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.”