Ties that bind: International cooperation and bilateral agreements to ensure greater economic development and trade opportunities


Since independence in 1957, Ghana’s foreign policy has been characterised by a core set of interests and values that have remained relatively consistent. As a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, Ghana has been dedicated to maintaining positive neutrality and promoting multilateralism. As the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to declare independence, successive governments have remained devoted to pan-Africanism, and the country lives up to the ideal today through its participation in peacekeeping operations and efforts to bring about closer trade and economic integration to encourage African development.


In 2019 the administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo focused its attention on the Ghanaian and African diaspora, and on strengthening ties with Caribbean countries. The Year of Return initiative (see Tourism chapter) was launched on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to Jamestown, Virginia in the US. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Ghana for the occasion, along with a delegation of the Black Congressional Caucus. Her visit to the Ghanaian Parliament highlighted the long-standing positive bilateral relations, characterised by strong military, trade and developmental cooperation.

US Relations

Despite ongoing collaboration, there have been some minor setbacks in US-Ghana relations. In 2019 the administration of President Donald Trump effectively restricted the number of US visas issued to Ghanaian citizens and proposed bilateral aid cuts. One major source of development assistance is the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compacts, a bilateral US foreign aid programme. The first compact was completed in 2012, and the MCC provided $536m to tackle a wide range of developmental issues. Signed in 2014, a second MCC compact intended to support capacity building in private and public sector electrical systems, and in early 2019 Ghana Power Distribution Services signed a concession agreement with the Electricity Company of Ghana to delegate key operations. However, following the termination of the concession agreement by the Ghanaian government, the MCC revoked $190m of planned funding from the project, citing the importance of contract sanctity. A desire to become less reliant on such funding has inspired this government’s Ghana Beyond Aid agenda, which entails a greater role for intra-African cooperation.

Global Ties

President Akufo-Addo and Shirley Botchway, the minister of foreign affairs, also capitalised on the Year of Return initiative to strengthen bonds with Caribbean nations. On a diplomatic tour of the area in mid-2019, the president signed visa-waiver agreements with Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica. Ghana also pledged to provide technical assistance to the Guyanan oil and gas industry, while expressing interest in the country’s timber and rum industries. Similar opportunities for economic development and trade were also explored with Barbados. In November 2019 Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, visited Ghana to precipitate a number of bilateral agreements.

Meanwhile, Ghana continues to strengthen its economic and diplomatic relations with other global partners, notably China. As Ghana’s biggest trading partner, the country has ramped up its development projects, in particular via infrastructure deals. A $2bn bauxite barter deal, entailing debt forgiveness, grants, and funding for roads and bridges in exchange for bauxite ore, is set to be completed in 2020, while road projects in Accra and Kumasi are in various stages of completion.

Relations with partners in the region remain high on the foreign policy agenda. In September 2019 Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire officially put an end to the maritime border dispute, following a ruling at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in 2017. The two countries also cooperated closely in the cocoa market to coordinate the global cocoa price. Further collaboration with its neighbours will be key to ensuring Ghana’s economic stability and improved trade opportunities.