ECOWAS Businesses seeking to export products to Neighbouring countries face a lot of challenges including, resources for production and the high cost of shipping these challenges however, could become a thing of the past this year, going by the plans of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce as disclosed by its Chief Executive in this interesting interview with FOOTPRINT TO AFRICA.
- Can you introduce yourself?
I am Mark Badu Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce. I hold a Masters of Philosophy degree in Economics from the University of Ghana and a chartered accountant. I also hold Diploma in Agri-business from Galilea College Israel and have equipped myself through several short courses, and workshops on trade, investment, management and finance.
- What is the mandate of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce?
Ghana National Chamber of Commerce was set up by a Legislative instrument (LI 611) of 1968 under the Act (232), making Chamber the representative organ of the business community. The LI confers on the Chamber the sole responsibility of being the voice of the business community in ensuring the growth and prosperity of businesses in Ghana. Starting with a membership of 14 in 1888, the Chamber currently has about 5,000 registered members cutting across the various sectors of the economy. GNCC operates on the principles of non-racial, non-sectarian, non-political and gender friendly. The functions of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce provided under the Legislative Instrument No. 611 include: the promotion and protection of trade, commerce, industry and manufactures of Ghana; the collection and circulation of statistics relating to trade, commerce, industries and manufacturing; the provision of facilities for the communication and interchange of views between members of the Chamber, public institutions and staff in relation to matters which directly or indirectly affect the interest of the organization; the printing and publication of newspapers, periodicals, books and other documents for the promotion of the interests of the Chamber; the promotion of and participation in trade fairs in Ghana and elsewhere; and also cooperate with Chambers of Commerce in other parts of the world.
- What has been the achievements over the years?
The Chamber has participated in various trade fairs in Ghana and abroad, and has helped its members get business partners. We have assisted in recovering commercial debts owed to Ghanaian exporters by outside businesses and vice versa. The chamber settled other investment disputes as well as hosted and organised trade mission to South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, USA, Germany, China, Japan, India, etc. The Chamber also played a pioneering role in the establishment of ECOBANK, ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, ECOWAS and African Integration. We advocated for the establishment of an Export-Import Bank (EximBank); for extension of “Loss Carry Forward” policy for all companies; and for the reduction in withholding and corporate taxes by government.
- How different is the operations of the GNCC from the Ministry of Trade? Are the operations interconnected?
We collaborate with the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign affairs. The Ministry of Trade operates on behalf of government in seeking investments and partnership and the Chamber seeks investment for the private local businesses. We work closely with the ministries but operate as an independent institution
- What are the projections or expectations of the Chamber for 2017?
Our role as the voice of the business community and an advocacy institution is to make sure that the right environment is created for businesses which require that certain functions will have to be performed as I have already mentioned. We are seeking to enhance our activities in 2017. One key project we are spearheading is the establishment of the Trade within West Africa which is haunted by lack of logistics, in terms of transportation of goods and services; so the Chamber together with the Federation of West African Chamber of Commerce working to ensure that goods are transported with ease within the West African sub-region. In 2017, we are spearheading that activity of getting a shipping line in place to enhance movement of goods and services within the West African sub-region.
For this purpose, Sealink Promotional Company Limited (“Sealink”) was formed in 2011 to promote the establishment of the regional shipping line in West and Central Africa. The main objective of Sealink is to provide maritime inter-connections for the West and Central African regions. It is being promoted by NEXIM, FEWACCI and Transimex, Cameroun. The Project will be entirely private-sector driven, but supported by the public sector. Port authorities and organisations across both regions have expressed support for the project.
We will also supply the business community with timely offers and opportunities through ECOBIZ, The ECOWAS Trade Opportunities Management System, Trade Network Projects initiated by ICC, African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Chamber will also continuously engage Government to implement all policies concerning the Private Sector (eg: One District –One –Factory).
- What challenges confront the export and import process in Ghana?
The high cost of production makes the products uncompetitive, and it has been difficult meeting international standards eventually making breaking into the international market a herculean task. Currently if you want to transport goods to Nigeria for example, it has to go through Europe before it gets to Nigeria. If it’s a perishable commodity it is likely to go bad before it gets to Nigeria. This is because we do not have easily accessible routes to export to the neighboring countries. The cost of transporting goods is also very high. We try as much as possible to make our services available to every business man and woman. We are not able to reach the rural areas currently, but when we identify people in the rural areas who are producing something unique, that can qualify them under the AGOA then we provide training to them. It is a bit difficult for subsistent farmers to join AGOA for now because they are not able to meet the standards.
- What interventions are in place to increase exports and decrease imports, as that is one way the country could obtain foreign exchange?
We are leaned towards exports, but because of the economic structure Ghanaians tend to import more. We need to add value to our raw materials and that is what we promote as a Chamber. The one district one factory initiative has come at an opportune time where we can identify commodities where we have a comparative advantage, add value to it for both local consumption and export. Our focus has been value addition, we are currently seeking investment in all these areas so we can add value to our products for exports. We create employment for the country from which we import, so we are working to reverse the trend so we can create employment for the Ghanaian. When we go for investment missions, we are looking not looking for people to import commodities from but rather people who partner us to produce in Ghana and export to other countries.