Switzerland’s Growing Relationship With Sub-Saharan Africa – An Interview With Philipp Stalder

10

In an exclusive interview with Business Insider Africa, Ambassador Philipp Stalder, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa and Francophonie Division at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), discussed Switzerland’s evolving relations with Sub-Saharan African countries, his new role, and recent visit to Ghana.

Stalder, who served as Switzerland’s Ambassador to Ghana, Togo, and Benin between 2019 and 2022, highlighted Switzerland’s long-standing commitment to peace policy, development cooperation, and humanitarian aid in Africa. He also noted that Switzerland’s first Sub-Sahara Africa strategy, launched in 2021, focuses on economic opportunities on the continent.

“Switzerland can offer a lot, be it in the field of peace promotion, development cooperation or investment and trade,” Stalder said. “Our strategy prioritizes opportunities, particularly in the economic sphere, while also focusing on peace, security, human rights, sustainability, and digitalization.”

Stalder also spoke about his recent visit to Ghana, where he conducted bilateral consultations with his counterpart at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, followed by a meeting of Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis with Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey. The Swiss delegation then travelled to Yaoundé, Cameroon, to attend the 44th inter-ministerial Francophonie conference.

He told Business Insider Africa that the visit was a “nice gesture” and a sign of “respect and recognition” for the strong relationship between Switzerland and Ghana.

“Ghana is Switzerland’s second most important economic partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, primarily due to cocoa and gold. The fact that the Ghanaian President took the time for this meeting reflects the strong relationship between Switzerland and Ghana,” Stalder said.

“At the bilateral consultations meeting, we discussed the Accra initiative, which aims to enhance security, stability, and peace in West Africa by regulating the arms trade and reducing armed violence. We also discussed various issues, including human rights, press freedom, the security situation in the Sahel region and its impact on Ghana.”

Stalder expressed his optimism about the future of Switzerland’s relations with Sub-Saharan Africa, saying that he believes the continent has much to offer and that Switzerland can play a role in helping Africa achieve its full potential.

“We envision a strengthened and deepened partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa based on mutual respect, shared values, and common interests. We aim for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable region and hope to enhance our bilateral and multilateral engagements in the years to come,” Stalder said.

Stalder told Business Insider Africa that Switzerland is also active in peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Africa, as the relationship with Sub-Saharan African nations has evolved significantly in recent years, both in depth and scope.

“Switzerland has a long-standing tradition as a significant donor of development cooperation to Africa. In recent years, relations have diversified with a focus on partnership in the mutual interest. Today, Switzerland is an important economic partner for many Sub-Saharan African countries. Swiss companies are involved in a wide range of sectors in Africa and create thousands of jobs on the continent,” Stadler said.

He added, “Our Sub-Sahara Africa Strategy prioritizes opportunities, particularly in the economic sphere, while also focusing on peace, security, human rights, sustainability, and digitalization. In essence, our objectives in Sub-Saharan Africa reflect our values, aspirations, and the potential for mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Stalder’s new position as Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at the Swiss Foreign Ministry gives him a unique opportunity to shape Switzerland’s relations with the continent. He is well-positioned to help Switzerland achieve its goals of economic cooperation, peacebuilding, and development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Reflecting on his time as ambassador in Ghana, Stalder told Business Insider Africa that he misses the country’s “vibrant and joyful way of life, its music, and its community in general.”

“There’s an ability here to let go of the stresses of daily life; people dance and share jokes. I find it remarkable how they handle difficulties in daily life with such ease. If we had a 40 per cent inflation rate in Switzerland, the mood would not be as positive. Furthermore, I greatly value the safety in this country, as well as the non-violent and peaceful people.”

Source : BI