In this interview with Footprint to Africa, Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah reveals stunning facts that make Ghana the topmost destination of choice for investors.
Ekow Spio-Garbrah (born 1953) is a Ghanaian diplomat and politician.
He is a former CEO of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) based in London. He is one of Africa’s pre-eminent public servants and an authority on mass communications who has held several high-profile positions in the field.
He is a former Minister of Communication of the Republic of Ghana, one-time Ambassador of Ghana to the United States and Mexico, Minister of Education, Minister responsible for Mines and Energy and a member of UNESCO’s Executive Board in Paris. He served in the cabinet during the democratic regime of Jerry John Rawlings between 1994 and 2000.
Dr Spio-Garbrah is a member of the board of directors of South Africa Telekom, AngloGold Ashanti and recently of Vodacom. He is also member of the International Advisory Board of the African Press Organization (APO).
Will the signing of the Interim EPA with the European Union not hamper Ghana’s industrial growth?
We don’t think so this is because when you sign an agreement, it is not the agreement itself that is at fault. What you do with the agreement is what matters. The European market is open to us and all they are saying is grow the things they cannot grow due to their climate and export to them, just maintain good quality standards.
That is what the EPA is about. The market is open not only for raw materials but manufactured products. You can export pineapple juice to them instead of the raw pineapple. If after this opportunity is given us, we are not able to manufacture to export but they manufacture their cars and machinery and send to us then it is our fault. Our industrialist and business men must take this up and be entrepreneurial. We need to take advantage of it.
What are some of the challenges investors are likely to face in Ghana?
They must know the laws of the country before they decide to venture. Specific laws and regulations regarding the various sectors must be considered. Most investors look for land and acquiring land in Ghana can be complicated if you don’t go through the right procedure. Often people meet investors at the airport or hotel lobby and they try to ingratiate themselves with the investors suggesting that they could help the investor to achieve their objectives and some investors get drawn into these things, so they work with frauds who sell land that does not belong to them.
The process can be fraught with difficulties and potholes if an investor is not savvy or smart or the investor wants to cut corners.
What buffers has the government put in place to protect local manufacturers from the influx of imported goods?
We are trying to reduce imported goods since we do not grow or produce everything we need in Ghana. The government has put in place a Made in Ghana Policy as well as Made in Ghana Campaign for Ghanaians to patronize their own commodities. If importers find that we are using our own products and not patronizing theirs it will reduce the number of imports.
There is also the introduction of tariffs: taxes and levies we put on various imported items to reduce the demand for them and that is taking place normally through our budget system.
What is the country doing to boost investment confidence in the country?
Ghana is one of the most attractive countries in the continent. Wherever you are coming from, if you want to invest in Africa you will always rank Ghana among your four topmost destinations in Africa and your number one in West Africa.
Even though we may not have enough power as we desire, if you go to a neighbouring country which has over 180 million people and total power production is about 5000MW, Ghana’s total capacity is nearing 4000MW for a population of 27 million people.
If you do a comparative analysis you will understand that Ghana is the best place to consider. The confidence in the economy of Ghana is very high. Ghana in spite of our lowest economic growth is still growing at four per cent. The glass is nearly full than empty.
What sectors will you recommend to investors interested in Ghana?
In Ghana right now the sectors we encourage investors to consider are sectors that add value to our natural resources, we have gold and we don’t want them to just come dig it out but they should be able to convert them into fine jewellery here. We have a wide range of foods that can be processed into a variety of products for instance fuel and ethanol. Some investors may be interested in the services like hotel, financial services or telecommunication industry. All these areas are available to investors.
Most African countries consider FDI more than indigenous players. What is your view on this?
We don’t consider FDI’s more than indigenous players. Local capital is the most important capital so every country tries to encourage its citizen to save. Now interest rates are very high in Ghana. When you save specifically treasury bills, the government also pays you more than 20 per cent so it depends on each company and each individual’s propensity for investment.
Ghanaians invest but what they invest in first is land, a house or buy a car. But those are investments that depreciate and not appreciate. So we want Ghanaians to get into businesses.
Political instability repels investors. With Ghana’s upcoming general election what would you say to investors who may be sceptical?
Ghana has been noted around the whole world to be one of the most stable countries in Africa since 1981 when we had our last and hopefully the last in forever coup. And so for almost forty years now Ghana has become a haven for peace, democracy and good governance.
Elections can be sometimes very tight but players in the end accept the results and we move on. The international communities like this about Ghana so if you talk to diplomats they will tell you Ghana is doing very well.
In as much as we make noise on media platforms more than we should, it never gets to a point of bloodshed. So we hope that this election in December will not have any adverse effect on the high level of respect Ghana has for good governance.
Notwithstanding the elections the interest of investors are considered very high. So we see delegations after delegations coming into the country who would usually not be interested in a country about to have elections to seek opportunities. India, France, Italy and other countries are eager to come into the country to find out about investment opportunities. All these are key indicators of Ghana’s standing in the international community.