In this interview with The Worldfolio, Mr. Yofi Grant, CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Center, discusses the role of GIPC in promoting Ghana’s further industrialization, attracting investment and making Ghana the most business-friendly economy in Africa
Ghana, in 2017, starts a new journey under a new administration that has pledged to put Ghana back on track. One of the main objectives of President Akufo Addo is to pursue value addition in his quest to transform Ghana into a modern and diversified economy. How is Ghana, and the GIPC, promoting Ghana’s further industrialization?
There are many ways in which we are doing it and we will continue to do more. First of course is the fact that I have travelled a lot with the President, and everywhere we have been to, he has given me the platform to talk to investors about Ghana’s opportunities.
We have also done a lot of trade and investment road shows where we have met private sector players and businesses that are looking at Ghana. Very soon we will also be playing an active role in social media, because it’s a platform that reaches quite a big audience if structured properly. We are also using social media to communicate the things we do and intend to do. We have a much-improved website, that will have a section that will talk about opportunities and give investors memorandums on many of the opportunities available. Our task will be to support them with efficient, quick, and effective service.
The Government has been forced to make some tough decisions this year on expenditure and taxation in order to bring down the deficit and inflation, and stabilize the cedi. It has demonstrated its seriousness in planning for the long-term stability of the economy. In turn, what does the GIPC expect from investors? How do they need to demonstrate their commitment with the long-term stability and growth of Ghana?
First of all, GIPC, as the investment promotion agency, is reforming itself so that we can better serve investors and provide higher and better-quality services. But beyond that we also have a law that protects investors and Ghana. So, that is one assurance you can give to investors that are coming to Ghana. Ghana is politically stable and is relatively very safe. People here are very happy. I keep telling people that “Ghanaians are cool” and that “Ghana is a cool place to be”. I don’t think there is a better selling point than that.
Ghana is also strategically well-placed. We are almost perfectly situated to be a hub for regional integration and regional business. Those are the things that we are going to focus on to sell Ghana.
But also like you mention, because of such support and strong commitment from the government, we are able to be a little bit more aggressive in pursuing investors. We choose our strategic areas and then we look for investors into those strategic areas, as the first line of attack. Apart from that, we are also looking for partnerships, because while we seek out investors, we are also looking at how we can build capacity within Ghana itself to produce the business men of the future who will develop the economy. So that is very important for us.
One of Ghana’s most valuable assets when compared to other countries in the region is its human capital. However Ghana still has a high youth unemployment rate. How is the GIPC aiming at capacity building of young Ghanaians and also encouraging investors to employ young Ghanaians?
That’s a very interesting question. Due to the fact that we have a specific mandate of bringing investment into the country, we also recognize the importance of enabling and empowering the youth to be part of that. In the next few weeks, we will be doing a youth business and entrepreneur conference. Through that conference we will get an idea of some of the issues that we can address in the facilitation stage.
We are also supporting the African Innovation Foundation, who are having their 6th conference this year in Ghana called the “Innovation Prize for Africa Awards” under the theme "African innovation: Investing in Prosperity".
That gives a platform for young people in the areas of innovation and creativity, who through their products and some of the innovations, will bring value to the economy. So, we are constantly in engagement with young Ghanaians. When foreign companies come here to invest, for example, I always encourage them to use as much Ghanaian talent as they can. As we are reforming, who knows, we might start giving incentives to companies who employ young Ghanaian graduates.
Another of the campaign promises of President Akufo Addo was to make Ghana the most business-friendly economy in Africa. What role does GIPC play in achieving this goal?
GIPC definitely plays a pivotal role. First of all, we are looking at the necessary investment sector reforms and the reforms on the ease of doing business. We are also focusing on market reforms to make sure that the market is competitive and attractive. The ease of doing business has quite a number of indicators, so we are looking at many different things at the same time.
We are engaging as a country in a technological project where very soon GIPC will develop a one-stop shop so that investors and businesses can register, pay and receive their certificates online, removing as much human intervention to make delivery of services speedy and quick. Additionally as that platform develops you may even be able to pay taxes online. All that is meant to improve the engagement of citizens with governments and make it more efficient and effective.
At the GIPC, we even seek investors to go into that area, and support the reform exercise by looking at our own laws and suggesting changes that would make our laws more attractive.
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre has set an ambitious target to reach $5 billion in foreign direct investment in 2017. Can you elaborate on how you intend to reach this target and what steps have been taken?
One of the government flagship policies is the “One District—One Factory” (ODOF). This policy has had a strong appeal, not only domestically, but also externally. As I go around talking to investors, many of them have looked at the ODOF policy as an interesting concept.
Because we want to position ourselves as a regional hub, it’s important that we democratise business across the country. So each one of the 216 districts will get some manufacturing or processing plant, mostly for exports. The factories will be spread along the country, so the fact that we have access by road to all our neighbouring countries is a key factor. We are pushing for partnerships with investors who are looking at a regional play, not just looking at Ghana, but looking at the sub region. Therefore a lot of the investment they do is because they want to access the sub region through Ghana. Being a member of ECOWAS means we operate in a free market and so if you manufacture in Ghana, you can export to the ECOWAS zone tax-free which is also very attractive for investors.
In China, we met with one company that said they would be supporting the ODOF initiative though a funding facility worth up to $2 billion, aimed at helping indigenous businesses procure equipment and services from China in fulfilment of the ODOF. I also went to Turkey, where a company said they would offer 150 million euros at an interest rate of 1% so that we can invest in agriculture, in the “planting food for jobs” program, in ODOF or other policies like “one village—one damn”. GIPC highlights these policies as part of our narrative to attract investors. We speak to them and we explain what it’s supposed to be and what the grand plan is. And very often we get very good responses.
The UK has one of the largest portions of the Ghanaian diaspora, with over 200,000 people. Remittances to Ghana amounted to almost $2 billion in 2016. Taking this into account, how is GIPC harnessing this power? How are you engaging with the diaspora about the country’s opportunities?
What we have heard as far as remittances are concerned is that the figure is close to $5 billion. So it means the diaspora is sending more money than we get from FDI, and therefore they are a critical target for investment.
Every time we travel to any country we meet the Ghanaian diaspora and talk to them about the programs we are doing and what we are going to do. We are also planning to issue a diaspora bond. So, the diaspora play an important role. They are a very good resource; they represent cash capital and human capital because they bring expertise, knowledge and technology.
With the ODOF and all these ambitious projects, the GIPC must also be looking at building offices, and expanding one-stop shops around the country.
Yes. We are reviewing our structure, so that we will have regional investment promotion agencies under GIPC. This will allow regions develop their own strategy for marketing their opportunities and assets and turning them into investable assets. So we sort of decentralize and enable the regions to build capacity on their strength and we will give them the necessary directions and support.
Speaking to G20 leaders in Hamburg, Theresa May called for global action to unlock the huge untapped economic potential of Africa. She stressed the importance of looking at Africa to build Britain’s partners of the future. Where do you see greater areas for mutual business and trade cooperation between Ghana and the UK? How can Ghana gain from British investment?
I just came back from the UK, where we had very good discussions with UK Export Finance. For us, although Brexit poses some challenges, it also creates very important opportunities for the UK to re-establish trading relations directly with some of its traditional partners.
Considering Ghana was a British colony, we already have the advantage of knowing each other. We understand the UK and the UK understands us. We think that outside the EU we can negotiate better among ourselves in terms of trade and investment.
Having said that, we must also maintain a relationship with the EU because it’s also an important market for us. And that is where the G20 significance becomes elevated. And Ghana happily accepted an invitation to be part of the G20 Conference, which will be an opportunity for us to look at the EU market.
The GIPC has been tasked to encourage, promote and facilitate investment into the country, establishing a strong international linkage to present Ghana as an ideal investment destination. Looking at the UK, what sectors would you highlight to UK investors and why encourage them to take action in those sectors?
In discussions with the UK, there are significant opportunities in many areas, but for us the priority is the energy sector, infrastructure, agro processing, tourism, and also communication, especially the mobile services sectors.
Today we are looking at migrating from e-governance to m-governance because of the significant importance of mobile phones. We have a mobile penetration of 138%, people have 2 phones or even 3 phones. Phones have become an enabler, an economic enabler, a social enabler, and not just a communication tool. We are able to draw people into the formal economy using their mobile phone and that creates another opportunity for investors to look at.
You have been to all these road shows, and I am sure you have found a lot of people that have different perceptions about Ghana or lack some knowledge of what Ghana really is. What would be your reflection about it?
It’s interesting, because if you look at the world’s history, through our history people have left their homelands to seek fortunes in other countries without even knowing a thing about them. Christopher Columbus crossed half of the world searching for new opportunities. Vasco de Gama, tried to conquer half of the world to find new opportunities.
So, in our road shows, we would meet with people who do not know anything about Ghana but will smell and taste the opportunity of a country that is moving ahead. And that is why its important for us to go and look for these people, and that is what we do. Because the world always creates opportunities depending on the appetite you can actually create in the person.
Where do you see Ghana in 5 years time?
I think Ghana in 5 years time will be very interesting, it will be a country definitely open for business, a country that will embrace investment from all over the world, that will support its business people to grow and create jobs all over the country.
We are already a great country, but I believe once we can put these foundational issues to rest we will have an even more interesting country.