It has been more than seven centuries since three valleys in the Swiss mountains entered an alliance and laid the foundation of modern Switzerland. On 1st of August, Swiss all over the world celebrate the origins and existence of our country which goes as far back as 1291. As we reflect on Switzerland’s values and successes, we also recount the many crucial international partnerships that have contributed to its current status as a trustful and solidaric member of the international community, with a strong and diversified economy.
Switzerland recognized Ghana as a sovereign state on the very day of its independence in 1957. Years down the line, relations between our countries have been fruitful and mutually beneficial, culminating in the State Visit of the President of the Republic of Ghana to Switzerland – the first for a sub-Saharan Africa leader in over sixty years! This was undoubtedly a befitting tribute to our cooperation. Therefore, while we celebrate the 729th birthday of Switzerland this year, we also commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the enduring friendship and cooperation between Switzerland and Ghana.
For many years, Swiss and Ghanaians have been partnering to discover new knowledge and innovative solutions, develop skills and create opportunities. Whether it is symbolized by the Swissborn Ghanaian entrepreneur Jeffrey Provencal, who’s company uses innovative and efficient ways to recycle plastic bottles in Ghana; or with the Switzerland-educated Yayra Glover, who is using his knowledge to expand opportunities for approximately 5,000 farmers in Suhum, and helping them to realize sustainable income by growing vanilla and turmeric spices for export alongside their cocoa beans, one thing that is clear is that the benefits of our shared exploration of innovation and sustainability holds immense promise for both our countries.
In this regard, I am excited for both countries. In the face of rapid global advancements in technology, Switzerland`s higher educational institutions are hallmarked for cutting-edge research and innovation. Switzerland is one of the leading hubs for innovation in Europe. Between 2010 and 2018, Switzerland filed more patent applications for 3D printing technologies than any other country in Europe. In 2019, Switzerland broke its own record in regards to patent filings per capita. According to the European Patent Office, there were 988 patents filed per 1 million residents, with companies such as ABB, Roche and Nestlé leading the pack. The Boston Consulting Group ranked Swiss serial innovators ABB, Nestlé and Novartis, among the 50 most innovative companies in the world.
In more recent developments, scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) have been successful in the development of low-cost ventilators, in their bid to assuage the rising demand of the equipment especially within emerging and developing economies, in the face of the corona virus pandemic. Two other promising innovations under development use artificial intelligence to predict an individual`s COVID-19 status, by analyzing cough and breathing patterns. When ready, the new smart phone based app will enable individuals to personally make recordings of their cough and submit online. After answering a few basic health questions, an algorithm then analyzes the recording, looking out for distinctive cough patterns. A diagnosis follows instantaneously. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) is in charge of this development.
Among these noteworthy innovations, are also those for everyday use. If you think car sharing is a new phenomenon, you thought wrong; it was introduced by Switzerland in 1948. In the post-war times, it was difficult for many to afford their own cars. The Zurich based Selbstfahrergemeinschaft (Sefage) cooperative pioneered the initiative.
Between Ghana and Switzerland, our first concrete steps on innovation and sustainable development culminated in the commitment to partner in the fight against climate change. This was prominently discussed during the state visit of His Excellency President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo to Switzerland, in February 2020. A bilateral agreement will be concluded hopefully, at the end of this year. While on climate change, it might interest you to know that Swiss government officials travel by train and not by air, where the journey time falls within six hours. This is in line with the country’s broader strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from air travel by 30 per cent, as envisioned in the Agenda 2030!
While the EU remains Ghana’s major economic bloc for export and import, economic relations between Switzerland and Ghana have seen monumental feats over the years. In 2018, total export from Ghana to Switzerland was approximately CHF1.7 billion (or GH¢10.6 billion), whereas about CHF2.54 billion (or GH¢15.8 billion) of gold trade alone was realized between the two countries in 2019, besides cocoa and other agricultural products. In consequence, Ghana remains Switzerland’s top partner in gold trade in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second largest trading partner within the sub-region.
Therefore, as we mark 60 years of progressive diplomatic relations with Ghana as well as the Swiss National Day on the 1st of August, I look forward to a stronger collaboration between Ghana and Switzerland, with the prospects of wider mutual achievements for both countries.
By Philipp Stalder
Ambassador of Switzerland to Ghana