Since Mexico re-opened its embassy in Ghana a few years ago, a lot has being done to deepen the relationship between the two countries. Our staff writer, Anthony Sedzro, spoke with H.E. Maria de los Angeles Arriola Aguirre, Mexico’s ambassador to Ghana, to learn more.
Ghana Business & Finance (GB&F) magazine: Firstly, accept our condolences on the two earthquake disasters which killed over 460 people in Mexico.
H.E. Maria Arriola Aguirre (MAA): Thanks so much for your kind words. Mexico really appreciates these solidarity expressions.
GB&F: How has Ghana-Mexico relationship fared since the re-opening of your embassy?
MAA: Bilateral relations started when Mexico became the first country in Latin America to recognise the independence of Ghana in 1957.
Mexico was also the first Latin American country to have an embassy in Ghana, and the first of the region to have an Embassy of Ghana. About 2-3 years later, Ghana closed its diplomatic mission; while the Mexican one closed as well at the beginning of the 1980’s. The embassy of Mexico in Accra, re-opened technically in 2014, and fully in April 2015, around two and a half years ahead.
The bilateral relationship has been growing positively and fast. At the political level, many engagements have been done with the previous and actual Ghanaian governments.
Just last September, I was honoured to have a bilateral meeting with president, Nana Akuffo-Addo, at the Flagstaff House. We discussed the fast developing Ghana-Mexico bilateral relations and how to strengthen the relationship. The target is to get our two countries, not only to foster, but solidify it, and to get strategic economic relations in a short period.
GB&F: How has the trade relations developed since you became ambassador to Ghana?
MAA: Firstly, together with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and its Mexican counterpart ProMexico, there was a Ghanaian trade mission to Mexico in May 2016, which participated in the first-ever Mexico-Africa Business Forum, organised by ProMexico. The then CEO of (GIPC), went along with a delegation of seven Ghanaian companies.
In June 2016, a Mexican business delegation paid a reciprocal visit to Ghana with around eight companies led by the then director-general of ProMexico. This were the first two links between our business communities to explore opportunities.
In 2016, ProMexico signed MoUs with GEPA, the Ghana Free Zones Board, and with the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA). This legal framework between institutions of our two countries have the purpose to tie economic links and to build strong partnerships.
As a result of these exchanges, one of the Mexican companies that came in June 2016, which deals in maize processing industry, returned in March this year to have new consultations. Initially, they wanted to widen their exports into Ghana but, rather, they have evaluated the possibility of investing here.
Also, we have registered four business delegations from Ghana to Mexico. Aside the one undertaken by GEPA, three Ghanaian business delegations went on their own to seek opportunities in my country. Conversely, we have had a total of six business delegations from Mexico to Ghana since June last year making it 10 bilateral business delegations in a year.
GB&F: We hear there is a key business summit coming up in Mexico?
MAA: Yes, aside the 10 business delegations between us, the most important one for me will be the 15th edition of the Mexico Business Summit that will take place from the 22nd-24thOctober in San Luis Potosí, a rapidly industrialising city in the central-northern part of Mexico. We will be honoured with the presence of Alan Kyerematen, Ghana’s Minister for Trade and Industry, to represent President Nana Akufo-Addo as head of Ghana’s delegation to the summit.
Last month, we had a seminar where Minister Kyerematen and I encouraged the Ghanaian business community to come to Mexico. We were both positive that maybe around 20 Ghanaian companies will come for the seminar but we got surprised that around 70-80 companies assisting to such event, what shows us how Mexico is getting more attractive for local business community every time, due to its position as the 14th strongest economy in the world. So, as at today, we have about 10 20 companies already registered and planning to visit Mexico.
GB&F: What is the purpose of the summit?
MAA: This event is very important. I am sure people already know of the Davos summit (Davos in Switzerland hosts the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), a meeting of global political and business executives). The Mexican Business Summit is a mirror of Davos just that this is a Mexican one where we would talk about the Mexican economy, the shape of the international economy and what Mexico must do to continue strengthening the globalisation of its economy by getting into new and no traditional markets, as is the case of Africa.
As you are aware, a re-negotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is taking place with the USA and Canada. We also have free trade agreements with almost all Latin American countries, plus Japan and the European Union (EU), which we are also re-negotiating now.
Even though we count on this wide net free trade agreements, we have concentrated majority of our trade with North America and the rest with our main partners, but the world is bigger, and so the Mexico Business Summit will focus on getting Mexico to trade with new markets. Today, our government and business community are convinced that it is time to search for new partners and markets for Mexico, where Ghana has a lot to gain.
One answer is for us to look to Africa too and that is why the presence of Alan Kyerematen and the business delegation is important because they will have the chance to convince the Mexican business community to invest in Ghana.
The Ghanaian business delegation will have the opportunity of business-to-business (B-2-B) meetings with the CEOs of the Mexican companies at this event. Ghana also stands to benefit as 45 countries have free trade agreements with Mexico meaning, through Mexico, Ghana can have open markets to many other countries. Similarly, Mexico through Ghana, can also get take advantage of the negotiations Africa is having with the AU for a common market as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
GB&F: Which sectors of the economy are the Mexican delegations interested in?
MAA: Many sectors. For example, oil and gas where Mexico is one of the main oil producers and exporters, oil service industry, agriculture and agro-food processing industries, infrastructure, tourism chemical, steel and telecommunications industries are also of interest. Mexico is the nation of one the most important business person in the world leading with fixed and mobile phone industry and services within said sector.
There are also good opportunities in the construction sector (low & middle-income houses); the pharmaceutical industry and services.
We are the 14th economy in the world and we are on track to be the eight biggest economy globally by 2050. This means that Mexico’s economy will continue growing and expanding. We are world leaders in many industries of between the main producers and exporters, as in the case of automobile, spare parts, electronics, aero-space industry, just to mention some. Also in the agricultural field we are exporter leaders of avocado, tomato and pineapple, among other products. Ghana companies have a lot to win by partnership.
Ghana also has strong companies who have the skill to go and partner other companies in Mexico. Minister Kyerematen will be a speaker at the Summit so he will have the chance to present the government’s actions, policies and facilities to attract Mexican companies to invest in Ghana. After the Summit, he will also pay an official bilateral visit to Mexico City, and will hold meetings with top governmental officials, to continue fostering bilateral economic relations.
GB&F: Why did you launch the Ghana-Mexico Chamber of Commerce?
MAA: After the first business delegation from Ghana went to Mexico, some of the companies which participated saw the potential of strengthening bilateral economic relations with Mexico so they decided to create the chamber. The Chamber was officially launched it in September 2017 and its target is to attract Ghanaian business community to take advantage of the economic opportunities between our two countries.
GB&F: What is the trade volume between the two countries?
MAA: Today, it is very little. Considering Mexico’s total trade was up to US$373 billion in 2016. From this total, Africa’s share is less than one percent. We are the 11th biggest exporter in the world but our trade with Africa is minimal and that is why we are working on this issue to boost trade.
GB&F: Anything you want readers to know?
MAA: The priorities of this embassy today are to strengthen political and economic relations with Ghana and to increase the knowledge of Mexico between Ghanaians through cultural activities.
The visit to Mexico of Minister Kyerematen this October will be the first high level political visit between our two countries since the re-opening of the Embassy, and will represent a cornerstone in our political and economic relations.
One of the Embassy’s main activities is to promote the richness of Mexico, through a wide variety of cultural activities (12 per year) through art exhibitions, film and food festivals, and by bringing once a year a traditional Mariachi music band.
We must remember that Mexico’s food and Mariachi have been declared by UNESCO as an ‘Intangible Heritage to Humanity’ due to their ancient traditions.
Through these activities, together with education cooperation -which is getting every time strongest- Ghanaians a reable to learn every day more about Mexico.
GB&F: Thank you for talking to GB&F magazine.
MAA: Thank you for interviewing me.