Monday, December 21, 2009

NSIA insurance enters Ghanaian market

New Inter Africa Insurance Company Group (NSIA) has announced its intention to commence operations in this country’s vibrant insurance sector.
Headquartered in Cote d’Ivoire, with operations in eleven African countries, it hopes to begin operations in January 2010.

Their entry forms part of its geographical expansion strategy in the sub-region, expected to boost the already existing good and conducive business in Africa’s insurance industry.

The number of insurance operators in the country is expected to increase to 40 from the current 35 next year, if all the applications before the National Insurance Commission get the approval.

Available data has shown that the three classes of insurance business - accident, fire, marine and aviation contributed about GH¢72.5million out of the total of GH¢141.5million generated as gross premium income in the non-life portfolio at the close of the 2007 financial year.

The Company, having been granted licence by the National Insurance Commission, will bring its rich experience to propel the industry, said Mr. Bene Boevi Lawson, Managing Director of the Group, at a media briefing in Accra to officially announce its entry strategy.

“Ghana is seen as a country with a very bright future on the continent, with very great prospects for attracting the global investing public.

“The group will continue to expand its products range and client portfolio through a two-pronged enhancement that is furthered by the growing public awareness of the need to cover risk,” Mr. Lawson stated.

He explained that its initial strategic plans will focus on targetting the informal sector via micro finance institutions, associations and the self-employed as well as salaried workers and the professionals.

“Products such as life insurance and comprehensive home insurance that are still not very widespread have a promising future on African markets - markets that are increasingly well regulated, moniterred and democratised,” he indicated.

NSIA’s client portfolio is currently made up of 90 percent companies and 10 percent private individuals, but the group is making every effort to adjust the balance to equal percentages.

On the strength of an annual growth of about 20 percent for five years running, the group aims to increase its market share in the African market from 10 percent in 2009 to more than 15 percent by 2015.

The 2008 result puts the coverage ratio of its investment at 185.44 percent on average for the group’s non-life insurance subsidiaries, and 131 percent for the life insurance subsidiaries.

It plans to become actively involved in the fast-expanding sector of real-estate in Africa, which will bring together developers, bankers, lawyers and insurers. This will help to achieve its objective of consolidating a leadership position in the sub-region by generating about 125 billion CFA francs in turnover and realising a 10 percent rate of returns by 2015.

Ghana's MDAs complete automation in 2010

The Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) has set early 2010 as the completion date for the automation of all the Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

The integration programme - christened e-MDAs - will digitally enhance business processing and allow online payment to boost trade. It will also improve the operations of the MDAs, which will augment mobilisation of national revenue.

It is also expected that through this arrangement, the business environment in Ghana will be improved to enhance corporate competitiveness and make the country attractive for foreign direct investment

The following MDAs are currently connected to the automation platform: Ministry of Trade and Industry, Minerals Commission, Ghana Free Zones Board, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drugs Board, Ghana Investment Promotion Center, Timber Inspection and Development Division, Ghana Standards Board, Kotoka International Airport and Customs, Excise and Preventive Service.

The old application, which was developed about five years ago, needed to be upgraded because of the increase in volume and the need for a more centralised browser-based solution, the Operations Manager for GCNet, Mr. Chris Holden, told B&FT at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra aimed at informing and discussing issues relating to the automation and its application.

He indicated that the new application will enable users’ to process applications digitally and allow them to process online payments from their desktop computers.

“The new application, once implemented, will allow for greater flexibility in terms of business process mapping, which includes collaboration with other MDA’s and CEPS premises examination as an option, and the introduction of unique consignment reference.”

Mr. Holden indicated that the application is also expected to update exchange rates and Importer information automatically.
This will save users the hassle of updating importer information on regular basis.

Next year the service will introduce electronic payment system using the e-transazct platform, which will enable customers to effect payments online at any location within the country.

B&FT gathered that GCNet has successfully automated operational processes of the CEPS through deployment of the Ghana Customs Management System, which has enhanced the revenue mobilisation benefits of the service.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Zain launches rewards loyalty campaign

Zain Ghana has launched a new promotion geared at rewarding and deepening customer loyalty.

The promotion, ‘Zain Rewards Loyalty’ is aimed at recognising and appreciating all Zain customers for every amount spent on the consumption of any voice, data, Multi Media Service (MMS) and Short Message Sending (SMS).

Customers will now be able to redeem much more than talk time for selected partners across the country.

The programmes will also allow customers to enjoy prizes upon consuming any Zain’s services and be granted reward and level points. Customers will earn one point for every GH¢ 0.02 spent.

The accumulated points can be traded for different rewards and benefits from the supporting shops and partners on the promotion.

At a media briefing to officially launch the campaign in Accra, the Director of Customer Care, Mrs. Anne Grant, explained that the campaign is specially packaged by the company to offer its customers special privileges and rewards for their loyalty to the brand.

“Zain, since launched a year a go, has remained wholeheartedly committed to delighting our customers through innovative products and services and excellent customer care delivery because we recognise that they are the reason why we are in business.”

Several rewards including airline ticket, holiday trips, electronic appliances, laptops, iPods, movie tickets, spa tickets and Zain branded merchandise have been earmarked as prizes and rewards for customers.

The promotion was launched amidst members of the customers who had qualified to be on the rewards levels which categories them into the Silver or Gold levels.

The event also outdoored Zain’s top five customers across the product and services platform and presented them with their reward cards in a short ceremony, as part of the launch.

Customers can sign on to the scheme by texting ‘026’ to short code ‘115’ on Zain network.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stronger cedi forecast by end 2009

The Ghana cedi is expected to register significant gains and remain strong against the major trading currencies by 2010, whilst the dollar is likely to continue sliding against the major currencies.

This development will leverage the cedi, which has recorded tremendous improvement in its performance since last week as it appreciated by 0.18% against the US Dollar, 0.92% against the British pound, 1.02% against the euro, and 1.01% against the South African rand.

The dollar will lose value against the euro, and see the cedi appreciating at about 130% against the dollar by next year, said Stephen Bailey-Smith, the Head of Emerging Markets Research at the Standard Bank Plc, parent-bank of Stanbic Ghana Limited, in Accra at a forum.

Meanwhile, analyst have projected that the Ghana cedi is likely to settle between the 23.5% - 25% range of depreciation by the close of year 2009.

Last year the cedi lost by 14 percent to the four major trading currencies, the dollar, the pound, euro and the CFA as measured by the GCS-CEDI INDEX.

This was on the backdrop of 25% depreciation to the US dollar, 8% appreciation to the British pound sterling, 21 percent depreciation to the euro and 17% depreciation to the CFA.

The cedi is not likely to experience any major change from its current trend towards the end of the year though day by day fluctuations are unavoidable.

He explained that this year’s performance of the cedi has resulted mainly from the performance of the British pound sterling, which as of Monday stood at a 33% loss. Though the dollar has been fairly stable for the past four months, a year to date depreciation of 18.3% is still on the high side.

Dr. Ernest Addison, Director of Research, Bank of Ghana, has said the volatilities that characterised the foreign exchange market in the first half of the year have given way to some stabilisation which has continued into the fourth quarter.
The seminar was expected to focus on customers’ understanding the direction of the local macro-economy.

The forum brought together managers, directors from corporate treasurers, finance directors, senior managers and customers of Stanbic Bank, to afford them an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the current dynamics of the Ghanaian economy, and the tenets of hedging both interest rates and currency risk in the global marketplace.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Experts brainstorm on Africa’s e-Commerce platform

Experts in e-commerce operation in the sub-region have met in Accra to consider ways of developing the industry on the African continent.

The two-day conference, organised by the Pan African Alliance on e-Commerce and hosted by Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet), was aimed at deploying a single window that will be a seamless electronic process that facilitates trade and promotes revenue mobilization.

It was also to create a common platform for the operators in their various countries to deploy the service geared at simplifying the conduct of business transactions within the sub-region and propelling business competitiveness within the global economy.

e-commerce involves the use of innovative information technology solutions to improve efficiency in e-governance processes, distance education, revenue collection and financial transactions, which is a novelty in Africa.

Available data indicates that e-commerce in Africa is said to be worth about US$31 million, with US$30 million coming from South Africa.

Haruna Iddrisu, the Minister of Communication observed that the country’s adoption of the national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for accelerated development policy will go a long way to support the development and improvement of e-commerce services and boost global trade.

“Africa needs to work out a strategy for building capacity and strengthen regulatory practices that govern ICT operations in order to bridge the digital divide on the continent,” he said.

He reiterated government’s plans to deploy a national broadband backbone by constructing a national fibre optic network, emphasising that, an Electronic Transaction Act had been enacted while an Electronic Governing bill and Data Protection Act are also under consideration.

“We have also deployed e-payment systems to enhance the portability of money and financial intermediation.”

Notey Omaboe, Executive Chairman of GCNet, indicated that the deployment of e-commerce services was aimed at simplifying the conduct of business transactions in the country by promoting the competitiveness of businesses within the global economy.

“Early next year the Service will introduce a new system that tracks goods as it moves through the supply chain.

The Unique Consignment Reference number (UCR), which will be administered by the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), will make the country the first in Africa to use such a technology,” Mr. Omaboe revealed.

Nokia supports 300 students

Nokia, the world's largest manufacturer of mobile devices and a leader in mobile network equipment, solutions and services, has presented educational materials to over 300 pupils in the Dampase, District Assembly Primary School and Junior High school of the Gomoa East District of the Central Region.

The items valued at US$7,000 are schoolbags, two personal computers, nokia phones, exercise books, novels and other teaching materials.

The presentation forms part of Nokia’s corporate social responsibility programme in the country.
Communications Manager for Nokia -West Africa, Ngozi Ife Anene, at the ceremony to present the items to the school, indicated that Nokia is passionate about helping to develop the talent of students and youth to ensure the benefit of human capital development of the country.

“Nokia is in collaboration with Plan Ghana to ensure successful development of the youth in the country; this is targetted at developing youth into better citizens.

One of such programme was ‘Kids Wave’, which allows children to talk about issues affecting them - such as street kids, education, HIV as well as children’s rights.”

About US$20,000 has been earmarked for a successful implementation of the company’s corporate social responsibility programmes in the country this year, Ife Anene disclosed.

Head Teacher of the School, Mr. Paul Dagbui Kwaku, thanked Nokia for its continuous support towards the growth and success of disadvantaged pupils in the society.

Nokia has experienced huge growth in the Ghanaian market and has remained the most preferred brand in the country. It currently has 14 collection points spread across Accra, Tema, Kumasi, Cape Coast and Weija.

Nokia also offers online services on its website, which offers Nokia phone users free updated software applications versions for their mobile devices, useful information and location of the nearest Care Centres and retail outlets.

Ecobank opens Tema branch

Ecobank has opened its Tema main branch to deliver world-class banking services to its loyal clients in Tema and its metropolis.

The multi-purpose building is designed to house the main branch office of the Bank, Head Office Departments, and a Training Centre that will deliver quality training for developing the human resource capacity of the Bank.

Mr. Samuel Ashitey Adjei, Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, said the purpose of the ultra-modern facility is to serve the needs of its numerous customers in the banking sector in Ghana and the entire sub-region to facilitate trade.

“With Ghana serving as the gateway to most landlocked countries engaged in intra and extra African trade, we all know the strategic importance of Tema and Takoradi in the development of international trade” he said.

Mr. Adjei intimated that the strategic importance of the two port cities in the economic development of Ghana has culminated in the extension of the Bank’s operation to Takoradi and Tema in July 1997 and October 1998 respectively.

Ecobank Ghana, according to the Managing Director, remains a strategic partner in the economic development of Ghana. This, he said, has made the Bank “proactive in the banking industry, with innovative financial products and services to serve the growing needs of individuals and businesses.”

The Tema main branch remains one of the key branches of the Bank, serving clients in the manufacturing and marine, as well as the export and import, segments of the country.

Mr. Adjei also reiterated the need for relocation of the Trade Services Department of the Bank to the Tema main office building, so as to ensure proximity to those in the trade business.

Mr. Fifi Kwetey, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, who represented the sector Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffuor in commissioning the facility, said external shocks do have adverse implications on the nation’s economy, but added that the adoption of sound domestic policy has helped arrest inflation.

He lauded the significant role Ecobank Ghana plays in financing the importation of crude oil into the country. He also urged banks to increase capacity for participating in the oil and gas industry, since it holds great prospects for economic development.

The Bank since 2004 has increased its branch network in Ghana from seven to 51 currently, with branches in six additional locations in the Tema metropolis to enhance trade and commerce.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ghana's November inflation drops 16.92 percent

Headline inflation has eased for the fifth consecutive time in the year, to the November rate of 16.92 percent - the lowest figure registered in the year so far.

The further drop represents a decline of 1.45 percentage points from the October rate of 18.04 percent.

The decrease was mainly driven by the non-food group which constitutes 55.09 percent of the consumer price index (CPI).

Official figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) named recreation and culture as the main movers of the decrease in the non-food component, followed by health and furnishing, household equipment, clothing and footwear.

Vegetables, bread, fish, and cereals were the major contributors to the decrease within the food and alcoholic beverage component of the national basket.

Contributions to the November rate therefore show that inflation for the non-food group was 20.05 percent, far higher than the 12.38 percent inflation recorded by the food group.

The corresponding figures for October 2009 were 21.15 and 13.53 percent for non-food and food respectfully.

Dr. Grace Bediako, Government Statistician, briefing the media in Accra on the latest developments in the CPI, explained that the latest decline is in line with the favourable trend of the harvest season.

The rate of inflation has been relatively high in 2009, averaging 19.60 percent compared to 2008 averaging 16.46 percent.

The last three months recorded rates below the year to date average with average of 19.60 percent. The highest rate of 20.74 percent was recorded in June and the lowest is this month.

Inflation has been slowing since the domestic currency, the cedi, halted its slump against the dollar six months ago. From January to October, the cedi depreciated, cumulatively, by 17.5, 29.1 and 22.6 percent against the US dollar, the pound and the euro respectively.

This compares with depreciations of 17.9 and 5.9 percent against the US dollar and the euro respectively, but an appreciation of 3.0 percent against the pound sterling over the corresponding period in 2008.

Government is however optimistic inflation will continue to fall to the end of the year, and possibly reach an end-year record that is close to the budget target of 14.5 percent. This is based on the rather tight 2009 budget and the relative stability of the cedi since the latter part of the third quarter.

Shell commits to road safety compliance

Shell Ghana Limited says it is focusing on improving road safety performance strategy to reduce road traffic accidents among drivers and transporters, its Country Chairman Omar Benson has stated.

“We achieved good results in reduction of personal injuries through the demonstration of increased management commitment and involvement, and development and implementation of comprehensive road safety programmes.”

These safety programmes are based on the international road safety standard which has resulted in decreasing of Shell’s vehicle accident rate during recent times, Mr. Benson disclosed to B&FT in Tema after this year’s drivers and transporters awards ceremony, aimed at recognising outstanding staff for their dedication and good driving performance as well as road traffic safety compliance.

“The Shell Road Safety Programme aims not only to inculcate road safety awareness among drivers and transporters, but also to strengthen road safety compliance - especially within its transporters.”

He explained that Shell has established the ‘First Truck Rest Stop’ to enable the drivers and transporters to have enough relaxation and avoid fatigue during long-distance driving.

The rest stop will also allow it to have full control of the products, drivers and track distribution.
Mr. Augustine Osei-Bonsu, Distribution Manager, explained that Shell Ghana’s Road Safety Programme encompasses a wide range of issues from a comprehensive policy to specific requirements relating to the driver, vehicle and the environment.

A major activity was the development of new training modules, the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Safe Driving signed onto by the company’s drivers and contractors.

“The emphasis on road safety is intended to create a significant shift in driving attitudes, which demonstrates management’s commitment to road safety and stresses the need for continued leadership by management and supervisors for both drivers and transporters.

“The code commits the signatories to 13 basic principles Shell Ghana had drawn up to enhance road safety. The strategy has worked, whereby rate of road accidents among drivers and transport contractors have reduced immensely.”

Mr. Joseph Horgle of J.K Horgle Transport Limited received ‘The Best Shell Transporters Award for 2009’. He was presented with a gold certificate and a trophy among other prizes.
In all, over 75 drivers and transporters were awarded with prizes and certificates.

China finances oil and gas development

Government and the China Development Bank have entered into a strategic cooperation framework agreement for the financing of projects in the development of the oil and gas resources.

The financing projects will cover gas processing, transportation and the petrochemical industry and the development of critical oil industry facilities such as production and storage facilities, supply facilities, and security and monitoring systems. It will also include educational, health, road infrastructure and agricultural sectors.

Under the agreement, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) will be allowed direct negotiations with the bank for financing projects in the various sectors.

Officials are tight-lipped as to the exact amount and the details which the bank might lend, which will form part of the negotiation between the bank, GNPC, and Ministry of Finance.

Minister of Finance, Dr Kwabena Duffour, and Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye,Managing Director of GNPC signed on behalf of government, while the Deputy Governor of the China Development Bank, Mr. Zhao Jianping, signed on behalf of the bank at a ceremony in Accra.

The agreement will provide the country the opportunity to mobilise the necessary finances for the full implementation of the oil and gas infrastructure without any difficulty, said Nana Asafu-Adjaye.

“It will enable the GNPC to mobilise the necessary finances to develop infrastructure, ensure the monetisation of the gas from the Jubilee Field, and support the processing plant of the corporation,” he said.Dr. Duffour said the agreement which will cover road infrastructure of the farming areas, will enhance accessibility and promote business and the growth of the agricultural sector.

“Ghana was fortunate to have entered into the agreement with the bank, as it is the biggest financial institution in the world; emphasizing that signing of the agreement will deepen the bilateral relations between Ghana and China.The expected finances from the bank will contribute to the attainment of first-class oil and gas industry in the country, which he said was in line with the GNPC’s mandate,”

Dr. Duffour stated.The signing of the agreement marks a new page in the economic and political ties between the two countries and Ghana and China have enjoyed good relations in the ages past, Mr. Jianping said.

Chinese investors eye salt industry

Plans are far advanced for Chinese investors to acquire a 730 sq km plot of land for the commercial production of salt in the country.

The CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), George Aboagye who disclosed this to B&FT, was optimistic the investment would revolutionise the salt industry - transforming the country into a global supplier.

Recent studies had concluded that with modernisation Ghana’s salt industry could rack up its current annual production of 250,000 metric tonnes (mt) to an ultimate annual output of 2.2 million metric tonnes (mmt), or 3mmt on the wider, thus making the country a significant producer but not a global player.

“The introduction of superior Chinese production technology would mean the country could produce several times more than the current estimated total production potential of 2.2 mmt per annum,” he said.

“We could be seeing a project within the next couple of years, as GIPC’s facilitation of land acquisition will eliminate the usual hindrances associated with land for the establishment of projects of that magnitude,” Aboagye said, adding that the Chinese had already approached the China-Africa Development Fund for project funding.

China produces over 50mmt of the global total annual output estimated above 260mmt, but the recent rapid industrialisation of the world’s second-biggest economy and the Asian region generally has created a consistent supply shortfall, especially to support their rapidly growing chlor-alkali market.

“Increased output from Ghana would see supply flows in that direction; however it would also help secure the expected 1.0mmt demand by Ghana’s nascent oil industry for local producers against foreign suppliers,” Aboagye intimated.

Foreign suppliers including Brazil and Australia have been supplying salt to the neighbouring Nigerian petrochemical market, which has an annual value of over US$1.5 billion.

There are worries foreign suppliers could snap up the incipient market of Ghana’s oil industry from local salt producers whose obsolete production methods - from protracted underinvestment and land acquisition challenges - render them uncompetitive and ineffective in meeting rising demand.

“Local producers could ride on the back of the Chinese production while measures are implemented to improve their productivity and competitiveness,” Aboagye said.

Ghana and Senegal are estimated to be the only countries on Africa’s Atlantic coast with the potential for commercial production of salt, with Ghana being more competitive.

Recent studies show Ghana’s entire 500km coastal front can support salt production, with the Songhor basin in the eastern part being particularly productive, potentially accounting for approximately 64 percent of the country’s total production.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Oil industry gets major boost,as GODAC gets USA partners

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting a leading oil and gas drilling and well services technology training institution in the country to offer opportunities to young Ghanaians for training in oil drilling and well services technology, thus preparing them to fully participate in the emerging oil industry.

“Our mission is to provide our students, mostly Ghanaians with high quality state-of-the art training in oil drilling and related disciplines to enable them to participate fully at all levels in the upcoming oil industry,” said Mr. Prince Frimpong Donkor, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Oil Drilling Academy & Consultancy (GODAC) – the partnering institution in Accra when a five-member delegation from the Centre of Energy Economics, University of Texas (CEE-UT) and some international and local partners paid a working visit to GODAC.

The institution was chosen after an assessment by the team led by Dr. Michelle Foss, Head and Chief Energy Economist (CEE-UT); Dr. Gürcan Gülen, Senior Energy Economist (CEE-UT); Mr. Greg McCormack, Director, Petroleum Extension Programme of UT (PETEX); Dr. Bhamy Shenoy, industry consultant and senior advisor to CEE-UT; and Ms. Susan Reider, Terra Group after a request from the government for a bilateral assistance from the USAID Ghana Mission.

USAID then engaged the Centre of Energy Economics, University of Texas (CEE-UT) and its team of international and local partners to assess the needs of the oil and gas sector in Ghana, especially in the areas of technical assistance and workforce development.

The main objectives of the Ghanaian oil and gas sector needs assessment are two-fold - to analyse the key existing and future energy sector issues in Ghana, especially those relevant to the development of the hydrocarbon and gas-to-power sectors; and also develop a sector programme strategy for United States Government (USG) assistance to the government including fostering collaboration with other international development partners and donors engaged in the sector.

“Working in the oil industry is a demanding job, and offshore personnel need training that prioritises quality, safety and high level of technical skill,” Mr. Donkor explained

He assured that the Academy’s highly qualified instructors who have worked in different positions on the drilling platform and have extensive experience in both exploration drilling, moveable rigs, and production drilling on fixed offshore installations would train interested students

This implies that GODAC student are taught by instructors with extensive experience in the oil industry, Mr. Donkor said.

Mr. Donkor further explained that GODAC programmes and courses have been accredited by the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), International Well Control Forum, Norwegian Oil Industry Association, Indian Drilling Association, National Accreditation Board Ghana and ISO 9000:2001.

The GODAC, he said, has received several enquiries from other oil-producing countries in the West Africa sub-region, such as Gabon, Nigeria, Angola, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon and Sierra Leone, for training in Ghana.

He called for adequate and transparent management of the country’s oil resources to avoid it being a curse on the indigenes.

Michelle Michot Foss, Chief Energy Economist and Head of Centre for Energy Economics, observed that most African countries lack professional training institutions and have resorted to the employment of low standard personnel. This impedes promotion of the indigenous working force to higher ranks on the rigs.

Dr. Bhamy Shengoy expressed his appreciation of GODAC’s approach to training, and vision of equipping Ghanaians with the necessary skills to be able to operate at higher positions on oil drilling rigs worldwide.

Cedi worse off today than last year

The Ghana cedi is likely to settle between 23.5% - 25% range of depreciation rate by the close of year 2009, which represent a significant loss of the cedi to its peers than last year, projections from Gold Coast Securities Research indicate.

Last year the cedi lost by 14 per cent to the four major trading currencies, the dollar, the pound, euro and the CFA as measured by the GCS-CEDI INDEX. This was on the backdrop of 25% depreciation to the US Dollar, 8% appreciation to the British pound sterling, 21 per cent depreciation to the euro and 17% depreciation to the CFA.

This year, after hitting an all time high of 27.3% in August when the GCS-CEDI INDEX which measures the general performance of the cedi against its major trading currencies hit a record high of 150.80 points, the local currency has been able to reduce this abysmal performance to a level of 146.94 points as at yesterday, represent a year to date depreciation of 24.03%.

Speaking to Collins Appiah, head of research at Gold Coast Securities, he asserted that The Cedi is not likely to experience any major change from its current trend towards the end of the year though day by day fluctuations are unavoidable.

He explained that, this year’s performance of the cedi has resulted mainly from the performance of the British pound sterling which as at yesterday stood at 33% loss. Though the dollar has been fairly stabilized for the past four month, a year to date depreciation of 18.3% is still on the high side.
The report noted that the Pound’s performance locally continued to mimic its performance internationally as a pre-budget statement and a report from Moody’s Investors Service described the U.K as weaker than top-rated peers including Germany and France.

The pre-budget statement also signaled a widened budget deficit causing investor’s to sell the currency. Likewise, the Pound declined locally by 0.39 per cent adding yesterday’s drop of 1.63 per cent. Its year-to-date appreciation is currently pegged at 32.84 per cent.

The euro also followed suit, shedding a total of 4.56 pesewas since the start of trading this week to reduce its annual yield from 28.79 per cent at the close of Last Thursday to 26.08 per cent.The CFA remained flat trading at year-to-date change of 20.86 per cent.

The local currency was trading between GH¢1.42p and GH¢1.45p to the dollar. It was buying at GH¢2.33p and selling for GH¢2.37p to the pound and was going for GH¢2.11p and GH¢2.14p against the Euro. One Ghana Cedi was quoted between 305 and 311 CFA.

Meanwhile, Razia Khan, Regional Head of Research, Africa, Standard Chartered Bank projects that the Ghana cedi – which has stabilised against most trading partner currencies and appreciated against the USD in recent months – provides further reason to be optimistic on the outlook for inflation.

“We believe that a significant proportion of the non-food component of the basket (55%) is influenced by import prices, hence the importance of the Ghana cedi exchange rate. With expectations of further appreciation of the local currency by the year-end, related to capital inflows as foreign banks meet new, higher minimum capital requirements, as well as still-favourable yields, further moderate declines in inflation are likely over time.

“Supporting our belief that more cedi gains are probable, early evidence appears to indicate that the speculative holding of foreign exchange that accompanied Ghana’s balance of payments crisis in 2008 appears to have reversed.

“Between January and October 2009, the volume of activity by banks and foreign exchange bureaux slowed, with total transactions down to only USD 7.1bn, a decline of 23.3% from the year prior. Sales of foreign exchange were particularly hard-hit, declining 27.1% year-on-year over this period.

“Similar evidence can be deduced from data on the foreign currency deposits held by Ghanaians. In the year to September 2008, the period that straddled Ghana’s balance of payments crisis (when, according to some estimates, the current account deficit peaked near 20%, driven by price surges in imported oil and food), foreign currency accounts (FCAs) at commercial banks grew at an annual rate of 75.2%. More recently, growth in FCA balances has been a more moderate 37.2%, with evidence of a further slowdown as the currency appreciation continues.”


Farmers bemoan mass importation of agric products

The President of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana (NFFAWAG), Philip Abayori, has observed that the mass importation of agricultural products into the country is pushing the nation’s farmers and fisher-folk into poverty and joblessness.

In a statement to commemorate the 25th anniversary celebration of the national Farmers’ Day that was held in Tamale, Northern Region, Mr Abayori said: “the harder Ghanaian farmers work, the less they earn and the poorer they become.”

He recalled that in the 1970s agriculture was the backbone of the Ghanaian economy, and the Northern Region in particular was the rice-producing basket of the country.

“As I speak today, the cotton industries which used to employ a significant number of the population of the Northern sector is at a risk of collapse. The rice and other important industries are nowhere to be found,” Mr. Aboyori stated, adding that the situation has created a vacuum as far as employment is concerned.

The NFFAWAG President therefore called on the government to implement decisions that will benefit the agric sector so that Ghanaian farmers and fisher-folk will come out from their predicaments which came about as a result of inadequate machinery, implements and subsidies.

“If we fail in our core responsibilities to reverse this situation and create job for our people, we will not only be doing a disservice to mother Ghana but posterity will judge us in our time,” he cautioned.

Mr. Abayori also touched on how farmers and fisher-folk in the country find it extremely difficult to access credit facilities and appealed to government to reverse the trend.

“Even with the little credit that sometimes become available once in a blue moon, interest rates are so exorbitant - making it a disincentive to our farmers to take loans; and even if they do, repayments often become difficult,” he said.

He suggested that government needs to reconsider setting up an agric-fund so that all funds which would be generated from the taxes on imported food items specified in the 2010 budget could be channeled into it.

He said the World Bank has already announced plans to set up an agric-fund to boost agriculture in developing countries with an initial capital of US$1.5 billion.

More airlines ‘invade’ airspace

Air Commodore, Kwame Mamphey, Director-General of the Ghana Civil Aviation, has said a lot more airlines have expressed interest in doing business in the country’s airspace due to its safety rating and the development of civil aviation.

“Our airspace - called the Accra Flight Information Region, comprising the airspaces of Togo, Benin, Ghana and a large portion of the Atlantic Ocean - is considered one of the safest in the world.”

The country has this year successfully implemented the Atlantic Ocean Random Route Area programme, a key international aviation requirement, to enable aircrafts that fly over the Atlantic Ocean to fly with minimum wind effect and take advantage of the wind over the Atlantic Ocean.

Air Namibia has started operations in the country, United Airlines of the USA intends to start operations to Ghana in May 2010, Virgin Atlantic will commence its Heathrow –Accra route in summer 2010, and Delta Airlines also intends to open a new route between Accra and Atlanta, USA, in the first quarter of next year.

Another airline that has expressed interest for inter-continental operations, Eagle Atlantic, has begun certification processes to commence both domestic and regional operations.

“All of these developments in the civil aviation industry only go to strengthen our economy and improve tourism revenues for the country.”

Air Commodore Mamphey made the presentation in Accra at a ceremony to mark the 65th International Civil Aviation Day, themed ‘65 years of empowering the global community through aviation.’

“Ghana has carefully implemented all key international requirements and standards on civil aviation security and safety over the years, and is currently putting in place structures to promote and encourage general aviation and recreational flying.”

He observed that International Civil Aviation Organisation is continually exploring ways and means to make global civil aviation safer and more productive in other to hold the world together.

Dzifa Aku Attivor, Deputy Minister of Transport, said approximately 50 percent of the value of total exports is shipped through the Kotoka International Airport(KIA), while over 70 percent of the international tourists enter the country by air.

With tourism fast emerging as the fastest-growing sector of our economy, the role of air transport cannot be over-emphasised, she said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Access Bank Ghana holds family day with deprived children

Access Bank Ghana Limited has presented items to over 30 underprivileged children at the Teshie Orphanage in Accra.

The donation by the bank signifies its continued commitment to improving the quality of life of their workforce and their families as well as that of the local communities and society.
It also falls in line with the Access Bank Group’s strategy of contributing to the long-term sustainable development of its operating environment.

The outreach programme took place during the annual ‘Staff and Family Day Out’ event of the bank, which was held during the weekend at the Aviation Social Centre in Accra.

The ‘Staff and Family Day Out’ is a leisure event that brings staff-members, their kids and families together through exciting sporting activities and fun games.

The orphan children were treated to fun games including bouncy-castles, horse riding, cotton candy as well as good music and lots of food and drinks. Staff of the bank also took the opportunity to put an extra smile on the faces of the children by donating in abundance clothing, provisions, toys, little give-aways etc.

Mr. Daniel Akaba, Country Managing Director, who led the health and fitness walk, said it was the intention of the Ghana subsidiary to collaborate with all stakeholders in the country to build strong and healthy communities where people can live and work, and businesses can survive into the future.

“Access Bank Ghana will use proactive and well-structured interventions to address societal needs.”

Highlighting the corporate social responsibility strategy of the Bank, Mr Akaba mentioned that the bank has adopted a strategic approach and interventions to assure significant impact in the coming years.

The approach, which covers four focus areas, includes Health, Education, Sports and Arts.

“Access Bank’s approach to CSR is predicated on the best industry practices and expresses the bank’s strong commitment to creating sustainable value for all stakeholders. As members of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the bank is committed to fighting HIV/AIDS discrimination and stigma among other initiatives,” Mr. Akaba stated.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mining companies to cough up more royalties

Government has announced it plans to consider increasing the royalties paid by companies exploiting minerals in the country, as part of a broader effort to boost revenue from the extractive sector, Ekow Essabra-Mensah, our Chief Correspondent writes.

The regime for the mining companies seem to be in shock with the announcement from government it is to increase the minimum mineral royalties to 6 percent, and in addition engage all mining companies in addressing the issue of dividend payment, exemptions, and the whole mining sector fiscal regime.

Mining companies operating in the country will soon be mandated to pay more than the current 3% minimum royalty to the government.

Ghana’s Minerals Commission, the official regulatory agency, has come up with the necessary regulatory framework in a bill that will ensure companies contribute more to the government treasury.

The bill seeks to ensure there is an exact percentage that all mining companies will be mandated to pay to government as royalties. Newmont, AngloGold Gold Fields, and Golden Star Resources are among the major mining companies operating in the country’s extractive sector.

If approved, the new legislation will ensure that the companies do have the option to pay what is convenient for them, so far as the amount does not fall outside the minimum royalty rate, the Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission, Benjamin Aryee has said.

Section 25 of the Minerals Act stipulates a mining royalty of not more than 6% or less than 3% of the total revenue obtained from mining operations. But mining companies operating in the country, whether big or small, have only been paying 3% - the lowest rate - to the government.

“It is unfortunate that most of the companies pay the minimum 3% or a little more as royalties, despite the fact that gold is selling at an all time high of around US$1,000 an ounce.

“Given the strong performance of gold on the international market, it is prudent for the government to put in place measures that would ensure that the country benefits from the sales of the product.”

The bill looks into how communities hosting mining companies can benefit from the royalties paid to the central government, Mr. Aryee said, adding that the mining companies will have to cough up more in mining royalties.

Available data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has disclosed that Ghana earns not more than 5% of the value of its gold exports, a lower figure than in many non-African gold producing countries.

The Ghana Chamber of Mines recently commenced an advocacy programme in which 10 % royalties payment was proposed for miners, whom it accused of not doing enough for the communities they operate in - voicing concern that the current royalties paid are worthless and will not translate to meaningful development in the communities.

But in 2006, mining companies contributed US$780 million to government coffers, with AngloGold Ashanti spending US$5 million more on the health sector, while Gold Fields spent US$3 million on a soccer team.

Newmont and Golden Star are reportedly spending US$4 million and US$3.6 million respectively on social corporate investments.The Mining firms last year paid GH¢179,978,383 to the government as revenue representing more than 14 percent of the country's total internal revenue collection.

The mining companies also paid about GH¢73 million, representing three percent of mineral revenue as taxes, levies and duties on the product to government as well as margins to the oil marketing companies.

Ghana is not isolated in pushing for increases in taxes paid by miners. Many African countries are currently saying they do not see the benefits from their huge resource base filtering down to the indigenous communities, and are looking at how they can derive a greater proportion of income from their natural resources.Current laws on payment of royalties

The laws governing mining activities in the country mandate mining companies operating in the country to pay between 3 to 6% percent of their earnings to the government as royalties; but, as if by design, all the mining companies have settled for the minimum 3% royalty payment despite gains gold has been making on the international market.

Section 25 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, (Act 703) says: "A holder of a mining lease, restricted mining lease or small-scale mining licence, shall pay royalty that may be prescribed in respect of minerals obtained from its mining operations to the Republic, except that the rate of royalty shall not be more than 6 percent or less than 3 percent of the total revenue of minerals obtained by the holder."

The government's resolve, therefore, to change that order and maximise revenue from the sector as part of its revenue mobilisation programme indicated in the 2010 budget statement, has set the tone for yet another head-on collision with operators in the mining industry as there are fears of a possible breach of the investment agreements the country has reached with these mining companies.

The price of gold has been soaring on the world market, and there have been concerns that Ghana might be losing out on this gain if it does not step up or review the royalties mining companies pay government, as the commodity has hit a new all-time high of US$1,173.50, boosted by a weakening dollar.
Reactions from miners

Newmont Ghana Gold Limited has however argued that an increase in royalties to government is not the best solution to the underdevelopment of the mining communities.

In his view, the government should increase the amount of funds given to the communities from the royalties paid to them by the companies and also ensure a proper decentralisation system, which is lacking in the case of the disbursement of royalty funds to the communities.

It said government’s ten percent allocation to district assemblies for the development of social amenities and other infrastructure for communities affected by the activities of mining companies is inadequate, taking into accounts the low level of development in these communities.

A spokesman for Newmont meanwhile said a substantial increase of royalties in Ghana would ‘severely reduce returns on investment if it does not also take into account rising production costs.’

Moreover, AngloGold is also of the view that the company had not been informed of a royalty hike and did not expect to have to pay up due to a ‘stability’ agreement made with a previous regime. "We expect our prior agreement to be honored."

The country is, however, not as dependent on its mining sector as some mineral-rich economies, since the contribution of other commodities to national export earnings and GDP is also considerable.

The country’s mining sector could be sustainable if the policy initiatives, including diversification of the sector, strengthening of linkages other than fiscal, curbing the dependence on imports, curbing public expenditure, and improving productivity through training and appropriate technology transfer, which the government is now focusing on, are implemented.

Shell calls for regular disclosure

Richard Dion, Policy and External Relations Advisor of Shell Group, has called for regular public disclosure of payments by extractive industries to help improve governance and reduce corruption in the extractive sectors.

He said extractive industries are key drivers of economic growth in many countries and that effort must be intensified to promote validation by implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together developing country governments, donors, companies, investors, civil society organisations and the international financial institutions to increase transparency in the extractive sector in developing countries.

The EITI offers a useful framework for encouraging best practices, and it complements the work in the areas of public sector transparency and modernisation of the state.

Mr. Dion made this disclosure to B&FT at the sidelines of an international workshop on ‘Governance of Extractive Industries’ (GEI) consultation organised by the World Bank Institute (WBI) and Africa Region of the World Bank in Accra.

“Shell supports voluntary participation in the EITI, which calls for regular public disclosure of payments by extractive industries to governments and reconciliation against recorded receipt of those funds by governments.”

He explained that the Shell Group has been the initiator of EITI in African countries and will continue to explore the situation in the African extractives sector, determine the priorities and needs of stakeholders, and identify reforms and opportunities.

The event brought together approximately 25 extractive industries experts and key stakeholders from the Africa region-including selected Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) coordinators, local change management specialists, civil society monitors and industries operatives to develop a thorough analysis of country needs and stakeholder priorities and challenges.

It is targetted at helping clarify which actors to engage within target countries and a greater understanding of the technical and capacity building needs of stakeholders prior to the anticipated formal launch of the programme in early 2010.

Those joining the consultation will have a unique opportunity to help shape this initiative from its beginnings and build linkages to their own programme efforts.

Towards this end, WBI hopes that those participating will openly share their experience in the extractive s sector to help pinpoint the real needs.

The governance of extractive industries programme is based on the assumption that transparency and accountability will promote positive change in the extractive industries sector in Africa.

The programme objective is to connect and empower key extractive industries stakeholders, government, civil society, and private sector among others to jointly identify priorities and implement actions for the accountable and transparent use of Extractive Industries’ resources.

Issues from along the value chain will be prioritised in terms of governance vulnerabilities and potential for innovation to address identified weaknesses; be it whether and how best to develop resources, monitoring the environmental and social impact of operations, collecting taxes, or spending resources for sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

A unique aspect of the programme will be a learning process actively focused on providing operationally relevant knowledge combined with skills-building and promoting multi-stakeholder solutions. WBI emphasises a learning-by-doing approach according to each country’s circumstances.

‘Effective warehouse system helps commodities exchange’

There is need for an effective warehouse receipt system and a robust market information system before the establishment of a commodities exchange can be viable, Mr. Bernard Otabil, Managing Director, Esoko Ghana, a commodity price index analyst, has observed.

The development of a commodities exchange, however, could be an uphill task without these platforms, he said.

In an interview with B&FT, Mr. Otabil proposed an efficient centralised cash market to provide the underlying market prices which will reflect futures and forward prices.

Ghana has suffered three failed attempts towards the establishment of a commodities exchange, due to the unavailability of a regulatory framework.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the lead promoter of a commodities exchange, is expected to develop the need­ed regulatory framework to facilitate establishment of the exchange once gov­ernment accepts the recommendations.

When adopted, Ghana will be the third country in Africa after Kenya and Ethiopia to embark on an aggressive over­haul of its agricultural sector.

Mr. Otabil bemoaned the delay in establishing a commodities exchange in the West Africa region, as it has the tendency of alleviating poverty and increasing the incomes of farmers.

“There is no doubt that a commodity exchange is necessary for the efficient functioning of an economy.

“In West Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa, it is rightly envisaged that a properly functioning exchange could play a big role in poverty alleviation initiatives, as it would increase the incomes of producers.”

All major commodities such as grains, metals and petroleum are produced in West Africa - and that makes the region viable for a commodity exchange, he stated.

A commodities market or exchange is a platform where various commodities and derivatives products are traded. Most commodities exchange trade in agricultural products and other raw materials like wheat, barley, sugar, maize, cocoa, coffee, cotton, milk products, pork bellies, oil and the metals.

The prime objective is to bring produc­ers, buyers and consumers together to trade on a common platform by providing a ready market for farm-gate products from the agricultural centres.

The country’s agricultural produce constitutes 55 percent of the national basket of the Consumer Price Index. Therefore, high prices of agricultural produce are likely to trigger inflation.

Marketers urged to develop strategies to brand Africa

Marketers have been urged to fashion-out appropriate business development strategies that can help re-brand Africa for effective global business dealings, Mrs. Norkor Duah, 2008 Marketing Woman of the Year has said.

“Marketers must see the new opportunities and come out with strategies that can help the continent move on, take on the competition, and partner the investors that are making in-roads into Africa.

By doing this, we shall be releasing Africa from the shackles of poverty by encouraging real and rewarding engagement with investors.”

Mrs. Duah, who was making a presentation at the launch of the 2009 Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) awards in Accra, charged marketers to permeate various governmental circles and let their voices be heard on national and continental issues.

“The role of marketers in Africa will remain theoretical if they fail to break through barriers that inhibit against the fine theories they propound.

“They will succeed when illiteracy is improved, when the economies are integrated; when infrastructure like roads, railways, sea and air travel are improved and become competitive.”

She explained that the international brands continue to better their quality, innovate and establish marketing programmes to maintain their dominance.

Launching the awards, Mrs. Josephine Okutu, National President of the CIMG, called on individuals and businesses to make collective efforts to build a vibrant and robust economy.

Mrs. Okutu said the CIMG has already positioned itself to contribute towards making the country the pride of Africa.

She explained that the awards have come to represent within corporate bodies an acceptable benchmark for assessing the performance of companies, and a barometer for organisations to know the level at which their businesses are.

The 2009 awards ceremony, which will be in 30 categories, is slated for July 17, 2010, and is on the theme “Africa as an Emerging Market - The role of Marketing.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Commodity index kicks off

A new commodity index that tracks prices of selected agricultural products and allows the public to access market information over their mobile phones has been launched in Accra.

With up to-date information from markets across the country, businesses and individuals can access prices, browse offers to buy or sell, or advertise their own products and services. Traders can also procure product more quickly and at a better prices for everyone.

Owned and published by Esoko Ghana Limited, the index will track prices at two levels; the Esoko Ghana Commodity Index-Retail (EGCI-R) and the Esoko Ghana Commodity Index-Wholesale (EGCI-W).

Mr. Bernard Otabil, Managing Director, Esoko Ghana, launching the index explained that the commodity index which is mainly cash market price is based on physical commodities.

“Results demonstrate that farmers who receive real-time price data are able to improve revenues by negotiating better prices or selecting more favourable markets for their produce.

Currently covering 20 agricultural products in 30 local markets across the country, the index were developed to serve as benchmarks for selected commodity prices in selected markets as a measure of commodity prices performance over time.”

The index has been developed to assist analysts and policy makers as well as the media keep track of prices, which have been so volatile over the last few months. It will also provide transparency to farmers and traders and help with production planning in the country.

“The aggregation methodology chosen for the EGCI uses a weighted average calculation based on prices across selected markets which has been designed to capture different price movements at both the retail and wholesale market levels,” Mr. Otabil said.

Esoko’s goal is to improve market efficiencies throughout the value chain hence reducing poverty and contributing to the role of agriculture in the country’s national development.

Active in eight African countries, Esoko was designed and built exclusively in Ghana.
It was recently recognised by the United Nations as a ‘World Summit Awards 2009 Winner’ for its work in creating unique content.

Samsung unveils latest innovation

Samsung Electronics has pledged to invest more than US$6 billion in research and development as it has officially unveiled its latest innovation, the Samsung LED TV series, the world’s slimmest television in Accra.

The new LED TV, which has been added to Samsung range of products measures up to 55 inches of screen size and has a stunning pix quality making it one of the most sought after television set in the world.

Head of Samsung Middle East and Africa, Mr. Justin Shaw in a media interaction observed that the landscape of the electronics market in Ghana is set to experience a revolution which consumers, dealers and the media will embrace with the latest designs and the most advanced technology available today.

Samsung is leading the way with the introduction of a complete line of LED TVs that are not only striking visually, but are high performance, and low energy usage, about 40 per cent less power. With a slim design (less than 2 inches thick), excellent picture quality and performance, this TV is for the most discerning client.

This milestone achievement will further put the fast selling brand as a top performance, high quality, innovative and vision oriented company in the minds of consumers around the world.”

He explained that a new era of maximum entertainment has arrived for consumers looking for a sleek, modern design, premium TV that is practical as well as stylish with benefits of the latest LED technology that has a craftsmanship of an artist.

“With beautiful, crystal-clear design inspired by nature and image quality that extends beyond reality, the Samsung LED TV has taken a completely new dimension.

This unique approach has resulted in a beautifully designed TV frame that comes fully equipped with everything, including a built -in- tuner and power supply,” he said.

“Enjoy the convenience of using your TV to access online content such as Yahoo! Flicker and even You Tube- all with the push of a button. Utilize the convenient USB 2.0 movie port and share photos as well as HD videos from your vacation with family and friends,” Mr. Shaw remarked.

The President of Samsung Nigeria with oversight responsibility in West, Middle and East Africa, Jinuk Shin said the development of LED TV sets was inspired by the need to develop a product that is friendly to the environment.

“The LED TV does not use lead or mercury in production making it toxic free for the environment as reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere,” he said.

Samsung Electronics, founded about 40 years ago, is currently the world’s leading manufacturer of home appliances with a market share of about 20 per cent.

National Food and Agric Show opens

The National Food and Agric Show (FAGRO) aimed at showcasing and selling agricultural products, farm produce, equipment and machinery opens on Sunday, November 29, 2009, at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park in Accra.

The five day show will also display Ghanaian traditional foods from all the 10 regions on a daily basis to be sampled by people who visit the fair. This free food sampling aims to promote indigenous Ghanaian foods as highly nutritious and healthy.

Over 150 exhibitors from diverse agricultural disciplines, manufacturers, and equipment dealers would be in attendance. Resource persons from the Ghana Standards Board, YARA, Myroc and Millenium Development Authority (MIDA) will hold seminars on topics such as Food Safety, Farmers Financial Freedom, Agro Trade, Modern Methods of Farming, Rabbit and Grasscutter Rearing.

The Project Coordinator of the event, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa noted that, “the main purpose for the fair is to add value to agriculture and move it from it peasant stage to a commercial stage. Agriculture is a highly ignored discipline and this is not good for the growth of the economy.

A lot of corporate institutions do not place high priority on agriculture and we at FAGRO aim to bring a new revolution in the Agriculture sector.

This revolution will increase Private Partnership Approach; where Agriculture will not be politically but privately driven; a revolution where most of our young ones will come out of school and yearn to go into Agriculture” she noted.

“It is the only way we can free ourselves from the high import rate of all consumables”, She added”.

The side attraction of this fair is the “Dancing on the Farm Bash” on the 3rd of December 2009, which will usher in the Farmers’ Day and say ‘Ayeekoo’ to our farmers for their contribution to National Development.

FAGRO 2009 is expected to attract scores of individuals, students, investors, industry players, students and families. On sale would be fresh farm produce and other consumables at subsidized rates.

Golden Star pays US$3.1m royalty to gov’t

Golden Star Resources Limited, a private gold production company, has paid US$3.13million to government as royalties for the third quarter of this year out of productions from its Bogoso/Prestea and Wassa mines.

This was made known by the Vice-President (operations) of GSR, Mr. Dan Owiredu, during an interaction with the media.

The third quarter’s payments were made up of US$1.6million from the company’s Wassa Mine and US$1.6 million from the Bogoso/Prestea Mine.

Total royalty payments from the Wassa and Bogoso/Prestea amounted to about US$8million for the three quarters of this year; US$4.47 million from Wassa, and US$4 million from Bogoso/Prestea.

Commenting on these payments, Mr. Owiredu, said it was by daint of hard-work, skill and commitment of Golden Star’s dedicated employees, the support of the local communities and support of the Government of Ghana. The recent increase in gold prices has also been a factor.

“As the second mining company listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange, we are delighted to be able to share the fruits of our endeavours, firstly with the Ghana government and then inhabitants of our communities as key partners, and our creditors and shareholders both here in Ghana and abroad,” he added.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hopes of economic expansion in 2010

The economy next year promises to witness more economic activity than this year, accompanied by easing inflation and generally stable currency, B&FT’s assessment shows.

This will be driven by the relatively flexible fiscal policy of government captured in the 2010 budget, working through to complement the gains that can be made from the disinflation journey that the economy embarked on from the beginning of the third quarter this year.

The latest assessment by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) shows that the path of disinflation began this year and will continue into the larger parts of next year - barring risks of inflation associated with the recovery of global demand and the extent to which crude oil prices might rebound.

Based on the positive signs of the Bank’s assessment, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank last Friday cut the BoG prime rate by 0.5 percentage points down to 18.0 percent, with the view to providing the needed monetary policy support to consolidate the expected gains for economic growth.

A total government spending of GHË10.8 billion is earmarked in 2010, which is 23 percent higher than the projected outturn for 2009 and 11.3 percent higher than the target made in 2009.

While this amount is earmarked for investment in five main high growth inducing areas of oil and gas industry, agriculture modernisation, private sector development, provision of key infrastructure, and information and communication technology, it is based on a flexible budget deficit target of 7.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Even though the 2010 deficit target stands lower compared to the 10.2 percent of GDP projected by the end of 2009, it represents a slower decline of 2.7 percentage points over 2009 compared to the steep decline of 12.2 percentage points from 2008 to 2009.

Consequently, far more government spending is expected in 2010 compared to this year - and this will be well complemented by BoG’s flexible monetary policy as further cuts in the prime rate are expected next year.

Briefing the media last week at the fifth bi-monthly review of the MPC in the year, Chairman of the MPC and Governor of the BoG, Mr. Kwasi Amissah-Arthur, stated that there are signs of stabilisation in prices and in the foreign exchange market with inflation trending downwards including consumer price inflation.

“Indications are that inflation will continue to ease and fall within the upper part of the target range of 14.5 – 17.5 percent by the end of-December 2009. Looking ahead, inflation is likely to return to the target range of 7-11 percent by the end of December 2010,” the Governor said, hinting about the future path of monetary policy.

Given this outlook, the prime rate is expected to ease further while bringing down bank lending rates as well, thus making credit more affordable to the private sector for increased economic activity.

Real annual growth of banks’ credit to the private sector was 6.1 percent in September 2009, down from 32.7 percent recorded in September 2008; but this is expected to improve with the expected falling interest rates. Average lending rates remained unchanged at the second quarter level of 32.75 in October in the range of 25.75 – 40.0 percent, but lending rates are expected to ease in the coming months following the cut in BoG’s prime rate.

The high inflation and huge currency depreciations experienced last year up to the first half of this year hiked up banks’ non-performing loans from 7.6 percent in September last year to 13.2 percent in September this year. However, this trend is expected to change once interest rates begin taking nose-dives.

Economy grew 5.7% in 2009
The BoG’s assessments of economic activity, based on the first three quarters of the year have put provisional economic growth rate in 2009 at 5.7 percent, down from 7.3 percent in 2008 and overruling earlier estimates made based on first quarter data by the Ghana Statistical Service that the economy grew by 4.7 percent this year. This also indicates that an assessment based on the four quarters could see the economy notching up the 5.9 percent growth target that was set by government for the year.

The Bank of Ghana’s Composite Index of Economic Activity (CIEA), used in estimating the growth rate, showed that the first three quarters of the year recorded significant slowdowns in economic activity. In the first three quarters of the year, the index recorded declines of 4.32 percent, 0.91 percent and 0.94 percent respectively. In year-on-year terms, the index as at September 2009 had declined by 6.2 percent compared with a growth of 14.7 percent for the corresponding period of 2008.

Presenting the 2010 budget to Parliament last week, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, disclosed a growth target of 6.0 percent.

From a growth rate of 3.7 percent in 2000, GDP shot up to 4.2 percent in 2001, 4.5 percent in 2002, and 5.2 percent in 2003.

The country’s economy further grew by 5.6 percent and 5.9 percent respectively in 2004 and 2005. The years of sustained growth peaked at 6.4 percent in 2006, after which an energy crisis slowed the country’s growth rate to 6.3 percent in 2007.

Ghana's Revenue agencies to be integrated

Government of Ghana is to integrate the three revenue collecting agencies under the umbrella of a single Ghana Revenue Authority in 2010, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has announced.

“Drawing on international experience, legislation to establish the Ghana Revenue Authority has been drafted and approved by Cabinet and will form part of the e-Ghana project,” the Minister said.
The three revenue agencies are Value Added Tax (VAT), Customs Excise and Preventive Services (CEPS) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The integration of revenue functions will address the problem of duplication and streamline operational policies and procedures.

It is also to minimise administrative cost, reduce compliance cost for taxpayers, and generally improve efficiency - which will boost the national revenue target.

Dr. Duffuor, presenting the 2010 budget statement in Parliament, announced that government will introduce new taxes and levies to establish the right prices for natural and environmental capital, hence generating more government revenue while providing the right incentives for reducing environmental degradation.

Royalties paid by mining companies are to be increased from three percent to six percent.

Certain duties on food items that were phased out by past administrations are to be brought back in line with the customs and excise duties Act 2000 (Act 578). Among them are levies on rice and poultry.

Similarly tariffs will be introduced on textiles to check dumping in the economy while studies are already underway to assess the impact of re-imposing taxes on petroleum products.

Government’s total revenue and grants for the 2010 fiscal year is estimated at GH¢9.6bn, equivalent to 37.1 percent of the projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year. This amount reflects an increase of 33.4 percent over the projected outturn for 2009.

Again, domestic revenue is expected to increase by 37.8 percent over the outturn for 2009, and grants by 12percent. This will bring total domestic revenue to GH¢8.3bn, equivalent to 31.9 percent of the projected GDP for the year. Grants will amount to GH¢1.4 bn, equivalent to 5.3 percent of the projected GDP for the year.

The tax revenue is also anticipated to increase by 20.2 percent over the outturn in 2009, to GH¢6.1bn. This figure represents 23.4 percent of the projected GDP. Non-tax revenue will amount to GH¢1.9 bn, representing 7.4 percent of the projected GDP and an increase of 157.6 percent over the 2009 outturn.

Measures will also be introduced to modernise the Ghana tax system and enhance revenue administration reform, among others, to plug loopholes - reducing tax evasion, and tax rents from natural resources fairly to make the tax system more efficient and less dependent on indirect taxes.

UN delegation meets Parliament

The United Nations (UN) has pledged to collaborate with the country’s 230-member legislature to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 stipulated date.

This was made known when a delegation from the UN and its agencies working in the country met with the leadership of Parliament to map out areas of future collaboration towards the achievement of the MDGs.

The meeting, which centred on possible ways of reinforcing national efforts to eradicate poverty, was also aimed at facing the new challenge of accelerating growth in an inclusive and equitable manner.

Mrs. Joyce Bamford-Addo, Speaker of Parliament, receiving the delegation in Accra observed that the country over the years has attained success in the fields of health, education and infrastructural development, but a lot more still needs to be done to meet the requirements of the MDGs.

She said the passage of bills such as the National Health Insurance, Whistle-Blowers, Financial Accountability, and Disability were all positive measures towards the achievement of MDGs.

Mr. Daouda Toure, Resident Coordinator of UN, noted that reflecting the country’s strong commitment to attain the MDGs, Parliament has been very instrumental in institutionalising legal and financial measures that promote the well-being of the citizenry.

Among some of these are included: The Capitation Grants, the School Feeding Programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the National Youth Employment Scheme and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programme.

“With approximately five years to the target date of 2015, not only does Parliament need to continue its oversight roles to ensure that resource allocation of the country fully reflects basic needs as expressed in MDGs, but it also has the critical role of reaching out to all corners of the country to mobilise communities to identify development priorities and to realise fully inclusive and locally adapted economic development.

“Periodic meetings between the two houses will enhance the smooth implementation of development programmes that could move the country from its current position in terms of development.”

Mr. Alban Bagbin, the Majority Leader said: “we need to collaborate as Parliamentarians to effectively play the role of communicators between the communities and government.

“Lack of office accommodation for Members of Parliament and inadequate budgetary allocation are some of the major challenges that face the house.”

Among some of the agencies that attended the programme were: the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CEPA wants interest rates cut

The Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) says the Bank of Ghana (BoG) should consider cutting interest rates, given the downward trend in inflation and the projected steep declines in real economic activity.

Consistent with a strategy of growth with macroeconomic stability, CEPA has suggested that the BoG’s prime rate should be cut by 0.25 percentage points.

The BoG prime rate was maintained at 18.5 percent in September, the third consecutive time in the year after it gained one percentage point in February to a five-year high.

However, the stabilisation effect of government’s new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank became quite significant after September, working through channels such as deceleration in the rate of inflation and currency depreciation.

Inflation has been stubbornly high since the beginning of the year, registering its highest rate of 20.7 percent in June. Inflation since then has been on the downward trend, reaching 18.37 percent in September.

CEPA believes that with the current broad macroeconomic framework, the monetary policy committee’s projections in May 2009 that inflation will fall to the range of 12.6 to 16.6 percent at the end of the year and then to a range of 6.7 to 12.7 percent by the end of June 2010 is attainable.

“It now looks likely that the target rate of 14.5 percent at the end December 2009 is achievable,” Mr. Samuel Ashong, a Research Fellow at CEPA, noted at the launch of the Ghana Economic Review and Outlook 2009 in Accra.

In spite of the decreasing trend in inflation in the last quarter, lending rates in the economy remained unchanged or rather went up in some respects.

The average lending rate of the 26 banks in the country rose in September to 37.3 percent, and was held in the range 21.0 percent - 50.8 percent. Finance houses charged between 61 and 95 percent, leasing companies between 33.5 and 66 percent, while savings and loans companies charged between 50.3 and 83.3 percent.

Analysts attribute the downward rigidity in the lending rates to the rigidity in the BoG’s prime rate, because the banks respond to the prime rate and not necessarily inflation rate.
A tightening of the macro-economy was signalled with the approval of the 2009 Budget in March, but a conclusion of the 3-year PRGF arrangement with the Bretton Wood Institutions in June converted government’s economic policy programme into a comprehensive stabilisation programme.

Based on CEPA’s projection, government’s total expenditures by the end of the year will be GH¢9,846.8 million (including repayment of external debt, outstanding commitments and clearance of arrears).

This translates to the equivalent of 45.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), lower than the budget estimate of 46.4 percent of GDP and the 2008 provisional outcome of 49.3 percent of GDP.

On the revenue side of the budget, domestic revenue has been projected at GH¢5,732.6 million, equivalent to 26.5 percent of GDP. It comprises GH¢5,047.0 million of tax revenue and GH¢685.6 million non-tax revenue - of which GH¢332.0 million is expected to be lodged into government accounts by the collecting ministries departments and agencies (MDAs).
The remaining GH¢353.7 million will be retained by the MDAs for their use.

The forecast shows domestic revenue ending the year 7.1 percent below its budgetary target of GH¢6,172.1 million or 28.5 percent of GDP.

CEPA’s assessments show that disbursement rates for project grants and programme grants are not encouraging, representing only 55.8 percent and 63.9 percent of the yearly commitments respectively.

HIPC and multilateral debt-relief initiative (MDRI) assistance were equally behind schedule, and accounted for 56.9 percent and 50.6 percent of the annual estimate respectively.

Based on the above projections of revenues and expenditures, a broad fiscal deficit of GH¢2,274.2 million, equivalent to 10.5 percent of GDP, has been projected for end-year 2009. This is 11.8 percent higher than the official estimate of GH¢2,033.4 million, or 9.4 percent of GDP, contained in the revised 2009 budget and the IMF-PRGF arrangement.

Based on these developments, CEPA has estimated 2009 economic growth to be 3.8 percent - down from the high 7.3 percent growth rate recorded in 2008.

The official growth rate projection by the government at the onset of the year was however 5.9 percent.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr. Kwabena Duffuor, is expected to officially present the 2010 budget statement to Parliament on Wednesday - when he will also announce the official position on estimated growth rate for the year.

GCB ready to partner local banks for oil exploration

Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) Limited says it is ready to partner with any of the 26 local banks to raise syndicated financing for oil exploration and other related businesses.

Such joint venture will help reduce transactional risk, create employment and retain revenue for the country’s developmental project.

Mr. Francis Chilly Agbeibor, General Manager, Planning and Research Division of the bank who disclosed this to B&FT said: “GCB’s leadership in loan syndications stems from ability to forge strong relationships not only with borrowers but also with bank investors.

Our syndication capabilities are complemented by our own capital strength and by industry teams who bring specialized knowledge to the structure of a transaction.”

Mr. Agbeibor said the bank’s long term international pedigree positions it to understand its syndicate partners’ asset criteria, and help meet substantial financing needs by enabling them to reach the banks most interested in lending to their particular industry.

Mr. Cedric McAddy, Marketing Director of GCB, making a presentation at the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce (GNCCI) monthly meeting in Accra said, the bank has being supporting the operations of Small and Medium Enterprises sector in the country with loans, financial and business advisory service for business growth.

He explained that it has repositioned itself to assuage the hyper-competition in the banking industry, adding that it was committed to ensuring the highest quality banking services for customers in the SME sector which constitute over 70 percent of the country’s businesses.

“The bank has established a SME Service Centre, to enable the bank develop a tailored made products for its operations to improve, especially on the SME service.

Ghana Commercial Bank Limited, since its birth in 1953, has provided banking products and services for corporate, small and medium scale enterprises and retail customers in the country.

Its latest financial reports showed a net profit of GHC 37.59 million for 2008, as against 2007 figure of GHC 32.87 million. Profit after tax for 2008 stood at GHC 47.71 million.

Pre-tax profits was at GHC 49.7 million as against the 2007 figure of GHC 46.96 million.

The Bank achieved an appreciable growth in shareholder equity. Earnings per share for 2008 was GHC 0.142 compared to GHC 0.124 in the previous year with a recommended a dividend of GHC 0.06 per share representing a pay-out ratio of 42% to shareholders.

Ghana Commercial Bank (GBC) has inaugurated its Nima outlet, a suburb of Accra as its 153rd branch in the country.

Nana Appiagyei Dankawoso, Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the GNCCI urged the members to take advantage of the GCB’s rich banking experience and transact business with them to grow their businesses.

October inflation eases to 18.04%

Year on year inflation has eased for the fourth consecutive time in the year, to the October rate of 18.04 percent.

The further drop represents a decline of 0.33 percentage points from the September rate of 18.37 percent.

The decrease was mainly driven by the non-food group which constitutes 55.09 percent of the consumer price index (CPI).

Official figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) named hotels, cafes, restaurants, recreation and culture as the main movers of the decrease in the non-food component.

Fish, bread and cereals were the major contributors to the decrease within the food and alcoholic beverage component of the national basket.

Consequently, contributions to the October rate shows that inflation for the non-food group was 21.15 percent, far higher than the 13.53 percent inflation recorded by the food group.

Briefing the media in Accra on the latest developments in the CPI, Mr. Ebow Duncan, Head of Economic Statistics at the Ghana Statistical Service explained that the latest declines follow the trend of the full cycle of the harvest season, usually starting from August and ending in October.

Though he was not certain what the outcome would be in the coming months, Mr. Duncan was sure that government’s end-year inflation target of 14.5 percent cannot be attained.

“It will be difficult to achieve the government’s end of year target for the year, considering the trend. The pass-through effects from the revised fuel prices, the upcoming festive season and imported inflation are the other major determining factors,” he pointed out.

Government is however optimistic inflation will continue to fall to the end of the year, and possibly reach an end-year record that is close to its target.

This is based on the tight fiscal stance of the budget and the relative stability of the cedi since the latter part of the third quarter.

The Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) programme that government locked into with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June gave government some US$600 million balance of payment support and another US$400 million special drawing rights disbursements, aside from budgetary supports.

These monies helped in shoring-up foreign reserves, which were valued US$2.27 billion in September - enough to cover 2.2 months of imports of goods and services - from US$1.77 billion in August 2009.

Between January and August 2009, the cedi depreciated cumulatively - by 16.7 percent against the dollar, 24.7 percent against the pound sterling, and 17.5 percent against the euro. In year-on-year terms, the comparative depreciations were 12.9, 5.4 and 12.5 percent respectively.

The depreciation however slowed down after the first half of the year, and the cedi actually appreciated by 1.7 and 0.5 percent against the US dollar and the pound sterling respectively in August.

The broad macroeconomic agenda thus played a leading role when inflation began easing after the first half. It fell from the peak of 20.74 percent in June to 20.50 percent in July and further to 19.65 percent in August.

It was a major positive indication for the President Mills administration when year-on-year inflation dropped more drastically in September to 18.37 percent, even though some economic research organisations such as the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) are not over-excited because of the socio-political costs of the government’s economic stabilisation agenda.

End period inflation to miss target

Government’s end-year inflation target of 14.5 percent cannot be achieved considering the pass through effects from revised fuel prises, festive season and imported inflation, Mr. Michael Cobblah, Country Representative of Ecobank Development Corporation (EDC) has said.

It rather expects an end of year inflation rate of 20 percent, which is far away from government target.

EDC’s forecast stands rather contrary to assessments by Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA), an economic think-tank that government is likely to meet the revised end-year inflation target.

CEPA said inflation will fall further from the 18.37 percent recorded in September to 14.5 percent by the end of the year, in line with the inflation targeting objective of the central bank.

Inflation has remained stubbornly high despite sharp falls in oil prices. Long-term depreciation of the cedi has accelerated the pace of inflation, pushing up prices for imported goods.

Analyst are unhappy with the trend of inflation because of the socio-political costs in terms of output and real income levels, heighten the poverty burden.

Mr. Cobblah making a presentation in Accra advised government to continue to pursue fiscal discipline, which ensured the economy’s stability within the first three quarters of the year.

He said government must be courageous but balance the deregulation of fuel prices for a prudent utility tariffs regime.

Investing in efficient agriculture must also be taken seriously, whereas empowering the private sector as the main driver of growth.

He said available evidence pointed to a slowdown in the tempo of economic activity and the continued increase in poverty indicators.

He thus called for efficient and prudent project management to ensure that the Government gets value for money.

“One major challenge that analysts have cited as a major cause of the country's development woes is the lack of monitoring and evaluation of government's projects,” he noted.

“This has resulted in huge moneys being paid out to contractors who have nothing to show for the work they were supposed to have done,” he added.

Mr. Cobblah advocated the implementation of public-private partnership implementation of projects like schools and hospitals as well as their monitoring and evaluation.

Access Bank Ghana holds forum on trade finance

Access Bank Ghana has held a trade forum for local entrepreneurs to provide trade finance solutions that will ensure strong and vibrant business growth.

The forum attended by over 60 customers of the bank was to deepen the bank’s customer-relations strategy with its entrepreneurs who received financial and advisory support for their businesses.

It was also to share with them opportunities available within the banking sector for business operators to enhance regional trade facilitation.

Jamie Simmonds, Managing Director, Access Bank United Kingdom at the opening of the ceremony in Accra said: “the Bank focuses on relationship with its customers because of the keen interest in ensuring that businesses mature in Africa.

“Access Bank’s geographic coverage, which cuts across nine African countries in sub-Saharan African’s three Monetary Zone and the United Kingdom, gives it the preferred platform to serve as the partner for trade in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.”

Mr. Daniel Kwasi Akaba, the Country Managing Director said Access Bank, was pleased to provide strategic entrepreneurial development information to entrepreneurs who are the drivers of economic development to facilitate tremendous growth in the country’s economy.

“One of the immediate steps that Access Bank is embarking on is to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary support and credible partnership to make their businesses successful,” he said.

Mr. Akaba stated that the forum demonstrates the bank’s commitment and expertise in providing trade finance solutions for local businesses in the country.

“Access Bank is committed to becoming the catalyst for socio-economic growth in Ghana and ECOWAS region by facilitating regional trade and collaboration among countries within and outside the region.

The bank, through its intelligent expansion across the African continent, hopes to strengthen the trade relationships among African countries,” he emphasised.

Monday, November 9, 2009

EDC states position on divestiture

The Ecobank Development Corporation (EDC) has asked government to consider diversifying future State-Owned-Enterprises (SOEs) through the stock market to help deepen activities on the bourse.

“Divestiture of state firms through stock exchange activity will deepen our stock exchange activities and encourage market participation.”

Government, through the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), is privatising firms which include Subri Industrial Plantation Limited, GIHOC Glass Company Limited (GGCL), Bonsa Trye Company Ltd, and GIHOC Footwear Company Limited.

Mr Michael Cobblah, Country Representative of EDC who made this observation in Accra, emphasised that activities on the stock market are shallow and efforts must be to correct it.

“The market has been under downward pressure, recording overheating of market in 2008, inducing a markets correction due to unattractive multiples and jittery retail sell-offs due to speculative buying of hard currency and overdose of news on the financial crisis.”

Market Capitalisation at the end of June 2009 was GH¢15,279.49million (US$10,465.40m), compared with GH¢15,587.76million (US$15,133.74m) at the end of June 2008.

Turnover was however significantly lower than that for the same period in 2008. The half year to June, 2009 recorded a total volume of 41.47million shares valued at GH¢37.69million compared with a volume and value of 189.08 million shares valued at GH¢196.53m for the same period in 2008.

Mr. Cobblah, making a presentation at the EDC’s second iForum series aimed at sensitising its client on the state of the economy, predicted that the capital market will indeed have some busy activities with the lined-up issues - which is encouraging for prospects of the market's viability in terms of capitalisation, liquidity and volume of trading.

He noted that the current state of the economy in general recorded a higher premium by banks on risk rates from government. Interest rates are relatively high, with mortgage loans attracting rates in excess of approximately 70 percent.

Bank base rates remain above 30 percent.

He again indicated that government revenue collection is robust, representing 78.6 percent of projection for the period ending September 2009.

Total revenue and grants was 17.1 percent of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) compared to 18.5 percent in 2008.

Budget deficit reduced to 4.17 percent of GDP as at August 2009, compared to 8.8 percent in August 2008.

Friday, November 6, 2009

CHIC Liquid Vinyl System deepens operations

CHIC Ghana Limited says it is prepared to partner with local building experts to deepen the housing industry.

CHIC Ghana is the authorised dealer and distributor of liquid Vinyl System in the country and the Africa market.

CHIC Liquid Vinyl is a co-polymer coating system that provides a beautiful and easy to clean surface that weatherproofs and protects exterior walls. This enables the walls to last longer than when painted.

Mr. Kofi Boateng, President of CHIC Ghana Limited, made this known at a media briefing after an interaction with the members of the Architectural Engineering Services Limited (AESL) in Accra as part of its first-anniversary celebration in Ghana.

He confirmed the company’s favorable performance in terms of customer satisfaction and the interest generated by the product in the past year.

“Many customers had expressed satisfaction with the quality of the application, especially its good-looking colours, breathability and extreme protection against weather conditions.”

He explained that the product is a highly breathable one that prevents moisture from becoming trapped in walls, which is the leading cause of coating failure from blistering and peeling.

“The extreme thickness of the product consistently fills the cracks, which seals the rain and moisture out, while at the same time sealing the cooling and heating energy system in the home.

CHIC remains flexible over the years, allowing the walls to expand and contract without the cracks returning,” he said.

Mr. Boateng explained that as the sole authorised CHIC dealer and distributor in Africa, the company is pleased with their performance in terms of customer satisfaction and the interest generated by the product in the past year.

“Far better than paint, CHIC Liquid Vinyl is a complete vinyl coating system that beautifies and protects the exterior walls of home and commercial buildings, lasting far longer than conventional paint applications.

“While exterior paint has a limited lifespan, the CHIC Liquid Vinyl application comes with a written lifetime warranty.”

Introduced into North America in 1984 by Stan Bender, the CHIC Liquid Vinnyl System has been used to coat and protect thousands of homes and commercial buildings.

CHIC System will outlast conventional paint because while paint is only meant to last a few years, the system is engineered to last as long as modern technology will allow. There is just no better solution to beautify and weatherproof your exterior walls.

Western Union supports six underprivileged schools

Western Union’s ‘Back to School Promotion’ has donated 600 desks and chairs to support six underprivileged schools in the country’s educational sector.

The presentation is aimed at deepening its corporate social activities and also improving the learning environment of the needy students.

The schools are located in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central and Western Regions and have been selected based on their immediate need for essential equipment required to make the school environment more conducive to learning.

Anthony Kemavor, Head of Western Union, Agricultural Development Bank at the presentation ceremony said: “Can we make our school a more conducive learning environment? Western Union is saying YES! Through the simple provision of equipment, which some may take for granted, this makes a notable difference in their daily school-life.”

Having existed for more than 150 years with 400,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries worldwide, Western Union has not only provided quick, reliable and convenient money transfer services, but has also strongly supported education in Ghana through an annual ‘Back to School’ promotion.

The ‘Back to School’ promotion, which usually runs from August – September each year, has in the past given students the chance to win educational support materials and cash scholarships.

In 2007 and 2008, Western Union gave away US$80,000 worth of educational support materials and cash scholarships to lucky customers and their families.