Interview with Michael Okyere Baafi, CEO of Ghana Free Zones Board

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The Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB) was established in 1995 to encourage local industries and venture into manufacturing, agro-processing, mining and other economically viable ventures.

It works to create a conducive atmosphere for foreign investments and currently has a capital investment worth about $3.4 billion, with over 201 companies.

The GFZB has been exporting an average of $1.5 billion worth of products since its establishment, resulting in an amount of $30.9 billion over the past two decades.

Mr. Baafi assumed office in January this year. Before that, he was the Head of Sales and Marketing at Phoenix Insurance where he carved an enviable reputation for the company.

What step(s) is the GFZB taking to attract investors?

We are trying to attract very good investments – foreign direct investments that will bring us a lot of opportunities in terms of job creation. We are also looking for local investors with the capacity to set up businesses that can employ a lot of people. These are the areas we are looking at because we know that if we are able to bring in a lot of businesses into the free zones concept, we may get the opportunity to push them to export more, and when they export more we get more foreign exchange.

So the focus now is to increase our investment drive and we expect to do an export of $5.4 billion next year because we want to license more free zones companies.

We are also expanding our operations to more regions in the country so that we can offer diverse investment opportunities for investors in all parts of the country.

How would you describe the performance of the GFZB in 2017?

We have used this year as a stabilisation period, to put things in the right place. We have done a lot of streamlining and now, we think that we have finished the stabilisation and we need to springboard to action next year. “Proper business” will start next year, and we believe that we would have to do a lot of investment promotions and create an opportunity for businesses to expand their operations, especially in the area of value addition.

That said, the performance has been very encouraging so far.

Are investors utilising the opportunities provided by the free zones?

They are. It is just a misconception that they are taking advantage of the system; that is not the case. Free Zones have a very strict regime and it will be very difficult for someone to dodge or short-change the country.

We, as a regulatory body is very strict on our activities, making sure that people don’t abuse the system but do things that are right and in the interest of the country.

Which sectors are of priority to the GFZB?

Our priority sectors are manufacturing, service, enclave development and commercial enterprises. With the manufacturing, we are interested in more agro-processing and other businesses along that value chain.

Any final comment?

We want to encourage a lot of investors to come into the concept so that we can grow the system and create a lot of opportunities.

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