Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte Thursday praised Ghana’s democratic credentials, which had made the country a model of stability and economic growth in Africa.

He said Ghana was a preferred destination in West Africa because “Our two countries are linked by common values, respect for democratic principles, sustainable and positive development of economic cooperation and free trade.”

Mr Conte, who is on a visit to Ghana to attend the inauguration of the Okuafo Pa Project in Dormaa in the Brong Ahafo Region, made these remarks when he called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House in Accra.

“Most experts and leaders consider your country a model of democracy and economic growth” he said, adding; “I am very interested in your economic growth because eight per cent is a wonderful and fantastic performance”.

The Italian PM told the President that he agreed in totality with a speech he delivered recently at the G20 Compact with Africa calling on the Continent to tie its development to value addition and industrialisation.

“I completely agree that African countries need to enhance their local businesses and to shift their economic model from resource based sectors to more productive industrial or service based actions,” he said.

Mr Conte said he was happy to attend the inauguration of the Okuafo Pa project, describing the initiative as a unique way of doing business and enhancing cooperation between Europe and Africa.

He said the Okoafo Pa project was very important to Ghana’s agricultural and industrial sectors, and expressed optimism that the project would, to a large extent, benefit Ghanaian farmers and entrepreneurs.

The Okoafo Pa Project focuses on the cultivation of corn, cocoa, and cashew, among others, and is expected to promote techniques such as net-greenhouses for tomatoes, thereby contributing to agricultural diversification.

“This is a new model of cooperation because it means our entrepreneurs will combine know-how with strong attention for socio-economic development for local communities.”

“I am very happy to know that there are 800 students undertaking the training in entrepreneurship and farming, among others, and would work for themselves and help with the socio economic development of the country… Italy and European Union would be by your side in these crucial times,” the Italian PM said.

President Akufo-Addo, on his part, recounted the cordial relationship between the two countries, touching on the positive influence Italian companies and people had had on Ghana.

“In the very beginning of our independence, one of the most infrastructural projects in Ghana, the Akosombo Dam, had heavy Italian influence. So we value the relationship with Italy. And we are looking for opportunities to expand our relationship. We are hoping that your visit to Ghana would provide us the opportunity to do so,” he said.

After bilateral talks, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defence Cooperation.

Under the MOU, the Government of Italy will provide defence assistance to Ghana to address the security challenges in the West African sub-region.

President Akufo-Addo expressed optimism that the defence agreement would help enhance Ghana’s security, especially in the wake of the rising menace of terrorism within the region.

He said although the Jihadists operations in the Sahelean Region, Northern Nigeria, Mali, and Niger, had not yet spread to the southern part of West Africa, it was imperative to fight them off by building strong defense mechanisms to fight violent extremism in the sub-region.

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