17 months ago….
I remember attending a meeting of the European Union in Ghana. On the agenda that day was the then draft Ghana Investment Promotion Council [GIPC] bill. The bill had been of such concern to the European Union that they had had several meetings with the GIPC and managed to have many of the original clauses in the bill stricken out. The original bill would have made almost impossible the entry of European businesses into Ghana, many of which are small and medium scale enterprises. That for me is an example of fighting for the broader interest of a group of people.
The European Business Organization is another organization that has been set up in Ghana and will soon roll out across Africa. It’s duty is to be a voice for European business in non- EU countries. Anytime a government makes a law or fails to adhere to any pact it has signed that adversely affects a European business or business sector, the EBO will do all in its powers to rectify that situation.
Added to this is a third tier of protection where you have the Chambers of Commerce and Commercial Consulates.
If you take the German Chamber Network for example, any German who wants to do business abroad can rely on a network of over 90 External Chambers of Commerce in over 130 countries.The Chambers offer a lot of support and in some cases training for businesses. There they do a lot of advocacy, due diligence, business support and market entry for German companies into foreign markets.
What is the situation for the Ghanaian?
Let’s take just the non- traditional export sector as an example of the inefficiencies in our system.
The government of Ghana two years ago (i think) declared an intention to raise the revenue generated from non-traditional export from 2billion dollars to 5billion dollars. That’s a great goal but I wonder what strategies have been put in place to ensure that this happens.
My experience at the GEPA office was so horrible that it is not worth recounting. I had to visit three different offices back and forth to get information on the training schedule and the export reports for the previous year. When I wanted to meet with the lady in charge of the crafts section, I was told that not only was she the only person who could help me but that she was eating and that I had to return later to be able to meet with her.
I felt so sad when i saw the stand of two young Burkinabe men at the just ended Afrika Tage in Munich. They had flown all the way with their beads having no clue how to arrange the jewelry to attract buyers. The stand was so poorly laid out in comparison to the stands of the Germans and other nationals who were selling African jewelry at the fair. They also did not speak a word of German! I tried to tally the cost of their flight, hotel, the stand, transportation, food etc. I doubt that they made much sales. I do not think they had anyone to advice them the way the Australian Trade Commission does for example.
Nobody told them that every product in the stand should be at eye level and customers may not want to bend down to pick anything or reach too high. Nobody told them that the stand should be arranged in such a way that people walk in and are surrounded by your products. Nobody told them that customers need an acoustic, auditory and visual experience in your stand….. but alas, i digress.
My main concern however, is the level of exposure and lack of security the Ghanaian faces if he dares to establish a business abroad.Do we have any agencies that assist Ghanaians with understanding the business climate of those countries? What level of support do the Ghanaian embassies provide for Ghanaian business people doing business with Europeans or other nations? What is our bargaining chip as Ghanaians based on which we can demand for security in a foreign soil?
When President Mahama visited Germany in January 2015, he was asked by Angela Merkel to provide security for the German Investors coming to Ghana. I wish he could have asked for security for the Ghanaian investors going into Germany.
Even in our own country, I wonder who is fighting for us when we queue in the hot sun for visas. I wonder who is fighting for us when we fight the introduction of the G-CAP but have to obtain dozens of stringent certification to export into Europe? Who is fighting for us when we sign the Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe but have a huge percentage of our national revenue coming from import duties?
Who is fighting the land administration reforms being pushed by all these so- called development partners which will actually put the nail in our coffins?
Who is fighting for the Ghanaian?
To be Continued….
Image Credits: Google Images
[ I wrote this 17 months ago in Accra and updated it yesterday and a few minutes ago]