Accra, Dec 19 (IANS) Even though China has overtaken India among the emerging economies in the race to invest in Ghana, Chinese nationals have become a problem for the Ghanaian authorities because of their involvement in illegal mining and trading across the country. Indian investors have shunned such activities and have proved to be welcome guests.
Official records provided by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) show that by 2007, Chinese arrivals at the Kotoka International Airport was 5,627. This shot up to 10,643 in 2010 and by last year, it had increased to 13,985.
Indian immigration to Ghana, which dates back to the early 1900s, was at 10,765 in 2007. The figure increased to 16,125 in 2010. Last year, the GIS recorded 19,835 Indian arrivals. Some analysts have however dismissed the Chinese figures by the GIS because "they seem to be everywhere and creating trouble," said Thompson Duah, an opinion leader at Manso-Nkwanta in the Amansie-West district of the Ashanti Region.
Duah said the activities of the Chinese are helping to degrade the environment. Ghana Chamber of Mines president Tony Aubynn agreed with Duah. At a recent media briefing, he expressed worry at the rate at which illegal miners, popularly called "galamseyers", were degrading the environment.
Aubynn stressed that it was illegal for foreigners to engage in small-scale mining in the country and said it was not proper for the politicians to encourage them to continue their activities even though the politicians were aware of the illegality.
"The law is against illegal mining and the fact that some people have to do it to survive does not make it right," he said.
In addition to illegal mining, Chinese nationals have also been hit out at by the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA). Executives of the association claim the Chinese have taken over local markets which were the preserve of the Ghanaians under the law. In addition, local textile companies have also complained about the threat to their survival because of Chinese-made textiles that had been dumped in the country.
GUTA has attacked the government for not taking any measures against the Chinese and the reason is not far-fetched. In April, President John Dramani Mahama, the then vice president, concluded a $1 billion loan with the China Development Bank Corporation, part of which is to be used to develop the country's gas reserves in the western region.
President Mahama said the loan will help in the completion of the gas plant which is being undertaken by China's Sinopec. Of the amount, $850 million is to support the development of a gas plant and is to be paid for with oil produced at the Jubilee fields.
India is again playing second fiddle in this project because it is investing in a plant to produce fertiliser.
Indian High Commissioner in Ghana Rajinder Bhagat said the fertiliser project was dear to his government because it would not only help to cement the bond of friendship between the two countries but also satisfy the country's demand.
Bhagat told IANS India was ready with the technical plan and the funds to kick-start the project, adding: "India is only awaiting the green light from the Ghana government."
Gas is a key component in the processing of fertiliser and, therefore, Bhagat asked the government to beat down the price of gas to facilitate the starting and running of the project.
He said Indian investors were ready to construct pipelines for transporting the gas to support the fertiliser plant.
Besides the fertiliser plant, Bhagat said Indian investors intended to revive Ghana's sugar industry by investing $36 million in establishing a processing plant. They would also invest in potato plantations.
Despite the worry over the activities of Chinese nationals in the country, it is becoming clear that together with India, they have helped to boost investment in Ghana. Indians have initiated 12 projects and the Chinese 11 between July and September this year, the Ghana Investment Promotion Authority (GIPA) figures show.
Former GIPA chief executive George Aboagye said China continued to maintain its dominance as 40 projects came from that country in the first three quarters of this year, followed by Nigeria with 35, India with 32 and Lebanon with 20. The investment in these projects amounted to $4.38 billion against $4.1 billion in the same period last year, representing a 6.5 percent increase.
Duah said looking at the investment portfolio of Indians in Ghana over the past one year, "it is clear that their entry into the country has not been in areas that have given the authorities any worry like the Chinese' . From the time that we have witnessed Indian presence in this country, they have rather invested to employ our people in the retail, pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors".
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)