Ghana’s outward-looking stance with regard to regional relations is to some extent an inheritance from its first president, Kwarme Nkrumah. The newly independent nation’s foreign policy was predicated upon a call for a united Africa, which would culminate in a political, social and economic integration across the continent. The proposition was based upon Nkrumah’s assessment that a disunited Africa would remain little more than a collection of small states, incapable of creating the economies of scale necessary to lift their populations out of poverty.
The principle of unification continues to inform Ghana’s foreign policy. To some extent, the establishment of the African Union (AU) in 2001 represented a revival of Ghana’s pan-African ambition. Nkrumah was the founder of the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, which was established in the 1960s. The spirit of unity and solidarity that was formed in that body 50 years ago still animates the successor organisation today.
Within the AU, Ghana continues to push for increased cooperation. In the 2007 AU Summit held in the nation’s capital, Accra, the principal discussion topic was the creation of a union government, to be established with the aim of creating a United States of Africa. While the differences of opinion within the AU mean that unification remains a distant possibility, the Accra summit did impel the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to agree on accelerating the economic and political integration of the continent, conduct an audit of the institutions and organs of the EU, find ways to strengthen the current union, and establish a timeframe for the eventual establishment of a Union Government of Africa.
Ghana is a prominent member of the smaller ECOWAS group, which is composed of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. Established in 1975, ECOWAS is Africa’s leading regional economic community.
The organisation was originally formulated as an area of economic cooperation and monetary union, incorporating the free movement of persons, capital, goods and services, as well as a common external tariff regime. Since its treaty was revised in 1993, however, ECOWAS has expanded its concerns to include deeper cooperation on peace and security issues, while its sister organisation — the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) — was created a year later to realise the ambitions of a Customs union and common currency. ECOWAS is guided by a number of fundamental principles, such as the equality and inter-dependence of member states, the peaceful settlement of disputes and promotion of human rights, the promotion of democracy across the membership area, and the equitable and just distribution of the costs and benefits of economic cooperation and integration. The community also acts as a window to international trade for Ghana, principally through an economic partnership agreement (EPA). The main objective of the EPA is to establish a free trade area between ECOWAS and Europe, in accordance with Article XXIV of the GATT.
At country level, Ghana’s relationship with Nigeria is of great importance. Despite their joint membership of ECOWAS, relations between the two countries have occasionally been strained. In 1969-70, Ghana expelled large numbers of Nigerian residents. In 1981, at a time when Ghana was reliant on Nigeria for around 90% of its petrol requirements, Nigeria suspended oil exports to the country in response to the coup of that year, and then went on to expel around 1m Ghanaian residents in 1983 and a further 300,000 in 1985. These diplomatic spats, however, have since given way to greater economic creation as the two leading players in the region have increased their bilateral investment flow.
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