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Claudia Turbay Quintero

Officially known as the Republic of Colombia, it is a sovereign state largely situated in the northwestern part of South America with territories in Central America. Colombia shares a border to the northwest with Panama, to the east with Venezuela and Brazil and to the south with Ecuador and Peru.

Colombia also shares its maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising of thirty-two departments. It is believed that the territory currently occupied by Colombia was originally inhabited by various indigenous people including the Muisca, Quimbaya and the Taitona.

The landscape is marked by rainforest, the Andes Mountains and numerous coffee plantations.  In the high-altitude capital, Bogota, the Zona Rosa is known for its restaurants and shops. Cartagena which is on the Caribbean coast has amazing attractions including a walled colonial Old Town, a 16th century castle and nearby coral reefs.

Bilateral relations between Ghana and Colombia dates back to the year 1988 but without exchanges and cooperation between the two countries for a period. The situation remained the same until 2013 when the Colombian government decided to have its presence in Ghana by establishing a diplomatic mission in Ghana.

Following the opening of the Colombian Embassy in Accra, the then Ghanaian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms. Hannah Tetteh led a delegation to Colombia in February 2014, where they held discussions with the Colombian Foreign Minister on various subjects – from agriculture, education, youth development, culture, sports to health.

In October 2015, the relations between Ghana and Colombia was taken to another level when the two countries accepted to sign two cooperation agreements to enhance engagements and exchanges between the two counties in the areas of sports and youth development. Additionally, the two countries were keen to explore further avenues including health and agriculture for mutual benefits.

To place the spotlight on the bilateral relations between Ghana and Colombia, I had an interaction with Her Excellency Claudia Turbay Quintero, the Ambassador of Colombia to Ghana. The Colombian diplomat who describes herself as “a believer of what she does” is passionate about working for Colombia as well as working with and for the people towards the building closer ties with Ghana and West Africa as a whole.

Speaking about how the Ghanaian assignment is different from previous duties, Ambassador Quintero said “Ghana is different from all my previous roles as it presents a totally new experience and gives me a deeper insight and knowledge about Ghana and the rest of Africa. I have to identify areas in which we can develop programmes of mutual interest for both countries”.

As part of activities to strengthen the bilateral relations, Ambassador Quintero successfully coordinated some very important activities including an official visit of the Ghana Immigration Service to Migración Colombia, Colombia’s customs agency responsible for monitoring and carrying out migratory control within the framework of national sovereignty and in accordance with the law in August 2014.

Then in March 2015, a delegation from the Ministry of Science, Environment, Technology and Innovation visited Colombia which was followed by an official visit to Coldeportes by a delegation from the Ministry of Youth and Sports led by the then sector minister, Dr. Mustapha Ahmed.

Others were a seminar on the Best Practices in the Fight Against The World Drug Problem in March 2014, a high level conference on Assistance to Victims of Landmarks in April 2014, Youth Entrepreneurship Learning Routes seminar in March 2015 and a Spanish course in Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Pontifical Bolivarian University) between November 2016 and March 2017.

On trade, the Ambassador shared some very encouraging statistics considering Colombia’s presence and cooperation programmes with Ghana. “The graphic industry and metalwork sector presented the greatest dynamism in the exports to Ghana in 2016. They formed about 46% of the total exports to Ghana. Other sectors between January and November 2017 had a maintained growth of 2.6%. Tools and industrial machinery were the subsectors that dominated exports to Ghana with approximate figures of USD 1,545,217 and USD 547,312 respectively. There were recorded exports for other industries such as agribusiness, apparel sector, chemical and pharmaceutical products”, she added.

In the area of creative arts, culture and entertainment, Ambassador Quintero revealed the plan of the Colombian embassy in Ghana. “Colombia is a country with the third largest population of persons of African descent which means the African spirit is very present amongst the Colombian population. We believe in cultural exchanges and very aware of the several talents of that can be found in Ghana which includes singing, dancing, poetry theatre and literature. We want to start by working on curating in museums exchange of experiences with common instruments like the marimba, popularly known as xylophone and the caja, referred to as the gome drum in Ghana”.

Commenting on the future of Ghana – Colombia relations, Ambassador Quintero said “it is exciting because we are always building, meeting to work together and discovering all the areas where we can develop themes together and open up new spaces. The future is bright I can say”.

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