Ghanaian vice president John Mahama said his government is working with the United States and its neighbors to improve security and peacekeeping.  But he said Ghana does not favor any foreign military bases in the region. ?We have our own problems. We don?t want to add al Qaeda and terrorism.? He would, however, welcome other assistance from friendly countries around the globe.

The Ghanaian media have continued to debate the issue of whether foreign bases would in any way benefit the West Africa subregion.  Mahama said the topic did not come up when U.S. President Barack Obama visited the country in early July.

President Obama?s visit to Ghana

?Obama has made Ghana the face of Africa.  Coming to Accra to make a major policy statement on Africa was great for Ghana,? Vice President Mahama said.

He went on to say President Obama may have boosted the economy with his visit to the Cape Coast castle, from which Africans were shipped overseas as slaves during the 17th century.  ?His visit has kick-started our tourism industry.  Cape Cost is now a viable tourist destination,? the vice president said.

Oil is a blessing, not a curse

Next year Ghana plans its first oil exports in commercial quantities. Observers say for countries like Nigeria and Angola the oil boom has been a curse, with money being diverted to foreign bank accounts and little going to national development.  For Ghana, however, the vice president said it is a blessing.

The new oil discovery, he said, has come at the right time. ?Lessons have been learned from African countries that discovered oil earlier,? Mahama pointed out. 

?Ghana is cooperating with countries like Norway in terms of structuring the oil industry -- the objective being to benefit the vast majority of people, not the selected few."

He said the government plans to put oil revenues in a separate fund that would be audited and monitored, not the one used to finance other government activities. He also said that unlike Nigeria, Ghana will ensure that pollution from oil production does not destroy the livelihoods of fisherman or lead to unemployment that would create a pool of dissatisfied youths.

?Our economy will be fine?

Ghana does not need a stimulus package, said Mahama, despite the troubled global economy. ?Unlike the United States, Ghana?s banks, financial institutions, and industries are not in distress.  Our indigenous manufacturing sector and industries have not been affected by the world economic recession because they are not typically export-oriented industries,? the vice president said.

But agricultural exports like pineapple and mango have seen a decline, for which the government is taking remedial action. In the first quarter of this year, he said, remittances from abroad have also fallen by 50 million dollars. On the other hand, two other exports, gold and cocoa, continue to do well.

The government of Ghana is working to reduce poverty by tripling investments in agriculture, including support for young farmers and the establishment of companies that would help farmers mechanize production.  

Import substitution

Among the foods that Mahama said Ghana should not need to import are chicken and grains.

?For some products,? he said, ?we have a comparative advantage?but we have not invested in them and have become dependent, like in the poultry sector.?

The government is working to increase farmers? income, Mahama said, by providing them with improved seed and doubling the acreage for rice production.Better seed and subsidized fertilizer will help farmer improve production of another crop, maize, and cut grain imports.New government supports for sorghum, he said, should help reduce malt and barley imports used by breweries.

?Our intention in the next few years is to make Ghana food self sufficient,? said Vice President Mahama. And, if all goes well, he adds, Ghana could become a net exporter of food.