Under African Skies….

Under African skies exist the opportunity for business to grow exports, and the good news is that in Ghana they want to do business with Scotland.

President John Dramani-Mahama visited the Chamber a week past Friday when he was in the city receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen.

We invited the president to speak at a business forum focused on Ghana and over 200 business people assembled to hear his message.

We heard about a young nation with big ambition.

We learned that 93% of young people are now attending primary school and about the growth in students attending universities at home and abroad.

We heard about the investment in high speed broadband and 4G and the vision that they have for developing agriculture technology and renewable energy.

But the president, and the five government ministers who accompanied him, recognise the innovation and expertise we have here and they want us to work with them to improve their nation.

We should be eager to engage.

As a nation, our export trade is not doing well, affecting economic growth and our balance of payments.

Our government target set in 2010 to double exports by 2020 is well off the mark with only 18% growth recorded so far.

Broadly speaking, only 50 large companies account for more than half of our exports and only 15% of exports are attributed to SMEs.

We are an island nation with a long history of trading so something has gone wrong and needs to change.

We need to encourage businesses to look for new opportunities and to learn about new places to trade their goods.

If you’re not trading outside the UK and you could, Ghana wants to hear from you.

A multicultural nation, it has a population of 27million and is the ninth largest economy on the Africa continent.

It has huge reserves of oil and natural gas, is one of the world's largest gold and diamond producers and is reckoned to be the largest producer of cocoa in the world.

They eat more rice and fish per capita than any other nation in Africa.

Ghana's growing economic prosperity and stable democracy has made it a regional power in the region and it is on a journey that even in an oil price downturn has delivered 7% GDP growth.

But as I have suggested already, there is more to Ghana than oil and gas.

Businesses that are looking at Ghana include financial services, telecom, business and consumer services, renewables and through our universities in the education sector too.

As well as our obvious strength in the oil & gas sector, our region is a leader in other sectors including food and drink, agriculture, soil science as well as an emerging sector in high tech therapeutic drugs.

We also have excellent universities who welcome students from Ghana each year and where greater opportunities exist for collaboration in education, innovation and technology transfer.

So as the days get longer and the sun starts to shine here, just think for a moment.

Let’s make sure that we’re making the most of our ability to invent, create and develop by ensuring we sell what we have across the globe.

Ghana at least is waiting for your call.