TOKYO -- Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said China may be engaging in unauthorized mining of gold and other mineral resources in the West African country.
The government of Ghana will conduct a systematic and detailed investigation into the matter, Akufo-Addo said during an interview with Nikkei in Tokyo.
Chinese state companies are active in Ghana, developing roads, railways and the power sector.
"Ghana and China have a strong relationship," Akufo-Addo said. "However, we have a big problem in Chinese involvement in illegal mining activity in Ghana ... [and] we have decided to do something about it."
In June 2013, 124 Chinese nationals were detained in Ghana for illegally mining gold. Unlawful mining of mineral resources continues and is gravely affecting Ghana's economy, the president said.
Noting that Chinese residing in Ghana are possibly exporting illegally mined gold to the United Arab Emirates, Akufo-Addo said there was a disparity of $5 billion between official trade statistics and actual gold exports in 2017.
Ghana has close ties with China, a major source of loans and other funding. According to the SAIS China-Africa Research Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Chinese banks extended the African country a total of $3.17 billion in loans between 2000 and 2015, making Ghana the seventh largest African recipient of Chinese lending.
Chinese companies are also involved in oil exploration, electric power generation and many other development projects in Ghana.
Akufo-Addo said Ghana has strong ties with China, but his words reflect growing concern about the relationship.
Regarding International Monetary Fund support for Ghana that began in 2015, Akufo-Addo said Ghana will graduate from the program at the end of the year.
Akufo-Addo's predecessor asked the IMF for support in 2015, after global prices for natural resources fell. Ghana received a $918 million loan from the IMF for promises to cut government spending.
According to the IMF, the ratio of Ghana's fiscal deficit is expected to drop to 3.8% of its gross domestic product in 2018, from 12% in 2013.
In an effort to maintain financial health, the government has since passed a law to limit its yearly fiscal deficit to no higher than 5% of GDP.
"When we finish the IMF program this year," Akufo-Addo said, we will "never go back. We will maintain discipline."