting better outputs from their stuff.
Obviously, this is not this is not adaptable to every industry. I understand that. I know that even there's a discussion in Malta, where they are questioning Okay, should we have three days of the office two days at work or three days in office. So I am currently working from the house. So I've seen the benefits of it. I've highlighted opportunities in it in itself even for a mission.
Obviously, as a mission. We also have to open for visas etc. etc. so it's a little bit critical notice that we have to still have stuff in our mission. But In terms of like companies that are in IT, that means that work patterns will have less cars in the streets, we will have even the need of less example computers. Why? Because instead of having a computer in the office and computer in the house, you might end up having just one computer in the house. So it trickles down to a number of aspects of how we work.
But the question mark is what will be the benefits to our lifestyle, too, because if you are working at home, that's changing literally your lifestyle habits. It makes it easier to even after work, you know, after work, we always go home, we're tired. But imagine you weren't at home all day long. Ultimately, then in the evening, you say, you know what, we go out for a walk, I'm tired of being inside the house. So even our change, our lifestyle will definitely change. So sustainability remains a key goal SDGs are still a priority for us. In fact, even the EU budgetary support for Ghana is basically on the green economy, sustainability and digitalization.
So, it is in principle, the key question or the key direction that we as a global world have to take together and we need to put the same role for us. But not only decision making policy, that's one part of it, we are the private sector, the public sector has to adapt to that to make it plausible, and to make it actually doable, because certain policies are harsh, I understand that. And they would require a lot of change and adaptation. I think one way or another we will get there.
I think this is very similar if I may, to be approach Malta took when we joined the EU, the UK to I mean, came over us and just pushed certain restrictions, certain regulations that we needed to adhere to. And a lot of companies just to say example, why do I need to have better equipment better this and that when the equipment I have works perfectly. So as they change, they realize the benefits of that change. And after the change. After adapting to the UN adhering to the regulations of the EU, we realized the benefits of changing. So I think it's just a question of starting to highlight those changes the benefits of those changes, and taking it gradually step by step. But obviously we need to move fast that is definitely a point to take,
Nadia: In fact, we've discussed with Chris as well, that change brings more change. I think this is something which we've discussed this this week with the business community which affect one's change thoughts, then eventually it's creates even more change. So that positive in a way, even though it will have its own challenges for the business community, as well as for the public sector.
And Your Excellency, Merci Bampo Addo, perhaps you would like to close off this interesting episode, which highlighted the opportunities, the benefits yet again, some challenges as well, which we're all going through as both countries but we are hopeful as well as excited to continue working with both business communities.
HE Addo: When I came to Malta, what I realized was that the government, the former president, Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, she kept on talking about all embracing governance inclusive governance, and I don't want to divorce that from business because she and her successor, when they are talking, they said that governance, the benefits of governance should sit down to the least member of society.
We've had COVID we've had experiences, we are talking about businesses, we are talking about sustainability, the Millennium Development Goals. The whole idea is to make life better for everybody. Reduce poverty, improve on health, reduce illiteracy, and when we look at the businesses we are doing, especially in some of the areas where Malta and Ghana have started collaborating. We are collaborating in the area of medicines, I think if we're able to do that, and do that very well, it helps with solving some of the Millennium Development Goals on a sustainable way, improving health.
We've talked about reducing poverty, if businesses are sustainable. And people are employed, people are able to look after their families, then the idea of reducing poverty, and improving the quality of life of many people are being achieved. So I think that the relationship that we have started nurturing has the potential of helping to achieve that sustainability, which will be very good for the peoples of our two countries in the way that the leadership of both countries want.
I want to end on a statement that the Ghanaian President made at the height of the COVID when everybody was said, resources where, you know, discuss and talk costs, funds had to be found. What it said was that: “We know how to bring back an economy to life. What we don't know is how to bring a dead person to life.” And I think all of us at work together in every way possible, to ensure the sustainability, the good quality of life, with or near to the benefit of all the people we work for. And I'm confident that the Ghana Malta relationship and surgery and that, and we have to give it everything we have to make it successful.
Nadia: Thank you very much. Your Excellency. Your Excellency, Jean Claude. Yes, please.
HE Galea Mallia: I may add on what my colleague said, she mentioned medicines. I think one of the traits that diplomacy offers is the legal framework, which enables the private sector to conduct business in a holistic and safe manner. Issa, through DTA, a double taxation agreement, or the EPA, the Economic Partnership Agreement, or any other agreements, MOU that is signed or agreement that is signed between two countries for the benefit of both countries. Having said that, you mentioned medicines, and this is actually quite interesting. And if I may, Chris, if I may actually use you as an example. We actually signed a number of agreements and MOUs, but one in particular, one in particular is between Malta Medicines Authority and the Ghana Standards Authority, and Malta Medicines Authority and Ghana Food and Drugs Authority.
In fact, we're also signing a couple between MCCA too but if we just focus on the FDA and GSA that has actually portrayed or enabled us to push also the private sector. In fact, I can gladly say that they all taken the opportunity. And they actually built on this. In fact, they're now working on a very interesting project, which would be the first few EU MGP certified laboratory in Ghana and in West Africa, which will enable the pharmaceutical manufacturing company in question to actually export medicine and into the EU. So we're talking medicine that is of EU standards that is made and gone up.
So that is a big step forward for Africa. So the underlying question of how we can work together is obviously very relevant. Having said that, I believe that the phrase, “out of sight out of mind” is relevant to all sectors be the public and private sector.
In fact, just to conclude, something that not a lot of people know what is actually very well known in Ghana, or because we introduced the lotto here, back in the days, I think some Maltese person decided to come and bring lotto to Ghana, and it stuck and we are only known for that, I think that is a bit of an issue. So I think my colleague and I have been working very hard along with the private sector because it's also important to show that Malta-Ghana relations have much more to offer than lotto, and that hopefully we can bridge the gap between the two countries for further collaboration and for the benefit of both definitely. Thank you.
Roberta: Thank you very much. Chris, would you like to our resident guest, perhaps, as well,
Chris: Just one simple comment from my side. In Malta, we have a lot of experience on projects and industrialization projects, but very limited opportunities nowadays. In Ghana, they have many opportunities for industrialization projects and less experienced than us. Because it's more recent, it couldn't be more glaringly obvious what we can do together. So really and truly, for any business, Ghana and Malta have so much to do and so much to achieve together. That is my final comment. Thank you.
Nadia: Thank you very much, Chris. Very optimistic, as usual, very much looking forward to working with you as well. And Roberta and myself, we thank you all the accurate. Your Excellency, Merci Bampo Addo, and Your Excellency, Jean Claude Galea Mallia, for being with us today. Thank you very much.