The Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Ghana, Meshal Alrogi, granted interview with the Ghanaian Times to share his thoughts about the diplomatic relationships between his country and Ghana, and his experiences working in Ghana as a diplomat. We reproduce below excerpts from the interview.
QUE: when did the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ghana established bilateral relations?
Ghana’s diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level with Saudi Arabia dates back to March I960. In that year, the two countries accredited their respective ambassadors in Cairo and Lagos to each other’s capital as a first measure. Saudi Arabia –Ghana bilateral relations improved permitting the Ghanaian Government to establish her Consulate-General in Jeddah in 1988, and by 2003 Saudi Arabia upgraded her mission in Accra to the level of resident Ambassadorial level.
Que: What accounted for such long standing relations notwithstanding language and regional differences?
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a very strategic country geographically, religiously and in terms of world’s energy supply. It is the world’s largest oil producing country and has emerged as the only Middle Eastern country in the G20 group large economies. This, coupled with Ghana’s strategic location in West Africa contributed to both countries long standing relations.
Also, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by Ghanaian Muslims undoubtedly contributed to early establishment of Ghana’s missions in Saudi Arabia to facilitate the annual pilgrimage. The establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries further enhanced the smooth interaction between the Muslims of the two countries, beyond the scope of Hajj.
The Saudi Government hosts Ghanaian hajj delegations by providing all necessary protocol services befitting state visit.
Que: In your tenure of office as ambassador, what are some of the areas do you think both countries need to strengthen for mutual benefit
A very important area in bilateral relations today is exchange of foreign direct investments. Unfortunately, notwithstanding long standing relations between the two countries, trade volumes remain low. There is efforts going on to establish necessary framework to help increase trade volumes. Both countries are communicating through diplomatic channels to sign avoidance of double taxation to step up foreign direct investments.
QUE: Has the bilateral relations of Saudi Arabia and Ghana yielded any cooperation?
The relations between Saudi Arabia and Ghana has yielded several cooperation leading to the later becoming one of the Kingdom’s development aid priority destinations in West Africa.
-Saudi Universities offer outstanding scholarship packages to qualified Ghanaian applicants.
-The Saudi Fund for Development and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center have both made several donations to boost certain important areas of Ghana’s development such as road, medical delivery and education and well faire projects such as donations of date fruits and food baskets.
-One of Saudi State of art supported project in Ghana is the Rehabilitation of the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital. In September 2019, an agreement for the project of rehabilitation and expansion of Bolgatanga Regional Hospital in the Upper East Region of Ghana was signed between the Governments of the two countries, which facilitated a grant of $20 million from the Saudi Fund for development to execute the project. It seeks to equip the hospital with world class medical gadgets and equipment with accommodation for staffs of the hospital.The project is expected to be completed by next year (2023) and handed over to the government of Ghana.
QUE: What is your observation working as ambassador in Ghana?
Working in Ghana is an experience that would forever remain memorable especially as it is my second time working in the country as a diplomat. My first post as a diplomat was in Ghana in 1996 as a first secretary. So returning to Ghana as ambassador in 2019, gives me an opportunity to make comparisons of Ghana 26 years ago and today.The country has indeed made commendable progress in infrastructural development.