AfricaLive talks with R Yofi Grant, the charismatic and passionate head of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre.
It is no coincidence that as Africa builds its continental free trade area, the Africa Union has chosen Ghana as the home of the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Mr Grant is passionate about the opportunities regional and continent-wide integration will bring the African continent, highlighting the potential the continent holds if it can add value to its natural resources.
Opportunities abound for beneficiation of natural resources in Ghana, and in investing in the country’s rapidly developing energy infrastructure. Mr Grant opens the AfricaLive Special Report on Ghana by outlining why investors should have the west African nation on their radar and the real opportunity that lies in industrialising Africa.
AfricaLive: What are the strategic goals that you have set for the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre to achieve under your leadership?
R. Yofi Grant: Our visionary President has set two audacious goals of making Ghana a hub for West Africa and also to be the best place to do business in Africa in the medium to long term. Ghana’s overall policy framework is to sustain macro economic stability and to facilitate irreversible and sustainable growth. We have been able to achieve that over the past three years. We however recognise that macroeconomic stability alone doesn’t necessarily bring about growth. It is however a prerequisite for positioning the economy in the right place. Apart from internally generated revenues from taxes and debt, we need to also ramp up investments to bring about the requisite growth. So additionally we are also selling the very good Ghana story to attract in investment. Our role also includes reforming the investment climate and making Ghana an attractive place for investors. With the Ghana Beyond Aid campaign, we seek investment and trade partnerships, not the characteristic hand out and gifts from developed countries
We have consequently as a country engaged in several reforms within the economy. One of the most fundamental is digitising the economy. We have an e-legal system, and we are also going to start filing our taxes online. Furthermore, we have a national identification program where every person in Ghana will be digitally registered, such that it will improve the engagement of citizenry with government. This will bring about efficiency and remove some of the administrative bottlenecks in the business sector.
We have an e- addressing system where every five by five meters square piece of land in Ghana has been given a digital address. Knowing who the people are, and where they are, improves efficiency and removes many openings for corruption.
Our view in the investment sector is that we should look at the areas in the economy that enable us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals which in reality are our main developmental goals. Some of the new reforms will include giving incentives to investors who will enable us accelerate and achieve our SDGs as well as investors who partner Ghanaians in their businesses
Secondly, we will look for investors that will partner us to add value to our resources like bauxites, iron ore, oil and gas, lithium, manganese as well as agricultural resources. Our agriculture has been mainly subsistence, but we want to move up to industrial and mechanised agriculture to bring about food security. We have a program called Food for Planting and Jobs, which has already been significant in changing our agricultural fortunes especially in targeting small holder farmers.
Our strategic investor priorities are on energy, infrastructure, industrialisation and agroprocessing. We want to ensure that we have reliable and affordable energy to be able to transition (industrialise) our economy from one that was purely dependent on the export raw materials and resources into one of value addition and productivity, so that our export earnings are at the higher end of the value chain.
There are aggressive plans in place to improve transportation with an Integrated Transportation Plan, which integrates rail, road, and water. We are also considering putting in place four thousand kilometres of new railway lines and ten thousand kilometres of new roads to ensure that Ghana is open for business. Ghana, being in the centre of the worlds ideally located to be a hub in West Africa for logistics, transportation, and trade is a priority. Incidentally and instructively, Ghana is now housing the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
AfricaLive: Do you believe that the African Continental Free Trade Area will help you facilitate economic growth and trade across different countries?
R. Yofi Grant: The answer is a definite yes. Intra-African trade is currently less than 15%, and we are doing more with Europe than we are doing within ourselves. If we remove business and economic barriers, then we have a real opportunity of industrialising Africa. By 2050, Africa will still have the over 30% of the worlds mineral resources, about 25% of the world’s population (about 60% of that less than 35 years old) and 60% of the remaining arable land left in the world. It will have the most of investment opportunities in the world because we are rich in resources and people. Our mineral endowments will enable us industrialise for ourselves whilst creating real opportunity for the energetic and ambitious youth of Africa. The demand on the continent can be supplied by the continent by opening up opportunities on the continent. A lot of our investment opportunities are in the industrial and infrastructure area, and this is where we can leverage partnerships in Africa.
AfricaLive: Do you see it as being equivalent to the European Union?
R. Yofi Grant: It is better than that because we do have the resources, and the pathway to wealth creation in Africa is much stronger than the one in Europe. Moreover we can learn from the European Union and create a stronger more opportunistic market. We have the market size, and therefore we can catalyse that into a real economy where there is wealth creation within the states of Africa. Some private-sector investors are interested in a regional focus and not just a country focus.
AfricaLive: Could you elaborate on the profile of the people that you would like to build relationships with? What measures are you taking to attract more sustainable investment to the country?
R. Yofi Grant: Clearly we will seek investors who are in for the long haul and want partnerships which are good for sustainability. But we also recognise the dearth of capital in the continent. Through our digitisation program of registering everybody, we are formalising a lot of businesses. Though we are focusing on SME investment, we also endorse partnership and linkages where we go out looking for investors who are interested in a good long and mutually beneficial relationship. For example, in Ghanawe have been able to get VW to assemble in Ghana for the region, and they will be rolling out their first Ghana-assembled car prospectively at the end of the first quarter. We also have SinoTrucks from China completing their assembly plant, and interest from Toyota, Suzuki, Renault and Honda for assembly plants in Ghana after a clear strategy for an automotive industry. These are investors with a regional focus, and we offer Ghana as a place where they can do business by creating a more vibrant and more transparent business environment.
We are looking to incentivise investors who will enable us to achieve the SDGs. Ghana is the first country that benchmarks SDGs in the development agenda with a benchmarking and SDG scorecard mechanism in our budget.
AfricaLive: In your opinion, how do we build the ecosystem required for the success of African entrepreneurship, and how do you see your role as the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre in supporting entrepreneurs in the country?
R. Yofi Grant: First of all, policy formulation is fundamental, and in Ghana, we have a public and private sector dialogue mechanism which facilitates engagement in the economic and business ecosystem.. Once a quarter, the private sector meets with the President. Policies are reviewed to ensure the government and private sector are alignedand moving in the same direction. We are also ensuring that the investors work hand in hand with the indigenous people to ensure economic sustainability and growth.
AfricaLive: How confident are you in the future of Ghana? What would be your message of confidence to our readers and foreign investors?
R. Yofi Grant: Ghana like the rest of Africa, has had decades of its ideological experimentations to find the right way of governance. Today, almost all the African countries are inculcating democratic governance and constitutional rule. In that sense, Ghana is the ideal country to look at as a continental spearhead in that regard.
My message is simple. Ghana is uniquely attractive. We are in the centre of the world (longitude zero and latitude zero) we have 365 days of sunshine, and very hospitable people, we are politically stable and believe strongly in the rule of law. We have set an agenda of ensuring macroeconomic stability through fiscal discipline and significant reforms for aggressive growth. We are on course and not turning back. Ghana is easily described in three words – Opportunity, Openness and Optimism……. and that is who we are. We are ready for partnership and linkages… A Ghana Beyond Aid.