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Has Ghana Really Stopped Exporting Cocoa to Switzerland?

hands, cocoa, cacao

Is the claim true? 

Not really, no. However, this wouldn’t be enough to justify an article so here’s important context.

Online forums have been rife with the news that Ghana has stopped exporting cocoa to Switzerland. It has been celebrated for potentially marking a crucial shift in the pattern of trade between developing countries and the West. 

The development would also be a sudden and monumental change to current trade between the two countries. Ghana, the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa, is Switzerland’s closest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the two having establishedreasonably close ties over many decades

To put things in perspective, the value of Ghana’s exports to Switzerland in 2019 was USD4.92b – nearly a 1/4 of all Ghanaian exports over the course of the year. The overwhelming majority was led by Gold but the export value of Cocoa to the Swiss was still USD66.3m.

red fruit on tree branch

Switzerland was also the first European nation to conduct a State visit to the country when Nana Akufo-Addo was elected after the 2016 election. Then-president Doris Leuthard undertook the visit in early 2017.

The source of the claim

I’ve spent many words telling you that on a historical, contemporary and, most importantly, an economic level (because this is what really matters), these nations have substantial ties.

The origin of the claim that Ghana has stopped exporting cocoa to Switzerland appears to have originated from this video (I’d strongly encourage you to watch it).

green and brown round fruit

During the video, the Swiss Prime minister opens by making the not-so-bold acknowledgment that the nation greatly benefits from Ghana’s raw materials. She adds that the ‘resulting trade should benefit both countries’ as part of mutual respect. 

Akufo-Addo then speaks, and after chronicling the history of Ghanaian-Swiss relations, outlines a strong vision for Ghana to end its dependence on the production and export of raw materials – including cocoa. 

He clearly states that it is Ghana’s intent to process its raw materials within their own borders. 

“Ghana no longer wants to be dependent on the production and export of raw materials including cocoa beans. We intend to process more and more of our cocoa in our country with the aim of producing more chocolate ourselves because we believe that there can be no future prosperity for the Ghanaian people in the short medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials. We intend to add value to our raw materials, industrialize and enhance agricultural productivity. This is the best way we can put Ghana at the high end of the value chain in the global marketplace and create jobs for the masses of Ghanaians”

It’s important that this process takes place on the continent. It not only benefits African businesses but allows the continent to further benefit from its own widening selection of top-of-the-line domestic goods whether confectionary, luxury or otherwise. 

Lacking evidence

There are further mentions of a commitment to promoting human rights and the long-term project of ‘Ghana beyond aid’ – a frequent mantra of his deserving of its own article. Yet, as the video roles on, there is no mention of shutting down exports of cocoa to Switzerland as the source claims. 

Neither has there been any mention of such a move from the Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen. Akufo-Addo gave his first State of the Nation Address since re-election last December, and the subject which has drawn viral attention was once again absent from discussion.

There’s also the question as to why, in the middle of a pandemic and with Ghana having only just begun its vaccination campaign at the beginning of this month, Akufo-Addo would find it necessary to conduct a State visit at this very moment.

It’s because he hasn’t. 

Not since February 2020 – when he visited Switzerland and spoke about Ghana’s intent to process its raw materials within their own borders. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. 

The source of this video, from which the claim originated, dates back to that February 2020 State visit. It was only the third time ever that a country in Sub-Saharan Africa had made a State visit to Switzerland and it was the first time since Ghana gained its independence.

Misinformation

The reason this article has been written is to highlight the ease at which misinformation can find its way into the mainstream. 

I won’t lie to you, it can be disheartening. 

It may have settled so easily because the prospect of Ghana doing so would bite back against a pattern of trade which we know to have its roots in the resource extraction of colonialism. 

Truthfully, we don’t even need to look too far for the most recent example of how western businesses will find loopholes to bypass paying the living income differential (LID) which supports some of Ghana’s and Cote d’ivoire poorest farmers. 

I get the willingness for this to be true, completely. Nevertheless, we have to do better with misinformation online. Hopefully, the vision for more and more of the processing of these resources to occur on the continent will come to fruition.

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