Kwesi Botchwey, chairman of NDPC
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your career?
I am a retired academic and now officially chairman of National Development Planning Commission. I have been an academic most of my life. After finishing my graduate work in law in the States, I taught at the University of Zambia, University of Dar Es Salaam and University of Ghana, Legon. I was minister of Finance for 13 years, then was affiliated with the Harvard Institute of International Development and Centre for International Development in Harvard. I taught at the University of Columbia as well as the University of Tufts. I have been back in Ghana for the past 4 years.
What does France symbolize for you?
Personally, France represents its national motto: Fraternity, Liberty, and Equality. France symbolizes a vibrant libertarian culture, diverse and free. A dynamic cultural entity that is tolerant. I hope France stays that way despite the terrorist attacks it has faced recently.
What are your experiences in France?
I have been to France many times. On my most recent visit, I went on a mini tour of Southern France, Aix en Provence, Marseille. I savour what France offers- the cuisine, the culture, pleasantness and friendship of the people, I love the ambiance in Paris. Of course, Paris has great monuments. I love paintings, so each time I am in Paris; I do the rounds of the monumental museums.
Does your line of business have a link with France?
Presently, as chairman of NDPC, we do have a connection. We took part in the seminar on sustainable development organized by the French Embassy in September. We are hoping to engage France more intensely in our planning projects, especially as regards management of our cities and urban challenges.
In your opinion, what does “France in Ghana” represent?
France in Ghana must be poised to expand the economic and cultural relations between the two countries. Ghana’s place in France is interesting. We are not a francophone country. I know that France’s foreign economic policy gravitates around the francophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana has quite extensive economic relations with France and so I think the two countries must strike a particular chord. I am happy to say that our trade relations are expanding; in 2015, it was over a billion euros, which is not insignificant. The French Chamber of commerce is active here. There are over 60 French companies in the agriculture, banking, and engineering sectors. When I was chairman of the National Gas Company, we worked closely with French companies. The Agence Française de Development was established way back in 1985.
What is your view regarding Ghana France relations?
I treasure that relationship. Every time I have had the opportunity, I have made a point to successive French ambassadors here that I think that France must give its relationship with Ghana a special place. I think that our national temperament as a people in Ghana is pretty much like the French. Besides, because of our geographical location, our sandwiching among African countries, it is important that France integrates Ghana into its overall economic policy and not see us as just an Anglophone country. On the other hand,I would like to see in Ghana a greater attention to French ; Alliance Française is doing a relatively good job in this regard. As Ghana’s middle class expands, and our skyline develops and our cities expand, I would like to see the presence of more French companies and generally, a stronger French influence.
Any final words?
I would like to reiterate that we are an English-speaking country and for historical reasons we are very close to the United Kingdom. Having said this, I would like to see our nation develop stronger ties with France so that we can be an “Anglo-French” country and still remain proudly Ghanaian.