Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nigeria crude oil transaction on course

Government has confirmed that the proposed crude oil transaction with Nigeria is on course, Deputy Energy Minister Dr Kwabena Donkor has said.

”We are almost at the completion stage of the transaction to finalise the details soon to be signed by the two countries.”

Dr. Donkor, who made this disclosure in Accra when briefing the media on the petroleum situation in the country, said: “once the details contained in the contract are finalised, the allocation will be factored into the lifting plan of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).”

He explained that the technical team from the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation is expected to leave for Nigeria this week to finalise the agreement for the contract between the two nations.

“The technical agreement between Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is nearing completion.”

President John Evans Atta Mills, following the fuel shortage that hit the country during the first quarter of the year, travelled to Nigeria to strike a deal with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Nigeria to supply 60,000 barrels of crude oil to Ghana on a ninety-day credit basis.

Critics have raised fears over the deal - which was supposed to have been completed after the remaining agreement to be signed during the first quarter of the year failed to materialize - since Ghana is yet to receive crude from the Nigerian government.

Dr. Donkor, who also spoke on the latest fuel shortages in the country, attributed it to the late arrival of a fuel vessel last week.

He assured that government is developing strategies that will ensure a permanent solution to the persistent oil challenges facing the country.

“Government is seriously working on modalities to ensure that the country has adequate supplies of oil all-year-round.
“The petroleum crisis will soon be over, with the importation of 34,000 metric tonnes of petroleum products over the week-end.”

He said, since the beginning of the year, the management of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) has had liquidity problems with the issuing of Letters of Credit (LOC) from Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) to import petroleum products.

“Since September last year, TOR has not been able to issue LOCs to purchase crude oil on the international market.”

Government has contracted Ecobank Transnational Incorporated to raise a syndicated US$300 million to bail out TOR.

TOR is indebted to the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) alone to the tune of GH¢900 million and has been facing serious challenges over the past four months in respect to its ability to raise letters of credit for the procurement of crude oil.

The Ecobank facility will cover about half the debt owed by TOR to GCB which led to its suspension of crude oil refining earlier in February.

Producer Price inflation down to 14.72%

The annual producer price inflation (PPI) dipped to 14.72 per cent in August from 16.39 percent in July, the Ghana Statistical Service said in Accra last week.

The PPI measures the average change over time in the prices received by domestic producers for the production of their goods and services.

Dr. Grace Bediako, Government Statistician, said apart from the mining and quarrying sector, the other sectors recorded annual inflation rates less than the all-industry inflation rate.

Mining and quarrying recorded the highest inflation rate of 50.07 percent - up from 41.65 per cent in July.

Price increases in the mining industry, which has a weighting of 14 percent on the overall index, slowed to 0.51 percent in August from 1.62 percent a month earlier, she said.

Prices in manufacturing, which account for 70 percent of the index, rose by 0.84 percent in August to close at 10.77 percent. Dr. Bediako said the all-industry year-on-year inflation had been relatively stable for the first five months of the year, averaging 13.40 percent.

Antrak, NYK strike partnership deal

NYK shipping line, a Japanese shipping and logistics company, and Antrak Ghana have entered into a strategic partnership aimed at positioning Ghana as the transport hub for West Africa’s sea-trade.

This is in line with the country’s quest to become the transport hub in the West African sub-region.

Mr. Massamichi Morooka, Chief Executive Officer of NYK Group at a reception in Accra to celebrate the signing of the partnership deal said the move will help change the face of the country’s shipping industry.

The two global shipping lines will bring on board best practices and timely delivery of goods between Asia and Ghana, he stressed.

“We believe this new service will be a step toward building another bridge between Asia and West Africa by helping exporters and importers of Ghana have their important goods transported in a safe and timely manner,” he said.

He observed that the level of infrastructural developments at the Tema Port indicates the country’s preparedness to be the leader in the sub-region’s sea transport industry and that visiting Ghana for the first time has been a real experience for the industry.

“Ghana has been in the forefront of developments in West Africa in improving the business environment and investing in the future,” he said.

The recent oil discovery in the country will further enhance trade relations between Ghana and the rest of the world, Mr. Morooka said.

Mr. Jason Reynard, Country Manager Antrak Ghana expressed delight about the new relationship with NYK shipping line, saying it will go a long way in promoting trade between Asia and Africa.

“We are poised to deliver quality and efficient services to our customers in the whole of the West Africa sub-region.”

He urged exporters and importers to strategise their operations and inculcate the habit of developing a strategic business plan that will be in tandem with the international sea trading system. This will be necessary to promote the efficient and effective flow of goods and services among the two continents.

Mr. Alexandre Freeland, General Manager, Antrak Ghana, observed that as a result of the global economic crisis the maritime industry has seen changes, and it behoves shippers to study the dynamics of the market in order to become more innovative in their approach to trade.

“Wo Daakye” with 1st National Savings & Loan

First National Savings and Loans (FNSL) is one of the fastest-growing financial institutions in the country. And as part of its policy of helping a larger percentage of the Ghanaian population, it has introduced a micro-savings product dubbed “Wo Daakye” - to wit “Your Future” - to encourage savings among Ghanaians who fall within the low-income earning group.

“Wo Daakye” is aimed a providing a secure, easy way for traders, students, farmers and micro/small/medium-scale enterprises to save at their workplaces.

The decision to adopt the “Wo Daakye” product was as result of a realisation that most Ghanaians do not have savings accounts and that the traditional universal banks have not been able to encourage the ordinary Ghanaian to develop a savings habit.

The management FNSL also took into consideration that traders, farmers, workers and owners of micro/small enterprises do not find it feasible to take taxis or tro-tros to make deposits at the banks.

To facilitate the scheme, management of the Bank has put in place hardworking Field Cashiers whose duty is to visit clients who operate the scheme on a day-to-day basis to collect funds for the deposit.

It has been designed to allow people who operate the “Wo Daakye” scheme the time to make deposits in any of First National branches across the country. The scheme allows a minimum of 50 pesewas or any amount above this as a daily savings deposit.

It also requires a minimum contribution period of six months before withdrawals can be made. The six month saving-period also attracts interest of 15%. In addition to this, FNSL has also designed the product in such a way that people who operate it can apply for loan facilities.

Quite apart from that, First National also has a Susu Account which allows people who operate the scheme to apply for loan facilities.

The minimum amount that can be granted to an applicant that operates the Susu Account is GH¢50 and a maximum amount of GH¢5,000. This facility is granted to an applicant depending on his/her ability to repay.

In the event that an applicant requires more than GH¢5,000, management of FNSL ensures that such facility is converted to a commercial loan. The Susu product can be applied for by any Ghanaian.

FNSL has put in place a flexible mechanism that speeds up the application process of any individual who expresses interest in the Susu scheme. The first step is that any individual who wants to operate the Susu Account of 1st National is asked to fill in a Susu Account application form.

The customer is then asked to contribute daily for a two-month period before he/she can be allowed to access the loan.

FNSL accepts minimum daily contribution of GH¢2.00 and above. The total contribution of the customer for the two months is put aside by the banks as a guarantee fund. This lasts till the duration period of the loan facility.

The maximum amount of loan facility that First National can grant to an individual who operates a Susu Account is five times the guaranteed fund but not more than GH¢5,000.

MTN, Rotaract supports Children's Hospital

The Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) Foundation has presented a cheque for US$91,489.00 to the Princess Marie Louise Children's Hospital towards the construction of a theatre and an intensive care unit to facilitate efficient child health care delivery.

Professor Franklyn Manu, Board Chairman, MTN Ghana Foundation, presenting the cheque in Accra said the presentation towards the building project is an indication of the immense importance the company attaches to good health care facilities, which contributes to the development of the country.

He indicated that it was critical for society to ensure children receive the necessary health care to enable them grow into healthy adults to effectively support national growth.

“This donation, therefore, exemplifies our unrelenting commitment to partner government and other stakeholders to provide quality health care services to our people.

We are aware that the hospital is the only specialist children's hospital in the country, and will therefore need all the encouragement and support to provide for the specialised health delivery needs of children across the country,”

Prof. Manu said.The donation was in response to an appeal made by the hospital to initiate a three-storey surgical theatre project in May this year.

Reverend Father Andrew Campbell receiving the cheque on behalf of the hospital said the project - which will consist of two theatres, intensive care units and doctors' rest rooms - will end the long struggle and inconveniences associated with referring sick children to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

The project is expected to be completed within a year but will need further support in the area of surgical equipment.In a related development, Rotaract Club of Accra Ring Road Central, a charitable organisation affiliated to Rotary International, also donated assorted drugs valued at GH¢2,800.00 to the hospital.

Mr. Martison Obeng-Adgei, President of the Club, presenting the items said the donation is in fulfillment of the club’s spirit of continuity, nation-building and restoring hope to underprivileged children.

The gesture is also in line with the goals of the club-members, who are made up of young professionals between the ages of 18 and 30, to undertake public-spirited programmes.

Eunice Mensah, Pharmacy Technician receiving the items on behalf of the hospital, expressed the hope that the donation will help to provide an enabling environment for the unfortunate children. “Children are precious gifts and a world without children would be a world on the verge of extinction.

For this reason, all efforts must be made to ensure their healthy stay on this earth - from conception to old age,” she said.

The 83 year-old hospital, the only Children's Hospital in country, has an about-150 outpatient attendance daily. It also takes care of abandoned children, two of whom are sent to the Hospital each day. About 74 children are currently on admission.

Monday, September 28, 2009

LIM targets West African mining sector

LIM Instrumentation and LIM Logging Services have officially launched a range of technological products into the West African mining and quarry industry.

The products are targeted at exploration, drilling, construction and mining companies.

The equipment which are being used in South America, South Africa and other mining and quarry countries have been designed to save time, cost and provide accurate geological information.

The products which are being used in exploring minerals such as gold ,diamond, copper among others include, pocket 5G, core imaging, archiving scan, acoustic borehole imager, as well as, optical borehole imager.

Mr. Pierre de Groulard, Director, Commercial Sales Manager, LIM Instrument, making a presentation to geological experts from the mining and quarry sector in the West African sub region explained that the instruments are meant to provide real-time information on-site for mines, quarries, tunnels, underground works and for geotechnical studies.

He explained that the core scanner provides digital images using high quality imaging system and data acquisition modules and accompanying software.

This allows archiving a perfect drilling without loosing the original core drilled, which enhances future audit of drilled holes by investors with ease.

The instrument provides the market a leading technology in the area of software developments such as geo-log software which improves borehole logs and profiles.

Mr. Serge Laurent, Logging Sales Manager of the company indicated that the optical borehole imager is specifically designed to aid geological communication.

Its precision wide-angle lens and camera permits a high definition video image of the boreholes wall to be captured in a variety of horizontal and vertical resolution.

The resulting image is digitized in the sound and combined with the orientation data for transmission to the surface.
“LIM Logging provides a complete range of geophysical logs for maximum borehole data collection. Logging solutions provided include: Natural Gamma, Normal Focused resistivity, Induction Conductivity, Magnetic Susceptibility and borehole IP, Borehole deviation, Optical/Acoustic borehole imaging, and Environmental monitoring probes and accessories,” he said.

LIM was incorporated in 1985 in France under the trademark MIG GEOSOFT®.
It designs, manufacture, as well as, marketing of measurement electronic equipment and associated software specialized for mines and quarry drilling as well as special foundations, underground works and geotechnics.

The company is aimed at providing to its clients one solution of complete instrumentation. This integrates a new technology going from the sensor to the processing software. Different measurement instruments are available according to the application.

Nokia extends the world’s successful mobile phone range in Ghana

Nokia has formally introduced the Nokia 6303 classic and the Nokia 2700 classic in Accra.

The two devices that build on the formula that made Nokia the world leader in mobile phones combines the functionality and user experience required in current age of information and communication technological advancement.

Ngozi Ife Anene, Communications Manager of Nokia West Africa, who launched the products in Accra under the theme: “Sharing the Moments” said: “Nokia is all about connecting people in new and different ways to the things that matter the most to them.

With the Nokia 6303 and Nokia 2700 you can share your special moments through email and listen to favourite music and never a dull moment”.

The Nokia 6303 classic is ideal for people that see the current value proposition of the Nokia 6300.

The 3.2 megapixel camera comes to life on the large 2.2 inch screen, and with pre-loaded Nokia Maps, the Nokia 6303 combines a long list of features with excellent battery performance. Added to everything else, people can plug any music accessory into the standard 3.5 mm audio jack and have a fully fledged mobile music player, able to carry thousands of their favorite tracks.

The Nokia 2700 Classic is one of Nokia’s most affordable, full featured handsets. Offering up to two Giga Bytes (GB) of storage via the memory card slot, the phone also has an integrated digital music player and a 2.0 megapixel camera, making it equally competent for imaging and music.

“These features allow people to save, access and share files in hundreds of formats via Nokia’s online service, Share on a number of other websites. The rich features and simple interface mean that in many cases, the Nokia 2700 classic and the Nokia 6303 will enable its owner’s first Internet experience,” Anene remarked.

The Company has also expanded its global “Take- Back” initiative into the country, aimed at encouraging mobile phone users to return old, broken and unused devices for recycling.

It has placed take-back recycle bins in all the Nokia Care Centers, in designated retail outlets throughout the country.

Between 65 and 80 percent of a Nokia mobile phone can be recycled and devices collected in the Nokia take-back bins will be forwarded to qualified recyclers for responsible reclaiming of the materials.

The initiative forms part of Nokia’s global take-back scheme, which currently covers 85 countries.

The campaign is not only calling for the return of old Nokia devices, but also batteries and accessories as well as mobile phones from other manufactures.

Anene stated that the ‘Nokia Take Back Campaign’ is one of many global initiatives undertaken by, Nokia with regards to its commitment to the environment and sustainability.

She encouraged Ghanaians to “go green” by dropping their non-functional mobile phones in the Take Back bins as this is an opportunity to dispose of the devices in a responsible manner.

Energy saving chargers

Two thirds of the energy consumed by a mobile phone during its usage is lost when the phone is fully charged and unplugged but the charger is left connected to the mains.

This is termed “no-load” mode. In an effort to reduce this energy loss, Nokia became the first mobile manufacturer to put alerts into phones encouraging people to unplug their chargers when not in use.

Nokia started this campaign with the introduction of three mass market phones, a move that alone could save enough energy a year to power 85 000 homes.

The alerts have been introduced across Nokia’s product range from the end of 2008.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ghana's Fiscal Stabilisation Levy ends 2010 - BoG assures

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has assured all the 26 banking institutions that government will not extend the Fiscal Stabilisation Levy after its 2010 stipulated time.

The Fiscal Stabilisation Levy is a five percent specific levy to be paid by large commercial entities including banks, non-bank financial institutions, Insurance companies, Mining companies, communication companies and the breweries.

The levy, which was passed by parliament two months ago, is aimed at raising revenue to bridge the current fiscal gap of about GH¢209 million and also to provide for other related matters.

Mr. Millison Narh, Deputy Governor of the BoG, making a presentation in Accra said: “The Fiscal Stabilisation Levy is expected to end in 2010 to enable the banks to operate more freely, and there will not be an extension of its implementation.”

He observed that the country’s financial landscape has changed significantly following the enactment of comprehensive legislations necessary for a modern banking and financial services industry that is strong enough to support a growing economy.

“The BoG has put in place a strong legal and regulatory framework designed to support a safe and efficient payment system, which is critical for the effective functioning of the economy.

“The combination of technological advancement, telecommunications and banking services hold the potential to transform the payment and settlement systems as well as provide a strong pillar of growth in the economy.”

Mr. Narh urged players in the financial sector to embrace and harness the capabilities of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to promote strategic decision-making, enhance risk management systems and efficient customer-relationships.

“While we leverage on all the benefits of ICT growth, we are mindful of the fact that the financial sector and the underpinning payment and settlement infrastructure is the nerve-centre of the economic system, and there is need to safeguard its soundness to ensure sustained growth in a stable macroeconomic environment.

“The BoG will continue to exercise firm oversight of the payment system to ensure a sound financial system.

“Currently, the banking environment is highly competitive but not distinctively differentiated by products and services. The ability of any bank to deliver diverse products and services in the most efficient and effective manner will gain the needed edge to distinguish itself from other competitors by its performance and relevance within the industry,” he remarked.

Ghana's housing industry to comply with regulatory requirements

The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Albert Abongo, has asked stakeholders in the building and construction industry to comply with the various regulatory requirements to ensure appropriate long-term decisions for the sector.

“Those working in the industry need to ensure that they make the right decisions for the long-term, and those industry practitioners must consider carefully both the tangible and intangible aspects,” he said.

Industry experts contend that the cost of housing in the country is very expensive, of which cost of building materials, services and over-reliance on imported materials are the major impediment to developing the nation’s housing sector.

The country is challenged with a housing deficit of 500,000 units. This is against rapid population growth and an uncontrollable rate of urbanization which have made housing one of the most critical issues facing the country.

Mr. Abongo made these known at the opening of the 7th International Building Exhibition and Seminar in Accra.

The exhibition, organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Works and Housing saw over 50 companies in the building and construction industry participating in the four-day exhibition and networking, under the theme “Attaining Ghana’s Housing and Construction Objectives through Efficient Planning, Designing And Innovation”.

The fair was being run alongside seminars that discussed the cost of construction and promotion of effective maintenance culture among other things. It was aimed at showcasing quality innovative products and services for all stages of construction, finishing and furnishing as well as dialoguing on current issues impacting on stakeholders in the construction and building industry.

Mrs Efua Houadjeto, Managing Director of Image Consortium and Exhibition Director said: “Attaining Ghana’s housing and construction objections implies the deployment of resources, facilities, products and services as well as the formulation and implementation of policies that guarantee the security of the physical, economic and social well-being of the communities.

“The need for all stakeholders to make an input into the efficient infrastructural planning and execution of the country’s plans cannot be over-emphasised.

For the country to have independent, well-planned and properly developed cities and towns, we need to constantly run advocacy campaigns and strategic events that seek to highlight the significance of the needs,” Mrs Houadjeto said

Fidelity, Ghana Post to operate Post Bank

Government in the next couple of weeks is expected to endorse a deal between Fidelity Bank Ghana Limited and the Ghana Post to commence the operation of a ‘Post Bank’ in the country.

This will ensure the bank reviving and protecting the Post Office network, while providing much needed support to communities as well as small and medium scale businesses that are the backbone of the economy.

The collaboration will upgrade 200 existing strategic Post Offices nationwide within the next three years which will diversify the retail banking systems in the financial market.

Ghana Post has positioned it self to becoming the distribution center for mail to the sub-region. As of January 2003, the company has 318 Post Office and 370 Postal Agencies.

It presently has about 600 Post Offices located nationwide controlling a market share of 85% of domestic courier services and seeks to diversify its activities by taking advantage of its infrastructure and network.

Mr. Jim Baiden, Deputy Managing Director of the Bank, disclosed that the collaboration is part of the bank’s strategic initiative to rollout branches across the country.

“The Bank will contribute its retail range of services whilst the Post Office also contributes their premises, together with their money transfer and Western Union franchise.

With the collaboration one would be able to access the traditional postal services and also access banking as well at one location that is the beauty of collaboration.”

Post Bank could offer safe, reliable banking services for business and individual customers alike through the large post office network.”

The introduction of the Post Bank operations has been described by industry experts as supporting long-held Government targets to combat financial exclusion and initiating the much-needed diversity into the country’s retail banking system.

It will answer the needs of the financially excluded and will appeal to many in this time of economic uncertainty.

The Post Bank will be a true People's Bank meeting the needs of society and business alike and will bring crucial security to the post office network.

The initiative which will be formally launched by close of the year is to be executed in phases commencing with Greater Accra, Ashanti and Eastern Regions.

eTranzact, Amadeus secure online payment for airline ticket

eTranzact Ghana Limited and Amadeus Ghana have entered into a strategic partnership that will enable travellers and travel agencies to make payments online, for travel reservations, over a secured and efficient network.

The agreement, which allows both companies to complement and extend the range of services they currently provide to their customers in the country.

With the partnership, eTranzact brings a secured payment platform for travel agencies using the Amadeus online booking engine, Amadeus epower.

George Babafemi, Chief Operating Officer, eTranzact Ghana said: “this collaboration is one of many solutions that eTranzact aims to offer its valued customers.”

“The company will only achieve its goals if it can provide convenient, secure and cost-effective solutions to its customers, criteria that have been met in this agreement.

“We have moved from simply checking availability of seats, to booking a seat, and now we are at online payment and receipt of airline tickets.

“Customers of Unibank, Intercontinental Bank, United Bank for Africa, Zenith Bank, Amalgamated Bank will be able to use their Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards to make the online purchases, while non-customers of the these banks can use eTranzact Cedi Card to effect the online payment,” he said.

Amadeus, on the other hand, brings proven world-class solutions to the market’s travel and tourism industry.

Serving over 217 markets world-wide and a markets leader in the country and the West Africa region, Amadeus draws on its local market knowledge and partnerships to customise and deliver cost-effective solutions to its business partners.

Amadeus epower, an advanced online booking engine, eases the booking process for both travel agents and travelers, allowing them to make airline, hotel and car reservations in the comfort of their homes, schools and offices.

As a result of the partnership, travellers and travel agents will be able to book and pay online for airline ticket.

Birger Bjornhof, Regional General Manager of Amadeus Ghana and Nigeria, said: “At Amadeus, we aim to provide the right solutions for every organisation.

“As a technology partner to the travel and tourism industry, our clients vary in their scope of business as well as their capacity and requirements. It is imperative that we focus on their different needs and be innovative.

“For this reason, we decided to partner with eTranzact Ghana Limited to provide us with an online payment platform to support our on-line booking engine with a secured and efficient network,” he said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

GAPTO holds forum on EPA

The General Secretary of the Ghana Agriculture Producers and Trade organisation (GAPTO), Mr. Haruna Ageshega, has said government needs to take measures to protect the agricultural sector from problems that may arise as a result of implementing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Mr. Ageshega said this at the presentation of a study conducted by the GAPTO and Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC).

The Study of the interim EPA, according to Mr. Ageshega, is “as a means to create a baseline of fiscal measures not undertaken”.

He added that stakeholders in the agric sector must be engaged in discussions by the government of problems that may arise from its implementation.

The highlight of the study was the challenge of how to liberalise all inputs used by local manufacturers in the first five years without causing a serious adverse impact on domestic revenue generation and not to liberalise goods produced locally.

The study recommended that goods which have strong domestic demand that are produced locally should be put in category D (Will not be liberalised). All inputs for domestic firms, according to the study, should be put in category A (i.e. liberalise in the first 5 years).

Among the recommendations was the enactment of favourable business laws to make local firms competitive, and strengthening of the capacities of regulatory institutions like the Ghana Standards Board and the Food and Drugs Board to enhance standard enforcement.

It also tasked government to make a conscious effort to create an enabling environment to improve efficiency of industries in Ghana.

The study also highlighted supply side constraints as a major challenge to Ghana being competitive as an agricultural producing nation.

Some of the issues raised during the follow-up workshops included land acquisition, access to credit and agricultural inputs, improving access to extension services, poor seed variety amongst others.

The Interim EPA has been initialled but is yet to be signed by the Minister of Trade and ratified by Parliament.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SMEs are pivot for growth - Veep

The Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, has observed that inadequate infrastructure development and trade libralisation have weighed against efforts by Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to achieve their full potential.

“The result of the influx of cheap products into the country cripples local manufacturing companies, thereby inhibiting economic growth,”he said.

SMEs form over 90 percent of the total industrial sector and contribute about 58 percent of employment generation in the country.

The Vice President made these observations at the launch of the FirstBanC SME Centre in Accra.

He said: “Government admittedly must take part of the blame for the lack of sustained growth in the SME sector. The demand for collateral security in the form of landed property by banks and other financial institutions worsen SMEs financial woes.”

Mr. Mahama also mentioned inadequate and inappropriate record-keeping and the cost of borrowing in the form of high interest rates as part of the problems that require urgent attention.

“What most SMEs require is just a small amount of credit to purchase simple machinery and equipment or as working capital.

“Such credit is however hard to come by. Without viable SMEs, we should not expect the economy to achieve the growth required to take us into middle-income status by 2015,” Mr. Mahama said.

FirstBanC SME Centre is a private sector initiative in collaboration with the National Board for Small Scale Enterprises (NBSSI) aimed at the transformation of SMEs and the informal sector as a whole.

Most businesses in the private sector have been unable to grow and realise their full potential due to high cost of finance, inadequate skills and poor management information systems.

Mr. Mawuli Hedo, Executive Director of FirstBanC Financial Services, in a presentation explained that the SME Centre is designed to offer creative business advisory services that will propel SMEs to realize their full potential.

The centre aims at moving a large section of SMEs out of the informal to the formal sector.

‘Fidelity Virtual’ online platform unveiled

Fidelity Bank Ghana Limited has unveiled a new Internet banking services dubbed “Fidelity Virtual”, aimed at creating the opportunity for customers to access banking facilities online.

The platform, which allows customers to check their account balances, transfer funds between accounts held at the bank and to other Fidelity Bank customers, also enables customers to have access to Internet banking, mobile money transfer and Automated Teller Machines (ATM) services.

It also enables customers to view and print statements of accounts, request cheque books, request for exchange rates and send a secured message to the customer-care centre through Short Message Sending (SMS).

Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications, who launched the product in Accra, said government will continue to provide an enabling environment for the banking sector to grow while strengthening the regulatory systems.

Mr. Edward Effah, Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, indicated that the launch of the facility is a further fulfillment of the bank’s promise to create a new standard in banking.

“By launching the products, we are bringing world-class banking to enable our customers conduct business anywhere, at any time, at any place. At Fidelity Bank, we are committed to investing in the needs, desires and financial ambitions of our customers.”

Mr. Abdual-Samed Iddrisu, Director, Transaction Banking at Fidelity Bank, explained that customers of Bank can now access all banking services in their homes and offices at any time of the day by the touch of a button on a computer or mobile phone.”

He indicated that the Bank had also put in place security measures to prevent people involved in Internet crimes from penetrating their system - emphasising that customers’ transactions made online are like those made personally at the bank.

“The digital freedom that Fidelity Virtual is bringing to customers has been developed with an intricate layer of security measures to ensure that SMS Banking and Internet Banking will assure all our customers that the transactions they make are as secure as if they were personally in front of the Fidelity Bank teller at their local branch.

Our security measures are detailed and comprehensive because we recognise the challenges that cyber-crime or Internet presents to all financial institutions, including the Bank.”

“As technological advances become available, Fidelity Virtual will also evolve in tandem to serve our customers with more benefits and create further business opportunities for both corporate and private banking clients.

Further, the Fidelity Internet banking computer system is protected 24 hours a day by powerful firewall software that blocks unauthorised entry,” Mr. Iddrisu remarked.

“txtNpay” targets tertiary students

Tertiary students in the country can now benefit from a new mobile-commerce technology that enables access to financial services by using a mobile phone.

The innovative technology called “txtNpay” was introduced by Afric Xpress Ghana Limited, a mobile payment company.

Marie-Dominique Aboukan, Director, Sales and Marketing of Afric Xpress, at a presentation to the students of the University of Ghana, Legon, in Accra, explained that “txtNpay” will provide a convenient and fast means of transacting business with the convenience of their mobile phone.

“The “txtNpay” technology offers a mobile phone-based money transfer and payment system that gives students, individuals, merchants and businesses the ability to shop, top-up phone accounts, transfer funds, pay bills and transacts other commercial activities using their mobile phones.

The introduction of the system into the Ghanaian market by Afric Xpress was prompted by noting the wide use of mobile phones in the country - and that there was need to create a convenient means of transacting financial businesses to student and the general public,” she said.

“Consumers can configure their preferred services to interact with on their mobile phone device,” she said, emphasising that students can now use their phone to simplify their campus life, use it to send money, pay bills, top-up credit and check bank balances with a single click.

“The facility is designed to make it easier for mobile-phone users, financial service providers and merchants to interact through a personalised and integrated platform accessible across a range of mobile devices, while protecting the consumers’ confidential data.

“Its wallet is an electronic stored valued account which customers charge by buying txtNpay electronic cash at an approved partner outlet or making a transfer from their bank account. txtNpay works with any mobile phone and mobile network,” Aboukan indicated.

It is estimated that about 67 percent of the country's population use mobile-phones and the number is expected to rise due to the influx of more sophisticated mobile devices into the country and the keen competition among telecommunication network companies to offer quality services to mobile-phone users.

However, research has shown that less than 10 percent of this population has bank accounts and far less have access to any kind of payment cards.

AERO supports “Who wants to be Rich?”

Aero Contractors, West Africa’s oldest aviation company, has added to the number of companies that share in the objective of the “Who wants to be Rich?” show after Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) and Ecobank.

To demonstrate its commitment, Aero Airlines has offered to donate 150 airline tickets to the show every quarter.

Shaf Syed, Managing Director of Aero, said while making the offer that the company’s decision to support “Who wants to be Rich?” was due to the objective of empowering people.

“This show has made many rich, wiped away tears and brought on tears of joy, restored lives and given hope to so many people. We at Aero believe in empowering people, so we are very happy to be associated with this cause,” he explained.

He said Ghana and Nigeria have great potential in commerce and tourism, which when harnessed would provide huge income for both countries. To support this cause, Aero is offering the lowest fare of GH¢ 93.10 for a one-way air ticket to and from any of the two countries.

“Aviation has always been a catalyst of economic growth and commerce, and we will continue to play such a role and help drive commerce and tourism in Ghana and Nigeria,” Syed added.

“Who wants to be Rich?” is the Ghanaian version of Nigeria’s “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” which follows from the original UK format. The show has a winner’s prize of GH¢ 50,000 after successful attempts to answer 15 questions.

To stand the chance of winning the GH¢ 50,000 cash prize, one must be an MTN customer, show interest in the show by sending a text message, and answer some questions to pass the ‘Rich Audition’ towards participation.

Aero serves Accra and key destinations in Nigeria and has significantly improved upon its service delivery and efficiency, which has attracted customers within and outside Ghana.

Having been around since 1959, Aero boasts rich experience in the aviation industry and brings it on board to offer the best service in aviation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

August inflation eases to 19.65 percent

The headline inflation rate eased narrowly to 19.65 percent in August, the second consecutive fall in the year.

This fall is still above the end of year revised target of 14.5 percent.

Official data released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) revealed that vegetables, cereals, bread, as well as fish and meat contributed the highest to the change - with yam, plantain and cassava being the major contributors.

A decreasing trend in the price of furnishing, household equipment, clothing and footwear in the no-food component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was also responsible.

Government statistician, Dr. Grace Badiako, briefing the media in Accra explained that food-crop availability and a bumper harvest of fish had helped to ease the food component of inflation, and prices are expected to fall again in September and October.

This, however, stands contrary to a prediction by the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) that inflation will rise in September.

“We are in the harvest season and the expectation is that there will be a further easing in inflation for the next couple of month, all things being equal,” Dr. Badiako said in defence of the GSS outlook on inflation.

Inflation has been on the rise since November last year, remaining above 20 percent through to the seventh month.

Analysts contend that the country’s fiscal situation is still shaky and that dampens any favourable outlook on inflation figures.

Another factor is the current account deficit, which if not checked will speed-up depreciation of the local currency.

The Bank of Ghana’s prime rate, which was maintained in July at 18.5 percent, was among other means to put downward pressure on inflation.

This has informed credit conditions. Average lending rates were revised upwards by 1.5 percentage points in the first half to 32.75 percent, and are currently held within the range of 25.8 and 40 percent.

In its broad macroeconomic framework, government has revised the end-period inflation target from 12.5 percent to 14.5 percent but maintained the fiscal deficit target at 9.4 percent.

The Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) has expressed the view that external sector developments - such as falling remittances, crude oil prices - may result in government attaining just 84 percent of its targets for the year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Marketers and Accountants in hot debate

The Simon Page Business School (SPBS), an International Business School in Ghana, held a corporate debate for business and corporate executives in Accra.

The debate, the first of its kind in the country brought together business executives, corporate manager, entrepreneurs from the financial sector and the academia to brainstorm and share ideas on current global business trends and was on the theme: “Battling Business Brains”.

Speaking on the motion:” Shareholder Values, Who Contributes More”, two groups of debaters, were made up of a team of two Chartered Accountants, and a team of two Chartered Marketing Professionals.

The first debater, Mawuli Ben Forson, a Chartered Accountant, in his submission described marketing professionals as a bunch of spenders whose objective is to safeguard the parochial interest of marketers.

He argued that the cardinal objective of the Chartered Accountant is to protect and safeguard the interest of the shareholder.

Solomon Adu Ettiful, a Business Development Manager, who was the first marketing speaker, rebutted the argument of his opponent in his submission and said the underlining factor of marketing is for profitability.

He said marketers do rigorous research, create products and think about what is happening in the environment and to the customer. He reiterated the role of the marketer is to help shareholders to maximize interest on their investments.

Charles Bentsil, a Chartered Accountant, who was the second speaker, also disproved marketers’ slogan “Image is Everything” as “image is not everything”. He argued that shareholder value is not attracted by billboards but in the financial performance of an organization which is the core function of the accountant.

He said marketers are best in increasing turn over and creating debt, but accountants provide information to investors to invest and maximize output and not marketers.

Mr. Bentsil said it is important for shareholders to be updated with performance of an organisation .This he said helps shareholders to know the state of their investments, adding that the accountant helps the shareholder to maximize the share of shareholders.

Mawuli Ocloo, the second marketing speaker, argued that marketers design to reposition companies to grow. He intimated that it is the function of marketers to revive dying companies through rebranding and not accountants.

The Chartered Accountant debaters were declared winners with 172 points as against 160 for Chartered Marketers at the end of the keenly contested debate.

Princewill Omoroginwa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Simon Page Business School, organizers of the debate, said subsequent corporate debates will be organized by the school to bring business and corporate executives together to share ideas on global business trends.

The case of illegal mining operations

Small-scale mining provides a livelihood for about 300,000 inhabitants in the country’s mining communities. Actually all the multinational gold mines in the country are challenged by the presence of such small-scale miners, known as galamsey, on or around their mining concessions. Ekow Essabra-Mensah, Mining and Metals correspondent looks at the implications on the industry.

There is no reliable statistical data on illegal mining, it is believed that these activities have significant impact on the mainstream mining operations.

Small-scale miners are required by law to be registered in order to work on concession to which they have legal access, and are subject to regulation by either the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) or the Ghana Minerals Commission, or both. Mining without such registration and regulation is illegal but unfortunately widespread in Ghana.

Until recently, there are still ambiguities from the government, as well as from the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), politicians, and local societies in defining and taking position toward these activities. Small-scale mining in the country has been a practice for a very long time.

Because they are unregulated and operate outside the law, illegal miners often cause major environmental damage, use mercury for processing and do not conduct reclamation of trenches and pits.

Communities, though they sometimes appreciate the cash flow that illegal mining can bring, generally find that it also bring increased levels of social and medical ills, and disrespect for the rule of law.

Some school of thought recognised that illegal mining provides livelihood opportunities for poor people, and therefore must be approached as a developmental issue, not only a security problem. This is the challenge that all stakeholders in the country’s mining sector, the government and civil society face.

These activities have not only breed problems of social, economic, and environmental; they also absorb more employment than any formal mining sector and reach those who live at the lower end.

Illegal Miners, Who are they?
The mining activity conducted by the locals in small-scale or in collective with simple tools from their own income.It has also been defined as mining business that is conducted by personal, group of people, or company/foundation which has legal entity which in their operation do not have permit from government institutions according to the law.However, due to processing difficulties mainly long, slow, and complicated bureaucratic red tapes these miners are reluctant to obtain the permit. Thus, they have automatically fallen into the illegal mining category.
Industry term, these miners are often called ‘Galamsey’ operators.

The case of small scale mining operators
Galamsey is acknowledged to contribute to poverty alleviation, particularly in the rural areas where employment opportunities are rare.
It is seen as a vibrant and significant subsector of the mining industry in the country, accounting for about 10 per cent of total annual gold output and over 60 per cent of total annual diamond output.

These activities have not only breed problems of social, economic, and environmental; they also absorb more employment than any formal mining sector and reach those who live at the lower end.

Although total employment figures for the subsector are far from accurate, the sector is estimated to employ between 100,000 and 300,000 people, mostly unskilled rural labour.

The Small-Scale Mining Regulations, which are now incorporated into the new Mining Act, impose limitations and curtail the property rights of operators, and thus affecting the security of their lease property concession.

Studies have observed contentious issues pertaining to the operations of small-scale miners and land use conflicts which require urgent attention from regulatory authorities. These issues include:
the relationship between small-scale miners and multinational mining firms
land poverty within the sector
the role of traditional authorities
lack of adequate institutional support
limited opportunities for capital
forest reserve encroachment.

The overwhelming conclusion has been that these issues are deeply rooted in the social and economic circumstances of the small-scale mining sector and have serious implications for livelihoods.

The relationship between small-scale miners and large mining firms may at times be one of conflict, because the latter perceive the former as a threat.

This is neither surprising, given the clash of interests between the two groups in relation to mining rights, nor an exclusively Ghanaian phenomenon, as conflicts between large mining firms and small-scale miners exist all over the world.

conflicts centre on the issue of access to land for mining purposes. For example, almost all lands in areas like Adansi and Wassa West districts are either in the hands of large-scale miners or have been designated as forest reserves.

As a result, the mining activities are carried out either on the concessions of large-scale mining companies or in forest reserves.

Hence the widespread conflicts between the large-scale and small-scale miners, especially the unregistered ones.

Intensity of ‘Galamsey’ operation on the industry
Illegal mining ‘galamsey’ issues seemed nowhere to end. Besides the punishments are too light, the government has never been strict in coping with illegal mining activities.

Of those numerous cases of arrest and equipment confiscation by the police, only few were actually sent for trial.

There has been overlapping authorities and conflict of interests between departments or even between the central and local government in dealing with illegal mining problems.
Environmental NGOs often accuse the government of double standards that it only want to curb illegal miners operating within big mining companies’ concession areas, such as in Bogoso/Prestea gold mine in the Western Region.

The existing regulatory and institutional framework is clearly deficient in its capacity to increase the contribution of ‘galamsey’ mining to livelihoods.

The regulations have a heavy impact on property rights and raise the costs of doing business within the sector, discouraging long-term investment of financial and technical resources by small-scale miners and their financiers.

This directly affects decent and dignified job creation and income levels within the sector, because investors generally take a short-term view of their investment activity.

Legalisation of small-scale mining was and remains a laudable policy objective. Yet merely legalising the activity without adequately capturing its fast-evolving and complex social dynamics may prevent the attainment of other social objectives, such as enhancing the potential of the sector to contribute to better livelihoods and poverty alleviation.

The capacity of regulatory institutions to monitor the legalised activity effectively and to punish noncompliance is critical not only to the realisation of the explicit regulatory objective, but also to the attainment of broader social goals such as wealth generation, job creation and growth in incomes.

Position of some multinational mining firms
Golden Star Resources Bogoso/Prestea mine

Officials of the Golden Star Resources say they continue to experience illegal mining activity on its mining and exploration properties with most of this activity on its Prestea South and Hwini-Butre properties.

The impact of their activity on the mineral reseves and non-reserves, the presence of galamsey miners can lead to project delays and dispute as well as delays regarding the development or operations of commercial gold deposits.

The work performed by the illegal miners could cause environmental damage or other damage to properties, or personal injury or death, for which we could potentially be held responsible.
Illegal miners may work on other properties from time to time, and they may in the future increase their presence and have increased negative impacts such as those described above on such other properties.

The Experience of the Wassa Mine
Golden Star Resources Wassa Mines subsidiary, upon its intense dealings with the operators of illegal miners ceded part of its concession around the Subri Akyempim area in the Western region. This is after years of battling illegal mining operation in and around the concession.The management indicated that the peaceful co-existence should eliminate the threat illegal mining poses to the operations of mining companies. “We are still responsible for all the environmental issues, we still report to the Minerals Commission and we are responsible for the safety on our sites,” General Manager at the Wassa mines of the company, Micheal Mracek said.

Newmont Mines’ position

Newmont Ghana Limited does not condone or support, and indeed we oppose, any mining activity that is not carried out pursuant to the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (or prior law) and other relevant laws of the country both because it is illegal and because it may adversely affect the health and safety of communities and their inhabitants and the environment.
It is the proper role of the government to manage illegal activity.

In fulfilling of this responsibility government and stakeholders are developing strategies to evict illegal miners from areas where they are carrying on such activity.
Newmont says it understands that government has recently launched a national campaign to do this. The government clearly has the responsibility of maintaining law, order and security for its citizens.

Newmont, as a signatory with other companies to the Iternational Voluntary Principles on Human Rights and Security, has an interest in encouraging governments to act in such matters with due regard for, and consistent with, the protection and promotion of human rights.
While public security forces may well endeavor to evict illegal miners in a manner consistent with local and national laws as well as with human rights standards and international humanitarian law, a substantial risk nevertheless exists that harm to individuals, however inadvertent, may result from such activity.

Newmont is a member of the Ghana Chamber of Mines. The Chamber is putting together an industry-wide program to fund, among other things, efforts to promote responsible mining among small-scale miners and to mitigate the negative impacts of illegal mining.
Newmont supports this program, particularly aspects relating to education, sensitization, retraining, raising community awareness, environmental management and rehabilitation practices. These are all critical to the long term resolution of the problem of illegal mining.
Newmont Ghana is also part of a group of companies including AngloGold Ashanti, Goldfields Ghana and Golden Star, who along with the International Council on Mining and Metals, the Ghana Minerals Commission and the Ghana Chamber of Mines is exploring alternative approaches to illegal, small-scale miners and their impacts.

Gold Fields Ghana and Galamsey

In the mid-1990s Gold Fields Ghana Limited began to set aside areas for the local miners and gradually confined them to these locations. Over time, continued stakeholder engagement efforts have borne some fruit.

A management committee with representatives from all stakeholder groups began issuing short-term licences to galamsey operators to dig on segments of the company’s lease area until the mine needed them.

The mine provided expertise to improve the technical skills and safety record of the 600-odd galamsey operating under this scheme. Critical to the building of trust was that the company stopped calling in the police and instead began negotiating with the galamsey operators to persuade them to leave the sites. Over the years further trust was built through company provision of water pumps and mercury retorts, which improved safety and gold recovery and reduced the environmental damage. During 2005 and 2006, Gold Fields Damang mine, a shallow multi-pit open-cast operation, managed to relocate successive small groups of artisanal miners from areas earmarked for open pit mining in what the company calls an “amicable manner”.Today, mining companies continue to search for ways of reducing the negative impacts of galamsey mining without, in the process, further encouraging the growth of such operations on mine leases. Government seems to be unwilling to call in the police to protect the interests of its major taxpayers against a potentially large group of voters, this pragmatic approach may be the way forward. Both AshantiAngloGold and Gold Fields Ghana are looking into funding the establishment of larger agricultural ventures often on rehabilitated mining land. Perhaps the galamsey will come to see the opportunities created by such ventures as viable alternatives to mining.

Impact on Society and Community
Mining activities, particularly surface mining, have resulted in the hostility of large tracts of land from communities, depriving poor and marginalised communities of their land surface rights, and as a result depriving many communities of their sources of livelihood.

The appropriation of the land of local communities for mining has often engendered social upheavals and adversely impacted on the routine livelihood activities of these communities.

Such social upheavals are commonplace in communities affected by mining projects in the country.

The growing incidence of conflict between mining communities and their chiefs on one hand, and the mining companies on the other hand, echoes the growing concerns about the effects of the mining sector.
Government and Stakeholders must act now

Stakeholders have urged government security apparatus such as the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) and the Ghana Police Service to intensify their protection and monitoring mechanism on the mining lease site belonging to the multinational firms to minimise the impact of the ‘galamsey’ operations and their activities on the mineral reserves which has the potential of increasing the nations revenue and improving the economy.

Multinational mining companies as a matter of urgency need to improve on their corporate social responsibility programmes in the communities in which they operate. Their activities need to be visible and dignified to the appreciation of the inhabitants.

Minerals Commission and the Chamber of Mines need to be proactive in developing achievable strategies and policies for the operators of the giant mining firms to direct their social programmes towards developing the indigenes to guarantee the future of the youth and the growing generation in the community.

It is a call on the Ministry of Land and Forestry, Local Government and Rural Development and the Attorney Generals Department to collaborate to ensure total eradication of the activities of the galamsey operators and institute enforceable punishment to deter perpetrators of the ancient illegal mining activities which is affecting the growth of the buoyant mining industry in Ghana.

‘Zain Touching Lives’ reality show launched

Zain reality television series dubbed ‘Zain Touching Lives’ has been launched in Accra.

The 13-week show aimed at transforming the lives of people living in trying circumstances will offer the opportunity to fulfill their life-long dreams.

It is also targeted at creating the platform for individuals who have transformed the lives of people in their communities to share their story.

The show expected to start airing later in the year will reward two people every week by way of transforming their lives and will be opened to the general public where both the nominee and the person who submitted the entry will receive an award.

For an individual to participate in the programme, the person should be nominated by someone, stating contact details, reason and the impact the nominee has made in a community.

This should be in writing to any Zain Ghana office or radio station in the country. Once the entry is received, a high powered team of investigators and researchers will assess its merit and research about the nominee’s background.

Carmen Bruce-Annan, Corporate Communications Manager of Zain Ghana, at a media briefing in Accra pledged the company’s commitment to promote the socio-economic lives of the people as part of its corporate responsibility.

“It is one of the major aims of Zain to touch people’s lives in the communities where it is operating by fulfilling its corporate social responsibility. We want to encourage our customers to be radiant by leading the way in imagination and vision,"' she stressed.

“It is a show of giving back and we want to assist Ghanaians to recognise their full potential. It is about giving recognition to unsung heroes and heroines in the community and acknowledge the impact they made in the lives of people,” she said.

Linda Narh, Brands Communication Manager of Zain Ghana said the company is targeting individuals and communities with a story to tell, and will offer a platform to celebrate humanity whist inspiring hope and enhancing people’s life.

“It is about tapping into the African culture of given and recorgnising the unsung heroes in our community and acknowledging the difference they have made to the lives of many,” she stated.

Zain is a leading telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile and data services to 64.7 million customers in about 24 countries.

Nokia outlines 2012 ambition, targeting 300m users worldwide

Nokia's continues ambition will be to create the biggest delivery platform for services, targeting 300 million users by 2012,its Chief Executive Office,Mr. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo has said.

There are 1.1 billion Nokia device owners globally with 55 million active users of its services.

Presenting the keynote address to global telecommunication experts and stakeholders at its annual Nokia World conference held in Stuttgart, Germany, Mr. Kallasvuo said: “Nokia aims at reaching the many, not the few, with our rich portfolio of services.

“We are doing this through an increasing number of open partnerships with world leaders in many fields. Strategy changes the whole time, “It mustn't be something we can't touch as the environment changes, the competition changes,” he said.

Nokia has been the top mobile phone handset maker since 1998 but has gradually expanded to include online services, such as downloads of music, games, maps and the fast transfer of photos and video, especially as markets have become saturated.

Mr. Kallasvuo disclosed that the company is proud to lead the charge in smartphones and beyond as manifested in the Nokia N900 and Nokia Booklet 3G.

“Two great examples of how the world is changing and Nokia is driving this change.”

Nokia will in the ensuing years progressively roll out web and mobile applications (API) for its services for cutting-edge location solutions on its smartphones.

This will begin with the Ovi Maps Player API and the Ovi Navigation Player API
OVI Store, Ovi application is on 100 Nokia devices, with 27 operators offering integrated billing services in eight countries.

Ovi Mail is also available in 20 languages and one million accounts were activated in six months. Among other services include, Nokia Life Tools, Nokia Money, Comes With Music.

Nokia also concluded a new deal with the Facebook aimed at enhancing mobile social networking and creating an integrated platform to provide telecommunication solution among users globally.

Director of Mobile, Facebook, Henri Moissinac, who was highlighting the opportunities in mobile social networking and the close collaboration between the two companies said:

“Our goal is clear, and that is to make it effortless for our partners to create highly appealing, context-relevant applications that consumers will find indispensable.”

“We’ve been very pleased with our relationship with Nokia, Moissinac stated.

Niklas Savander, Services, Nokia, ndicated that this is just the beginning, we will work in close cooperation with developers to evolve the offering, starting with social location solutions.

Since its release in June, the Facebook application for Nokia is available for download in more than 150 countries and is currently one of the most distributed applications worldwide.

Nokia also launched the new Nokia X6 powerful entertainment device capable of playing up to 35 hours of music, combining on-board memory with a slick 3.2” finger touch interface.

The ultimate device for music lovers and social butterflies, the Nokia X6 has a 16:9 widescreen optimised for photos, videos and browsing.

It is a hive of activity that brings 20 friends and virtual communities, like Facebook, to homescreen with a powerful combination, enabling music fans to download all the music they could ever want, quickly, easily and for free.

“We’re giving people convenient access to and ownership of a vast music library and an exciting new touchscreen device to play their music on,” Jo Harlow, Vice President, Nokia of remarked.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mining supports economy with US$2.30b

Minerals and mining sector retained US$2.30 billion as revenue through the Bank of Ghana (BoG) during the year 2008, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ms Joyce Aryee has revealed.

The figure which represents 63 percent of the mineral revenue out of its six percent was paid to government as royalties and taxes, whilst 10 percent was also paid to Volta River Authority (VRA) and Electricity Company of Ghana for electric power purchases.

The local oil marketing companies also received 13 percent for diesel fuel purchases. Also four percent of the minerals revenue was paid as taxes, levis and duties on fuel products to government.

Ms. Aryee speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2009 mining exhibition and networking forum of the Chamber organised under the theme ‘Mining And Sustainable Development: Meeting Intergenerational Challenges said: “ the mining industry has been increasing the quantum of local inputs in its operations for some time now.

In 2008, mineral producing member companies of the Chamber procured 47 cent of inputs and 71 percent of consumables locally.”

She indicated that the promotion of local content in the mining operations is not just a social responsibility activity, but also a direct response to the Minerals and Mining Law of 2006.

She noted that 98 percent of the workforce in Ghana’s mining industry is indigenes with only two percent being expatriates.

Ms Hanna Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry observed that the country is endowed with different kinds of natural resources which, if exploited efficiently, effectively and adequately can result in improvement in the lives of the people.

The country, specifically the mining communities, do not benefit fully from the enormous resources endowment.

This, she said, was as a result of high cost of specialised heavy duty equipment in the extractive industries involves the infusion of large capital which is always outside the reach of domestic and local investors.

She advised that the intergenerational challenges facing the mining sector need to be addressed to ensure sustainable development of the sector.

There is the need for all the stakeholders to help and address the challenges facing all the operations in the sector. This would include the government, foreign and local investors, banks, transport companies, opinion leaders, and advocacy groups.

“The development of the comprehensive local content framework for the mining sector is crucial and this will help reduce conflict, tension and dissatisfaction and ensure equity and fairness.

The local content policy should look at the activities in the mining sector and the various goods and services that go with them.” Ms Tetteh remarked.

July inflation drops ….still 1-year high

Headline inflation is expected to decline in the coming month due to seasonal conditions, Professor Nicholas Nsowah-Nuamah, Deputy Government Statistician has predicted.

“Due to the trend, inflation is likely to close the third quarter below 20 percent,” he said.

The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed that headline inflation rate fell to 20.50 percent in July, down from 20.74 percent in June - representing a 0.24 percentage point decrease, which is still one-year high.

The new inflation figure is still high for the market, especially business borrowers that are looking to the Central Bank to ease the prime rate held currently at 18.5 percent.

Official data released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) revealed that vegetables and fish contributed the highest to the change, with yam, plantain and cassava being the major contributors.

A decreasing trend in the price of communication and health in the non food component of the CPI also was responsible.

Professor Nsowah-Nuamah, briefing the media in Accra, said the favorable seasonal conditions for food crops and the bumper harvest of fish will continue into the rest of the third quarter.

“We should expect inflation to fall further beginning August,” he said.

Inflation has been on the rise since November last year, remaining above 20 percent in the past six months.

Supply-demand bottlenecks, as well as weak current account position, have been the main drivers of inflation in Ghana.

A Monetary Policy Committee set up for the Central Bank in 2002 to manage inflation, chalked some successes by the framework it provides for inflation targetting.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the Committee who also doubles as the Central Bank Governor, Dr. Paul Acquah, may quit his position by next month following the end of his contract with the Bank.

Brought in by former President John Kufuor in 2001, it is doubtful that Dr. Acquah would accept another contract even if the new administration under President Mills should offer him one.

The market will however look to his successor for a more aggressive stance against inflation.

Dr Acquah is credited with key reforms during an eight-year tenure. He did a lot in asserting the independence of the monetary policy system and improving the payment and settlements systems.

Operating an end-period single-digit inflation target, Dr. Acquah’s work will be commended for bringing inflation down to 9.9 percent (single-digit) in March 2006.

It was the first time that headline inflation came down to single-digit since 9.8 percent was recorded in April 1998.

Names making the rounds to succeed the Governor include Alhassan Andani, the head of Stanbic Bank Ghana, and Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, a President Mills ally who was deputy finance minister under ex-president Jerry Rawlings. Also cited is Togbe Afede, the Agbobgomefia of Ho Traditional Area.

Dr. Acquah won awards for his work, including the 2007 Central Banker of the Year and the Order of the Star of Ghana, the Highest Award by the state.

Gov’t urged to support agric

An expert in agricultural financing has advocated increased support to the agricultural sector to boost production in the country.

Dr. Ralph Christy, Director of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development, at the Cornell University, New York, made this statement in Accra at a forum organised by the Trade and Investment Programme for a Competitive Export Economy (TIPCEE).

He indicated that to appropriately modernise the agricultural sector, it requires confident executive leaders and farm managers with access to capital to augment and sustain profitable agricultural ventures.

In 2006 - 2007, the share of agriculture was five percent and four percent respectively, an indication of a low and deteriorating level of credit supply to the agricultural sector, he pointed out.

Dr. Christy, who was making a presentation on the theme ‘New Opportunities for Agro Enterprises in Ghana’ said: “New business opportunities exist for Ghana’s agricultural sector, and that could greatly impact on the nation’s development agenda creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions in revenue.

“The private sector business operators need to add value to the country’s agricultural produce and develop new products to meet the growing urban needs.”

He stated that the international community has recognised the country’s agricultural produce - like cocoa, coffee, pineapple, among others - and this will inform buyers’ decision to track the products to their production centres.

“The global market place is more competitive then ever, requiring modernised agribusinesses to maintain sustainable profits.

Ghana is endowed with immense land, water and human resources, as well as technical expertise - enough to enable it increase farm produce needed to feed the country’s 22 million population.

“The country can also produce for the export market given the appropriate policies and support,” he stressed.

“Government must invest in the agriculture sector to ensure its viability and sustainability to meet the international market demand.” Dr. Christy said.

The forum, which brought together agricultural experts, government officials and private investors in the sector, was aimed at showcasing the country’s potential and opportunities in the agribusiness.

It was also meant to create a platform for private business operators to deliberate on the new markets for Ghanaian agro-enterprises, as well as identifying access to capital to promote the country’s agricultural business sector.