Ghana has a long history of taking a pragmatic approach to its relations with foreign countries. According to Article 40 of the 1992 constitution, the country’s foreign policy is underpinned by a commitment to protecting the interests of Ghana, establishing a just and equitable international, economic, political and social order, promoting the settlement of international disputes through peaceful norms, and adhering to the principles enshrined in the aims and ideals of the UN, the African Union (AU), ECOWAS, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement. In recent years Ghana has applied these principles in its cultivation of bilateral relationships with some of the world’s largest economies, including both traditional diplomatic partners and new allies.
Ghana also continues to play a significant role in regional politics. Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president, was a strong proponent of pan-Africanism, an intellectual movement that emphasises the shared history and culture of Africans, and promotes greater political, social and economic integration of the continent, which he believed would allow Africa to more effectively compete in the international economy and state system. In 1963 he was instrumental in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of the AU, and his beliefs have had a notable impact on Ghana’s regional policy.
As one of its founding and most important members, Ghana has played a major role in many of the AU’s key initiatives, consistently advocating for increased cooperation between member states. In July 2016 Ghana was the first AU country to grant visas on arrival to citizens of other member states, the first part of a larger plan to issue a single African electronic passport that would effectively allow citizens of member While the passport will not be rolled out until 2018, the initiative is a significant step towards deeper integration as imagined under the AU’s Agenda 2063, which aims to mobilise the continent’s vast resources and use them to increase Africa’s role on the global stage.
Ghana is also a member of ECOWAS, one of Africa’s three trade and economic zones, which also includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Founded in 1975, ECOWAS was originally established as an economic bloc with a common external tariff regime and the free movement of capital, goods, services and people, but a 1993 treaty revision expanded its remit to include deeper cooperation on peace and security issues.
In February 2014 ECOWAS signed an economic partnership agreement with the EU, which should bring considerable benefits to Accra when implemented, as it will help reduce the country’s trading costs with the European bloc.
In general, Ghana enjoys stable and peaceful relations with its neighbours. Although the relationship with Nigeria has at times been frosty – Ghana expelled a large number of Nigerians in 1969-70, which led to Nigeria deporting many Ghanaians in 1981-83 – relations in recent years have been marked by much greater economic cooperation, especially within the framework of ECOWAS. As the dominant economic and political powers of West Africa, a strong partnership between Accra and Abuja is of substantial importance to expanding the prosperity of the region.
Ghana has also experienced issues with some of its other neighbours, most notably Togo, with which relations have been strained in the past due to cross-border clashes and dissident activities, and Côte d’Ivoire, with concerns also related to dissident activities as well as a current dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between the two countries in the Atlantic Ocean. However, those relationships too have improved markedly over the past few decades.
Economic considerations have historically played an important role in determining Ghana’s stance towards foreign countries. Since independence the country has, for the most part, maintained strong relations with the UK, its former colonial power, as well as other large Western economies, such as the US, France and Italy. Many European businesses have a presence in the local economy across a variety of sectors, including oil and gas, telecommunications and finance.
A large diaspora in the UK also contributes to the close relationship between Accra and London, and cooperation on defence and security issues does the same for the country’s relationship with the US. Indeed, Ghana and the US operate a bilateral International Military Education and Training programme that allows promising Ghanaian officers to visit the US to take part in additional training. Economic ties between the two countries are also strong, with bilateral trade reaching approximately $1.3bn in 2015, and major US firms such as IBM, Coca-Cola and Newmont Mining have established operations in the country.
Bilateral trade between Ghana and Brazil is also considerable. Brazil is a major recipient of Ghanaian cocoa exports, receiving approximately $30m worth of the fruit or its products in 2015. Overall, trade between the two nations stood at $216.9m that year, down from $323.6m in 2014.
Kwame Nkrumah was one of the first African leaders to recognise the People’s Republic of China. More recently, China has become a key economic partner to Ghana. In 2015 bilateral trade between the two nations reached approximately $6.6bn, according to the IMF, an 18.2% increase on the previous year.
Beijing also signed nearly $1.3bn worth of new investments in Ghana in 2015, including the Sunon Asogli Thermal Power Station, Africa World Airlines and the Sentuo Steel factory.
Cultural and educational activity has also blossomed over the past decade, with China establishing the first Confucius Institute in Ghana, in Accra, in 2013 followed by a second in 2016, at Cape Coast. The institute has also established an HSK centre in Ghana for international standardised Chinese exams to help Ghanaians secure Chinese scholarships to study in the country.
India, too, is an increasingly important partner. As members of the Commonwealth, relations between the two have been strong since independence. There is a sizeable Indian community in the country of around 10,000 and, as a result, business and cultural ties run deep. Bilateral trade between the two countries reached $1.4bn in 2014 and is growing, and a number of large Indian companies – such as Tata Motors, Bank of Baroda and Bharti Airtel – maintain a presence in the country.