Talk to anybody in the know about Africa, and you’ll soon find that Ghana is internationally recognised as one of the best places to do business on the continent. As the country continues its post-Covid recovery, international investors are increasingly interested in Ghana’s traditionally lucrative agriculture and mining industries, as well as the emergence of a robust and complementary services sector.
However, strong domestic growth must be paired with a network of international connections. Ghanaian exporters would benefit from greater access to international markets, while greater foreign direct investment could be key to taking many businesses to the next level.
Fortunately, membership of the Commonwealth offers Ghana a ready-made international network. This globe-spanning network of fifty-six countries plays host to some of the world’s fastest-growing markets – like India, Malaysia, and Bangladesh – while also encompassing more established partners like the UK and Canada. Commonwealth member states enjoy a quantitative trade advantage, termed the ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ with 21% lower bilateral trading costs for business which operate intra-Commonwealth.
The relationships between Ghana and the Commonwealth are not new. Ghana was the first fully sovereign African member of the Commonwealth, joining at independence in 1957. The Commonwealth Secretariat was the brainchild of Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, who envisioned a “central clearing house” which would give account to the wishes of all member states. In the preceding decades, Ghana has continued its close bilateral ties with the UK, India, and the other original members of the Commonwealth, while the roster of African Commonwealth member states has continued to grow, with two new African members admitted as recently as 2022.
As Commonwealth economies continue to grow in importance, representing a greater share of the global economy every year, the time is now to work on improving ties in the diverse bloc. Access to the Commonwealth means improved access to an existing market of more than $14.5 trillion, and to many of the world’s emerging economic powerhouses.
These opportunities for closer Commonwealth engagement are underscored by the upcoming visit of Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) CEO, Rosie Glazebrook, who will travel to Ghana and Nigeria in mid-October.
CWEIC is the Commonwealth’s business organisation and works under a mandate from Commonwealth Heads of Government to deliver the biannual Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF), which runs alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
CWEIC operates across the Commonwealth to strengthen trade and investment links between its fifty-six member states. It works alongside around 150 business and government Strategic Partners to build connections and unlock investment opportunities and has relationships with globally recognised names such as Zenith Bank, Standard Chartered, and BP.
Glazebrook’s visit will see her travel to Accra, for engagements with existing Strategic Partners and ministerial contacts. She will also travel to Lagos, Nigeria, for similar engagements.
“CWEIC is very much looking forward to developing our strategic partnerships in Ghana, building on our strong track record of growing trade and investment opportunities with business and government partners,” said Glazebrook, highlighting the extent of CWEIC’s existing network within the country. “Ghana is an exciting place to do business, with plenty of opportunity for investors – and for growth within the domestic landscape. That reputation as a stable, reliable market in Africa is absolutely key.”
The trip comes on the back of the successful Commonwealth Trade and Investment Forum in Dhaka, Bangladesh, delivered by CWEIC in cooperation with the ZI Foundation and the Government of Bangladesh. The Forum saw hundreds of international businesspeople and ministers travel to the fast-growing South Asian capital. Delegates were addressed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while high-quality global speakers addressed topics like green financing, mental health in the workplace, and global supply chains.
However, notwithstanding the remarkable story of Bangladesh’s growth, it’s Africa’s rapid development that is attracting international headlines – and CWEIC’s interest in Africa extends well beyond this tour. In Ghana alone, CWEIC has a range of Strategic Partners, including major players in the worlds of financial and legal service. It also operates a series of strategic hubs across the continent, who help to deliver in-country expertise and guidance to businesses looking to break into new markets. While Nigeria and Ghana remain two of CWEIC’s most important hub countries, it also maintains a presence in Kenya. Further afield, it opened new hubs in Singapore and Bangladesh earlier this year, building on its existing international presence.
At its upcoming Commonwealth Trade and Investment Summit, set to take place in London in late November, CWEIC will host world-class speakers for a panel on ‘The Africa Opportunity’, highlighting the continent’s ever-growing possibilities. A number of ministerial and business delegates from across the continent will also be in attendance, bringing together the Commonwealth network and demonstrating its practical value.
The Commonwealth, and CWEIC in particular, recognises Africa’s potential, and understands that Ghana has a key part to play in converting that potential into tangible growth. The country’s reputation as an oasis of relative stability in West Africa is a draw for businesses, a fact which will only be compounded as Accra emerges as the site of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement HQ.
Looking ahead, the 2024 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which will take place in Samoa, will be an excellent platform from which to continue this momentum – the Commonwealth Business Forum will no doubt benefit from a strong Ghanaian contingent.
Ghanaian businesses should seize the opportunities of the country’s Commonwealth membership, making the most of a ready-made network that can connect them to new partners in some of the world’s most interesting and important markets. As CWEIC’s success shows, the Commonwealth Advantage is much more than just an idea.