Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies


Japan-Ghana Economic Trade: What is to share and trade between Japan and Ghana?

Japan is a country of high experience in production and manufacturing in the region for centuries but has limited resources of not only land but also natural resources (Kodansha, 1983). It has learned a lot from the West over the history and needs resources to keep up the competition. It is rich in terms of fishing (Kalland, 1981)and rice production when it comes to agriculture but this is also not feeding the high-density population over the islands. The working population and the potential of heavy industry are also promising but it always comes to resources when the term industry appears.

The Republic of Ghana on the other hand is rich of resources of gold, coca, and diamonds and most importantly aluminium, ore and bauxite and arable, deforested lands to provide space of industrialization (Berry LaVerle, 1942). It seems as if these countries have what each other need. Ghana is also in need of modern industrial tools to enhance their crop yields that can also be exported and it provides a strategic ground as it is in the centre of Africa and close to the Middle East to export goods.

In return Ghana lacks the transportation and education that it can gain from and these countries complement each other in terms of their economical needs, since Japan can build railroads (Noguchi, 1990) and provide jobs. It is clear that Ghana is unable to process its resources and Japan needs more resources and their economy must be improved, which is a global goal for each and every country in the World. One does not need the other any less and future research will encourage more insight and suggestions to be carried out by these countries.


Japanese Topography, Society and Education

Japan, in other words the Source of the Sun Country or the Land of the Rising Sun and has a capital named Tokyo. Japanese people live in a geography where mountainous islands of volcanic formation which consist of four main islands named Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu in total of 377,855 square kilometres. The highest point is the Mount Fuji with 3,776 meters high and numerous rivers providing water sources and a potential of hydroelectric-power generation (Kodansha, 1983). Climate plays a grand role since Japanese climate is generally rainy with high humidity levels (Papinot, 1910).

With the population estimate of more than 125 million people inhabiting only 2 percent of the total land, a crowded 1,523 per square kilometre. Japanese people consist of 99.2 percent Japanese and remaining from other nations that consist of mostly Korean and Chinese. Japanese on these lands are the generations of Ainu and Burakumin. The nation’s religious beliefs consist of Shinto and Buddhist (84%) and other religions (Japanese New Religions, 1989).

Education system in Japan provides nine-year compulsory education, which consist of elementary school from grade one through six, lower or secondary education from grade seven to nine. The following education is provided mostly by private schools and 94 percent of the population and provides ten to twelfth grades of upper-secondary schools. Of the 490 universities in the country, only 133 of these provide free education (Reischauer, 1974).


Japanese Economy

The resources of Japan consist of coal reserves in the north and southwest and other minerals but none of with are renewable resources. So, Japan relies deeply on its industry to provide 23,616 US dollars per capita (Ministry of Finance, 1989).

The industry consists of automobile manufacturing, consumer electronics; nonferrous metals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, bio industry, aerospace, textiles, and processed foods as well as older heavy industries such as mining, steel, and shipbuilding which is in decline in the recent years but still important worldwide. Also, the high-technology production industries are prevalent. For example; semiconductors, computers, optical fibres, optoelectronics, videodiscs, facsimile and copy machines, industrial robots are in the rise for exported materials. These provide the 32.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Services provide a gross 56.6 percent of GDP which consist of wholesale and retail trade as well as advertising, data processing, publishing, tourism, leisure industries and entertainment which grew rapidly in 1980s (Nihon tokei nenkan, 1988).

Agriculture provides 2.8 percent of GDP. This may be due to the fact that Japan lacks arable land and on the remaining farmlands mostly rice is grown for the climate’s accordance. The lack of arable land is a result of fertilizers, mechanization and experimental high-yield crops. For the climate’s benefits on forestry, the 70 percent of the agriculture segment depends on the wood abundant large lumber industry. Also, seafood and fishing provide Japan to be the World’s largest fishing industry (Kalland, 1981).

Japan imports 187 billion US dollars (41 percent) and exports 265 billion US dollars (59 percent) to United States, Germany, Korea and Taiwan. The economical payment balance is as presented in percentages provided in the previous data. Japan is also a central industry for transformation and communications, which also provide import and exports. For example, maritime on coastal seas serves major industries and railroads for more than 18,800 kilometres of governmental, 3,400 kilometres of private sector provide a transport of goods and people fort he nation as well as bullet trains up to 270 kilometres per hour and subways covering the major cities (Noguchi, 1990). Roads consist of extensive expressways that allow fast and non-stop fuel-efficient travel as well as gross highway networks among the cities. Telecommunication is also an early rising utility having 64 million telephones even back in 1989 even in the remote and mountainous areas that were served by satellites (Noguchi, 1990).


Japanese Government and Politics

Japanese government is ruled by constitutional monarchy and parliament. While the monarch states a symbol of nationalism and power in Japanese government, the parliament which is elected by two legislative houses. These two compartments are House of Counsellors which is an upper house in legislative functioning and House of Representatives which is lower. The elections for the selection of prime minister rules and changes every four years.

The prime minister administers 47 seven divisions both rural and urban. Justice is heavily influenced by the British and American system including judiciary Supreme Court, high courts, district courts and family courts.

In terms of politics, there are two major parties which are Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Socialist Party that changes hands of ruling the House of Counsellors in the elections. Also, foreign affairs are developed by aiding developing countries and maintaining diplomatic relations with all the countries. The reason may be the fact that after World War II, Japan took a passive side in international politics and maintained neutral and independent policy of conversing with an upon other nations. Japan has also been a part of Member of Asian Development Bank, Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific, International Whaling Commission, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, and several other international organizations.

In terms of national security, Japan has declared article 9 of Japanese Constitution to take measures upon offensive matters and for this reason Japanese military consists of five armies which include fve maritime and three air defence forces in Hokkaido, eastern Honshu, central and western Honshu and Shikoku, and Kyushu. The army consists of medium tanks, reconnaissance vehicles, armored personnel carriers, towed and self-propelled howitzers, mortars, single rocket and multiple rocket launchers, air-defense guns, surface-to-surface missiles, antitank missiles, fixed-wing aircraft, attack helicopters, and transport helicopters to use in its ground attacks and military training as well as submarines, guided missile destroyers, frigates with helicopters, frigates, patrol and coastal combatants, mine warfare ships, amphibious ships, auxiliaries, fixed-wing aircraft, and helicopters for their maritime forces along with ground attack aircraft, fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, airborne early-warning aircraft, transport aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and air-defence control and warning units for their air forces. All of these forces under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security that was signed with the United States in 1960.

Promoting homeland security, Japan has boosted its powers o exports along with the help of liberalized trade policies since 1960s as well as elimination of tax incentives. This led to exporting of motor vehicles and consumer electronics in 1980s.

When utilising foreign aid program, from the late 1980s Japan began grants and loans to multilateral aid organizations and after the 1990s Japan began the equilibrium of businesses to small businesses causing the resources of international investments’ dispersion to each business to flourish. Today’s question in terms of economic growth is the inquisition of ways of economic enlargement without the involvement of political alliances or selecting a counterpart (Dolan & Worden, 1992).


Ghanaian Topography, Society and Education

The Republic of Ghana is the size of 238,533 square kilometres with Atlantic coast in the south, northern plateau, western and southern border of Volta River Basin along vast areas of mountainous areas and plateau. The climate is a mixture of dry airflow from the northeast and moistened air winds from the southwest, which is coming from the equator. Vegetation is handled in the South since the dessert weather affecting the North also deeply effects the agriculture.

Ghanaian people populate the area by about more than 28 million people with the growth rate of 3 percent each year leaving 63 people per square kilometre. Ghanaian population is rich in terms of ethnicity and it consists of the Akan, Ewe, Mole-Dagbane, Guan, and Ga-Adangbe peoples speaking Kwa or rooted to Gur subfamily of Niger-Congo language family. Although English is the official language of the government, people in the South speak this indigenous language.

The religion in Ghana is not homogeneous as in Japan with 62 percent Christians, 15 percent Muslims and 22 percent of indigenous religions or non-believers. Christianity is mostly dominant in the south whereas Islam is in the North.

In Ghana health care can be accepted as a problem due to infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, anthrax, pertussis, yellow fewer, hepatitis, trachoma, and malaria and many other tropical endemic diseases that may be infectious and transferrable.

Education is not compulsory but citizens can get free primary and junior secondary education which are thought in the vernacular (local Language) but in the following senior secondary schools and polytechnic institutions and universities are thought in English also causing students struggles of tuition and textbook fees but the government has been acting upon boarding and lodging fees after student demonstrations in 1990s (Berry LaVerle, 1942).


Ghanaian Economy

Ghanaians depended on their trade of coca and gold until the stagnation of mid-1960s. With low demand and late-industrialization, the economy later overvalued the currency and lead to debt. In the 1983 Economic Recovery which was a program to raise coca, gold and timber exports, was carried out but did not result as expected and left the capita per income as low as 380 US dollars.

The economy as mentioned previously depends on agriculture, forestry and fishing. Agriculture makes up of half of the GDP and most of the exports relied on cocoa crops that brought cash income to the country, as Ghana was the World’s third largest cocoa producer as of 1993. Other agricultural crops are also bringing income such as palm oil, cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, rubber, kenaf, yams, corn, cassava, and other rooted crops.

Forestry is also in the list of trade in Ghana but the major deforestation brings out a grand problem not only by means of economy and sustainability but also political disagreement between organizations of forest-saving types. For these reasons, Ghanaian people choose to move onto livestock in the North and South prefers to fish although it does not promise much.

Industry brings per capita to the nations in Ghana and it includes manufacturing industries such as aluminium, saw mills and its timber processing, cocoa processing, breweries, cement manufacturing, oil refining, textile production, leather processing and other assembling factories such as vehicle and electronics assembly, although the last four of them were petitioned for economic liberalization to shut down or to be lowered.

Ghana is rich in terms of minerals and mining in gold, bauxite (the core of aluminium), manganese and diamonds is popular, none of which can out-do the cocoa export. The mining of diamonds have reached 694,000 in the year 1992 and grow on after that. The Aluminium quantity on the other hand is large, but has not been exploited, as it should have been.

Transportation is mostly carried out on 32,000 kilometres of roads, only 6,000 of which is paved and with low maintenance. Railroads consist of 653 kilometres of single-track system only connecting main areas of the country. Ankobra River, Tano River and Volta River are navigable with small merchant marines carrying cargo over the rivers. Volta River is also producing energy by hydroelectric production for Ghanaians. It is also a problem for Ghanaians to communicate since only 10 percent of the population receives up-to-date devices of communication (Berry LaVerle, 1942).


Ghanaian Government and Politics

Ghana is ruled by a parliamentary democracy after its independence in 1957. The 1992 constitution which arose after the military government suggests division of powers among president, parliament, cabinet, Council of State, and independent courts.

Administrative system involves ten branches that rule over 110 districts that are administrating district assemblies, councils of both rural and urban types and committees. Judicial systems are based on traditional law ad the 1992 military constitution which are divided in to Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court of Justice in a hierarchical form, the latter being the highest.

The ruling has altered and there are four political parties the governmental positions have been shifted from. These major parties consist of National Democratic Congress, New Patriotic Party which is a major opposition party, and People’s National Convention Party.

Foreign relations since the independence caused ideals and controversy among the idea of Pan-Africanism which favours international and national economic cooperation. National security has been established in 1994 missioning in foreign aggression and internal security. Major military units consist of best-equipped and largest armed forces in both air-force and navy yet, needing more resources for combat and maintenance. The equipment is largely from British, Brazilian, Swiss, Swedish, Israeli, and Finnish manufacture. Defence also entangles with budget problems. Although these problems are present, after 1990 Ghana revived military ties with the following developed countries such as the United States, Britain and other Western countries (Berry LaVerle, 1942).


Japanese-Ghanaian Cooperation and Economy

In the previous excerpts, it is clear when they are examined that both Japan and Ghana has a possible cooperation in terms of military, politics, education and thus, economy. For example, Ghana with low capital to enrich its education and military power, Japan withholds technology and resources of industrialism whereas the grounds of Japanese soil provide less space each year to industrialise, Ghana seems enriched with working class and premises to industrialise on.

In terms of resources, also Ghana provides a richness in cocoa, aluminium, gold, and other forestry and agricultural elements which Japan needs. Japan, on the other hand, need resources to produce goods and needs workers in it aging society to process these goods (Gordon, 2003).

The trade between Japan and Ghana became apparent in 1955 with the trade of fish preparations, cotton and rayon piece goods, clothing, made-up textile articles, floor-coverings, tapestries and corrugated iron sheets and these items were imported. Japan became the second largest importer of goods to Ghana in this period maintaining 10 percent of the total imports of Ghana (Birmingham, 1957). In recent years, Japan has invested 11.2 billion Yens approximately 102 million US dollars to be used in the infrastructure industry in order to enhance economic ties within both countries. As a part of this approach, in the same agreement Japan also promised to invest in the medical sector as a part of aids fund in order to fight infectious diseases in Ghana which consisted of 2.3 billion yens. This medical aid will be used in the Medical facilities of Japan in Ghana which is named Ghana’s Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research created by Hideyo Neguchi in 1876 and continued to study yellow fewer until 1928 (the Japan Times, 2016).

In return, Ghana exports coca beans as it has always been and Japan imports these goods. The Japanese percentage of exports of Cocoa Beans makes up 5 % of Ghana’s exports (Modern Ghana, 2019), which seems rather low when the export and import has been compared between the governments.


Further Suggestions and Conclusions

It seems that the relationship has not been sufficiently turned out as it could have been expected. This resulted in the approaches of the modern Ghanaian government to take action. For example, Ghanaian Finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta, during his visit to Tokyo suggested that although there is a relationship between Asian and African governments in terms of finance is great, there is great disappointment in the way that Asian countries seek resources in Africa. He also noted that the relationship between Ghana and Japan did not consist any of these threats and instead it withholds a much more co-operative and co-existive development for both counterparts. It is also mentioned in the article that the Ghanaian Finance Minister seeks Japanese investment to be encouraged due to the fact that Ghana consists of 24 million people as well as resources to be processed that will benefit both countries and an investment ready development of estimated 6.1 percent growth in the economy reported by the World Bank (Ofori-Atta, 2018).

As this article focuses on the economic relationship analysis on both Japan and Ghana, additional suggestions in terms of geographical and societal eligibility of both countries as well as their industrial resources and economic power from these resources could be made.

When compared, geographical and societal comparison, Japan’s agriculture depends on rice and fishing which could be a matter of exchange but with the working-class ages, this becomes a slow-down for the nation. In return, Ghana withholds the power of its growing population that needs jobs and the premises are eligible for infrastructure of industry. For example, assembly of automobile and electronic devices to be exported from Ghana which is strategically closer to Europe and other western countries is possible.

As another suggestion, Ghana is eligible in the resources of aluminium and gold is a probable enhancement for Japanese economy to invest in if there are further investments of infrastructure in industrial grounds, having the same strategic grounds, Japan could use the power of on-premises resources of Ghana to develop electronic devices and human resources of Ghanaian population to create a cooperation.

To conclude, Japan and Ghana are eligible for economic cooperation and both countries have pros in terms of each other’s weaknesses. Although there is not enough resource, which is a limitation in this research, to conclude that japan and Ghana needs further improvement in their economic relationship, more research needs to be concluded to analyse estimation of production and resources to be shared by both countries.



In order to fulfil the selection of research and the editing, Zeynep ZENGİN TEMIRBEK UULU from the METU Disability Office assisted in the research. I especially thank both the METU Disability Office and her with my best regards.



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Coordinator of Belt and Road Program at BAAM