Selasi Koffi Ackom, chief executive officer of the Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFIC), says his outfit is committed to enhancing a strategic relationship with the private sector to harness the full benefit of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Ackom spoke to the media during a tour to the B5 Plus Group; a leading manufacturer and exporter of iron and steel products in Ghana.
The B5 Plus Group commenced operations about two decades ago and at the time used to import raw materials from neighbouring countries.
The company has become the leading manufacturer and distributor of steel and iron products in West Africa with finished goods.
Addressing the media during the tour, Mukesh Thakwani, the chief executive officer and group chairman of the B5 Plus Group, called on authorities to find solutions to the difficulty in the movement of goods among West African countries.
Thakwani said the situation if not checked will impede the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The company is involved in the backward integration by manufacturing high-quality iron rods and other products from scraps in an environmentally friendly manner,” he said.
The B5 Plus Group currently provides direct and indirect employment to over 15, 000 people. When the current expansion works are completed, this number will exceed 20,000.
With the completion of the first phase, the company will attract a foreign exchange of more than US$100 million for the country.
Thakwani identified the continuous interruption in power supply as the company’s major challenge. This coupled with the unreliable supply of water and the difficulty in acquiring land due to the operation of land guards have made it difficult for the business to operate smoothly.
Another major challenge he noted was that, after the company has produced made in Ghana goods, some importers bring in similar goods to compete with theirs.
“Those goods should not be given exemptions on import tariffs. Because if that is the case, then local industries will rather suffer. Because electricity and water tariffs are expensive and so if we are not protected, then Ghanaian industries will not be able to survive.
“Let me give you a quick example on fabrication. Today, we are running our fabrication only to the capacity of about 40% as a result of cheap imports which are coming and we can expand even further to increase our capacity. So, we will request from government that the products which we are able to produce here in Ghana, there should be a ban on their importation.”
B5 Plus Group has benefited from the government’s One District One Factory initiative. The CEO said tax exemptions, have been granted by the Ghanaian government but the bureaucratic bottlenecks involved, frustrate their operations.
Thakwani said, “Under 1D1F, Ghana government has given initiatives for tax exemptions but to get those exemptions processed it takes a very long time. I think if those exemptions have been approved by 1D1F, then the system should be much faster and easier.”
Tsonam Cleanse Akpeloo, the Accra Regional chairman of the Association of Ghana Industries, commended the B5 Plus Group for its enormous contribution to the government’s industrialisation agenda.
While highlighting the significance of the industry to nation-building, he called on the government to as a matter of urgency address the erratic power supply in the country.
He said the cost of power in the country is too high, a situation if not checked, will cripple businesses and make Ghana unable to beat the competition in the West Africa sub-region.
“You would have observed that these days, there is an intermittent cut of power; that is not going to help the industry because industries need a regular flow of power uninterrupted, in order to flourish,” he said.
On the issue of taxation, Akpeloo said imposing too many levies and taxes could become a nuisance that may deter potential investors.
He said administrative bottlenecks at government agencies that come into direct contact with some of these businesses must be addressed to ease congestion and make things easy for investors.
“We are very excited to see companies such as this succeeding and we pray that together, we can help make sure that the challenges addressed” he added.