Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shortage of midwives looming

Dr. George Amofa, Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, has revealed that an estimated 60 percent of midwives are set to retire in the next five years, which will pose a major threat to the fight against maternal deaths.

This will jeopardise the country’s drive to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in reducing maternal mortality, he said.

He explained that the country’s move toward the elimination of maternal deaths is going rather slowly, attributing it to a three-chain defect starting from the point of conception to delivery,
The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations - and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000.

Dr. Amofa explained that pregnant women are sometimes driven over five miles to the nearest health facility to access health care, and on arrival the health facility may itself lack the requisite facilities and personnel to cater for them - which in many cases culminate in needless deaths.

It is therefore imperative for corporate institutions to invest in areas of the health sector which are capital intensive. Dr. Amofa made these statements at a ceremony to hand over three renovated wards - the recovery, male, and labour wards - of the Maamobi Polyclinic to hospital authorities.

The renovation was funded at a cost of GH¢30,000.00 by the Metropolitan Life Ghana (MetLife), an insurance firm, as part of its corporate social responsibility programme. It was also its contribution to national efforts to raise the standard of healthcare delivery in the country.

Diop Frimpong, Chief Executive Officer of Metropolitan Life Ghana, at the ceremony said: “As a nation, our ability to develop will depend substantially on an energetic, strong and healthy workforce. A healthy workforce depends largely on the quality of healthcare that we provide to those who need it.

“For children in particular a good health facility is even more important, because they are dedicated and a failure to attend to their health needs could jeopardise their very future.

“To be able to build a robust healthcare system, government has a responsibility and the private sector has its role too,” Mr. Frimpong stated.

Mr. Robert Ahomka Lindsay, Board Member of MetLife, said the company decided to undertake the project as its contribution towards improving the health needs of Ghanaians.

“As a strong brand in the Ghanaian insurance market, the company will contribute to the general well-being of the Ghanaian people by offering more life-benefits in the insurance products that will create wealth for the citizens.

“A healthy workforce depends largely on the quality of health care delivery," he said, and pledged the company’s continuous support to the Polyclinic to improve its facilities and that management would continue working hard to improve on the wellbeing of Ghanaians through the introduction of well-packaged products to the market.

Dr. Mildred Kumassah, Principal Medical Officer in-charge of Maamobi Polyclinic, commended the management for the initiative and urged other corporate entities to emulate them to help improve health care delivery in the area.

She said some of their problems included an inadequate and ageing workforce, lack of water and a weak infrastructure. She appealed to Ghana Health Services to upgrade the Polyclinic to the status of a district hospital to serve more people within the area.

The Polyclinic is the biggest health facility in the Ayawaso sub-metropolitan area and was established about 42 years ago.

A daily average attendance at the Polyclinic is about 300 patients at the Out Patients Department (OPD) and 100 to 120 women attending the antenatal clinic.

Cocoa target to be missed

The Bank of Ghana has expressed concern over the attainment of the 2009/2010 major season target for cocoa production.

Government through Cocobod - the sector regulator - has set a target of 650,000 tonnes of cocoa purchases for the major season which ends in May this year.

But the Central Bank’s Governor, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, said that target may well be missed.

His reason is that by the first week of this month, only 518,304 tonnes of cocoa had been purchased compared to 562,538 tonnes at the same time during the 2008/2009 crop season.

“The crop size at the close of the 2008/2009 season was 634,256 tonnes,” he said.

Speaking at the latest Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of the Bank of Ghana last week, Mr. Amissh-Arthur said merchandised export of cocoa beans and products for the first quarter of this year earned the country US$704.1 million.

This compared with a 35.9 percent rise in the export of cocoa beans and products in 2009.

Concerns for reduced cocoa production have been heightened by reported increases in cocoa smuggling activities along the western corridor of the country and unfavourable weather conditions.

Currently, eight Customs and Excise Preventive Service (CEPS), a police officer and an official of thae Bureau of National Investigation are standing trial for aiding people to smuggle cocoa out of the country to neighbouring Cote d Ivoire.

Last week, the Licenced Cocoa Buyers Association of Ghana (LCBAG) condemned the activities of cocoa smugglers through the Western and Eastern borders of the country, stressing that the act impacts negatively on the national economy.

The President of the Association, Nana Adade Boamah, said the act of smuggling threatened the existence of licenced cocoa buying companies in particular and the cocoa industry in general.

"Our high investments in weighing scales, tarpaulins, vehicles, depots and personnel stand the risk of withering away if we stand aloof whilst the smugglers have a field-day. Our interest is directly linked to the interest of cocoa farmers, the cocoa haulers, COCOBOD, and the government," he said.


BoG cuts Policy rate to 15%

The Bank of Ghana has reduced its policy rate by 100 basis points to 15 percent with the hope that businesses can now borrow more at competitive rates to boost economic activities in the country, the Governor of BoG said on Friday.

The reduction in the policy rate follows an earlier aggressive measure taken by the Central Bank to trim the rate by 200 basis points at the last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) rate-setting meeting in February this year.

The BoG Governor, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, in presenting the outcome of the MPC meeting to assess the health of the economy, explained that the further reduction in policy rate was aimed at encouraging banks to lower their lending rates to businesses as the economy shows signs of slowdown.

Data from the Central Bank’s Composite Index of Economic Activity, which is used to gauge the pulse of the economy, declined during the first two months of the year - implying a slowdown in the pace of economic activity.

In real terms, the Index declined by 11.7 percent in the first two months of the year.

“The latest in the periodic surveys carried out by the BoG to gauge the sentiments of businesses and consumers gave mixed results.

“While consumers remained confident about the prospects of the economy, businesses were less confident. The overall business confidence index dropped 3.5 points in the latest survey,” he said.

He added that the high lending rates in the country have affected business confidence.

The reaction of banks to the last Central Bank’s policy rate cut in February has been passive, making it very expensive for businesses to borrow to finance their operations.

The Governor said discussions that the central bank have had with the banks revealed that banks pegged their lending rates against the going money market rates, and not the BoG policy rate.

“The banks argue that the source of deposit is related to money market rate and not the policy rate, and that is why their interest rates are still high even though the policy rate has been coming down.

“But the Treasury bill rate is coming down, so lets wait for the next two months to test the argument of the banks,” he said.

Between December last year and mid-April this year, the benchmark 91-day Treasury bill rate went down by 8.7 percentage points to 13.9 percent. Similarly, the 182-day Treasury bill rate declined by 11 percentage points to 14.4 percent.

In reacting to the recent Central Bank policy cut, the Head of Research for Standard Chartered Africa, Razia Khan, told Reuters News Agency that the reduction of the BoG prime rate falls in line with their expectations, adding:

"The Bank of Ghana rate-cut is in line with our expectation. Continued year-on-year disinflation has allowed the room for easing; but with new risks on the horizon in the form of higher oil prices and a less marked cedi appreciation trend, the Bank of Ghana is correct to adopt a more cautious pace of easing.

“Nonetheless, while the opportunity exists, we expect further rate cuts. At least another 100 basis points in June looks increasingly like a done deal. Whether we see anything beyond that will depend on the oil price, cedi stability and other inflationary pressure."

On his part, Ridle Markus of ABSA CAPITAL said: "This was as we expected, as inflation has been coming down rapidly and the outlook remains very favourable. We expect another 100 basis points in June.

"The interest rate decision is in line with our expectations ... This outcome is consistent with the ongoing pro-growth shift in Ghana's policy framework, even as lending rates have remained relatively sticky until now amid a weak monetary transmission mechanism and the intrinsic risk-profile associated with lending-related activities.

"The Bank of Ghana recently said consumer prices would be in single-digits by year-end, but we are more bullish on the downward path of inflation in light of the recent CPI dynamics - in addition to exchange rate stabilisation, fiscal consolidation and a contained impact of higher oil prices as of 1Q 2010," added Samir Gadio, Rencap Securities.


The new trend in money transfers

Some Ghanaians living abroad have found other means of remitting money to their relations and friends back home without using the traditional money transfer agencies.

They have resorted to the use of electronic cards to remit because they find it more economical.

For instance, the money transfer agencies charge averagely US$10 to transfer funds between US$100 and US$500 to Ghana, while US$17 is charged for a transfer of above US$500.

However, it costs only US$2.0 to effect a transaction by using the electronic visa card, which is cheaper compared to the use of money transfer agency.

Private inward remittances to individuals in the country have been dropping over the last three years, which some financial analysts have attributed to the global financial crisis.

Of the total transfers for 2008, 19.2 percent of the total transfers accrued to individuals, which amounted to US$1,678.6 million, compared with 24.1 % in 2007 which also amounted to US$1,660.3 million

Latest figures from the Central Bank last Friday showed that the trend is likely to follow comparing the first two months of this year, to the same period last year.

Last year in the first two months, 17.8% of the total transfers accrued to individuals, however within the same period this year, the figure has dropped to 15.1 percent.

Mr. Charles Mensah, Managing Partner of Trust Consult, a firm of chartered management accountants, and consultants who alerted B&FT on this trend holds a different view.

“It is very possible that the drop has very little to do with the global crisis but rather it might be due to the way we account for the remittances. The truth is that many of our relations in abroad are using the electronic cards in the transfer of funds to the dependants here in Ghana.”

He said a way must be found by the Bank of Ghana to capture these transactions to help in policy making.

“The current trend is that people living outside the country now open accounts, and apply for a visa card. They afterwards send the card with their password, and all the necessary details to their relatives back home.

“They load funds on the card, which can be accessed in any part of this world, thereby allowing their relatives to access it. Armed with the visa card and the password, relatives go to the nearest money vending point, and make withdrawals.

“What this means is that the money which could have gone through the money transfer agent, and would have been accounted for is now channeled through the visa card. In the final analysis, the transaction therefore is not captured by the authorities for the purposes of planning,” Mr. Mensah remarked.

Mr. Mensah suggested that the Bank of Ghana should undertake a research to find out how much withdrawals are made within the cash points system.

“I am very sure the banks will assist in this endeavour. If it is found out that the withdrawals are quite sizeable then invariably then we must find a way of accounting for them.”

In the early days, Money transfer business was not considered as a credible business and most of the activity was done by underworld. Exchange rate was the motivation between illegal money transfers. Apart from civilized people; most of the people preferred to use this kind of money transfer where network of private individuals was offering money transfer services in all the countries.

They were considered quiet reliable and good experiences of some of their customer’s generated recommendations. Money transfer business was flourishing but without credibility. Credible money transfer companies were lagging short due to high exchange rates offered by non-bank transfers.

Education and awareness changed the way of thinking and with the internet revolution, a new wave of money transfer services appeared on the scene. Companies like Western Union have really given real credibility to this business and now Money transfer business has been able to earn trust of customers at large.

New millennium has opened new doors and with IT developments and emergence of technology savvy generation, unbelievable solutions have been introduced by Money Transfer companies.

They have developed customized products by keeping in view the needs of different categories of customers from different parts of the world. Now, money transfer is carried out on really scientific grounds.

It was never so much easy to transfer your money as it has become today.

Source: B&FT

Agric sector tops all in lending to private sector

The Agric sector of the economy received more credit facilities from the commercial banks than any other sector as of the end of the February this year, the Governor of Bank of Ghana has said.

This is the first time that the agric sector, which contributes more than 40 percent to GDP, has received more credit than any other sector - and this follows consistent pronouncements by government to make agriculture the focus to grow the economy.

For the first two months of this year, the flow of commercial banks credit to the private sector totalled GH¢0.7 billion, representing a 13.9 percent increase compared to the same period last year

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of the Bank of Ghana has reported that the agric sector received 20.2 percent the credit flow to the private sector, followed closely by the electricity, gas and water sectors which absorbed 18.8 percent.

The manufacturing sector got 16.9 percent while import trade and construction had 16.5 and 15.4 percent respectively.

However, real credit extended by the commercial banks to the private sector declined by 0.3 percent in the period under consideration compared to growth of 22.5 percent recorded in the same period last year.

Outstanding commercial bank credit to the private sector in the first two months of the year was GH¢5.7 billion as against GH¢5.1 billion last year.

The Governor of Bank of Ghana, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur who chairs the MPC meeting, said a survey of credit conditions conducted by the Central Bank last month continued to show a general tightening of credit to enterprises and households for mortgages in the first quarter of the year.

“There are additional declines in net demand for long-term credit. The cost of funds and increase in adversely classified loans contributed to the net tightening of credit,” he said.

He added that non-price terms and conditions, such as shortening of the maturity of loans and the requirement of additional loan covenants and collaterals, were employed by the commercial banks to tighten their credit stance in the first quarter of 2010.


BUSAC Fund starts disbursing in August

The Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund is to disburse US$16 million in loans to over 500 businesses in the small and medium scale enterprises sector in its phase-two project, beginning August 2010, B&FT has gathered.

The disbursement is to facilitate the development and growth of a competitive, vibrant private sector.

The Fund last year disbursed US$8.2 million to 362 businesses in all the 10 regions in the first phase of its operation that began in 2004.

The project is being jointly funded by Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA), Danish Fund for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and aims to broaden the engagement of the Private Sector in its policy formulation and advocacy to promote growth and a vibrant private sector.

Dr. Dale Rachmeler, BUSAC Fund Manager, in a recent interview with B&FT said: “DANIDA has indeed gone forward to design the BUSAC Fund II, which will aid in the bidding process for the next phase of BUSAC disbursement.

“The entire project will still deal with private sector advocacy - and all the sectors within will be able to submit proposals for funding on a competitive basis. With the expected amount, there will be more funds for grants in phase-II than in phase-I,” he emphasised.

He revealed that a lot of businesses do not belong to associations, making it difficult to receive financial assistance for business growth.

Ms. Hannah Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry, commended the impressive performance of the Fund which has contributed immensely to growth in the economic sectors of the country.

“There has been clear evidence of growth and development in the private business sector, more especially among Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) over the past few years due to the immense financial and technical assistance from the BUSAC Fund.”

She applauded management of the Fund for implementing the support system to improve the performance of public and private sector businesses in the country.

Ms. Tetteh said the Fund had performed a very useful task by way of empowering SMEs to sensitise government on the various constraints and challenges that confront the sector, leading to various changes and amendments of policies and programmes to address their demands.

“The private sector seemed to be driving government policies and programmes; I hope that there will be enough funding to support a second-phase of the project. This would help bring on board new players and also extend the facility to others,” she said.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Census date still unknown

The 2010 Population and Housing Census committee is yet to decide on a tentative date for the exercise this year, a source has told B&FT.

The national committee which is made up of representatives from Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) responsible for the exercise is yet to meet to set a date.

“The census will come off this year, as the steering committee has considered several factors for the national exercise. Other factors such as the impending World Cup in June will be considered before the committee sets the date,” he disclosed.

It is estimated that Ghana’s population will reach 24.5 million, up from the last census figure of 18.9 million in 2000.

Government Statistician Dr. Grace Bediako, making a presentation in Accra, explained that significant progress has been made in areas of Census cartography and a trial census, among others.

“We expect most of the preparatory work to establish a firm base towards a successful Census to be completed very soon.

“We need to get to each district, each community, each settlement, each structure, each dwelling unit, each household, and each individual before Census night,” Dr. Bediako explained.

She further explained that the Census will provide up-to-date socio-economic data for planning at both the national and sub-national level, including data for newly-created districts.

It will also provide basic indicators for tracing government developmental policies, goals on education, health and housing among others.

The Census results or data will allow for informed policy information that will aid programme implementation and socio-economic development.

A trial census was conducted in five District Assemblies across the country between October and November 2009. The Assemblies include Saboba and Chereponi in the Northern Region, Bia in the Western Region, Sene in the Brong Ahafo Region, Ewutu Senya in the Central Region as well as parts of Legon and East Legon in the Greater Accra Region.

These Assemblies were selected based on their specific conditions and will be used as test cases for the main census.

Over 45,000 volunteers, mostly students from tertiary institutions, will be recruited by the Ghana Statistical Service for the exercise.

The volunteers will be spread across 36,000 enumeration areas throughout the country to do the counting.

Tullow warns about scam

The Communications Manager of Tullow Oil, Gayheart Mensah, has said the company’s attention has been drawn to reports about fraudsters using the name of Tullow Ghana to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.

Mensah disclosed that Tullow does not use middlemen in its procurement processes, and that all procurement is done only by the Contracts and Procurement Department of the company.

“We have a planned procurement process which does not leave any room for such emergency purchases. Besides, the company deals only with suppliers who are registered with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC),” Mensah said.

Tullow Ghana therefore advises that any member of the public who is suspicious of any proposed financial transaction for or on behalf of the company should contact the company directly to ascertain the veracity of the proposal.

Tullow is operator of the Jubilee Field with 34.7 percent holdings, and is partnered by Kosmos Energy with 23.5 percent, Anadarko with 23.5 percent and the EO Group with 1.75 percent, as well as Sabre oil and Gas with 2.8 percent holdings and GNPC with 13.75 percent.

TTB targets GHc70b in five years

The Trust Bank Ghana limited (TTB) is to raise GHc70 billion, as additional equity in the next five years to increase its capital base.

This will strongly position the bank as a viable institution to partner a reputable overseas firm.

“TTB will be well capitalised, which will position it to partner with a reputable overseas company to promote and explore opportunities in the global financial a market,” said the former Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Isaac Owusu-Hemeng, in an interview with B&FT at a reception in Accra to officially bid him farewell as the managing director of the bank.

His retirement brings to an end the era during in which TTB firmly established itself as one of the best banks in the country, a position consolidated by its being voted Bank of the Year for 2007 by Corporate Initiative Ghana (CIG) and also Ghana’s Best Bank in 2008 by the London-Based Emeafinanace magazine.

Mr. Owusu-Hemeng became CEO of TTB in 2005, prior to which he had been Executive Director, Corporate Strategy and Planning; and before that General Manager Corporate Services - a position he held until the end of 2003, having joined the bank in 1996.

Under his leadership as CEO, the bank‘s image was transformed into an exciting, financial service brand whose key attributes are anchored around performance and passion, and now stands very tall among other corporate financial institutions in the market.

TTB currently remains the most prestigious company, third-best financial institution and second-best bank in Ghana, according to the 2008 Ghana Club 100 rankings.

Its excellent financial performance for the past five years registered a substantial growth in income and has also considerably grown its balance sheet.

Total income has grown by 186.32 percent from GHc15.42 million in 2005 to GHc44.15 million in 2009, with net profit after tax for the same period increasing by 145.09 percent to GHc11.1 in 2009.

On the balance sheet, the bank grew its shareholders’ fund by 296.28 percent to GHc40.09 million in 2009 from GHc10.9 million in 2005, while total assets went up by GHc216.93 million to GHc311.34 million in 2009 within the same period.

The Deputy Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Lawrence Yirenkyi-Boafo, has taken over as acting Managing Director. His appointment took effect from 1st of April. Mr. Yirenkyi-Boafo joined the bank in February 1993 and has played a pivotal role in the bank’s operations.

TTB currently remains the 8th-most prestigious company, and currently the Ghana Club 100 ranking has TTB as the third-best financial institution and second-best bank in Ghana.

Chinese investments target agric, education and health sectors

Counsellor Hu Yujie of the Chinese Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Office has said that current Chinese investments in Ghana will focus strongly on the agricultural, health and education sectors.

“In recent times China has supported Ghanaian hospitals and participated in anti-malaria projects, as well as sending in agricultural experts to support the sector,” Hu said, adding that China will work to cement the healthy relationship between the two countries by encouraging future Chinese investments in the local manufacturing of equipment and machinery in those sectors.

Hu made these remarks at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Haige China Industries and local entrepreneur, D.K’s Unik Dezines, for Chinese investments estimated at US$300 million in 10 factories for the production of various machines and products meant for the local as well as ECOWAS and international markets.

He disclosed that as at September last year, Chinese investments in factories and other businesses in Ghana totalled over 400 - including electric power plants, furniture manufacturing, and hospitality enterprises.

“Under the China/Africa Cooperation arrangement, we will continue to be strong in investing in infrastructural development; but we will also shift into automobile manufacturing, into ICT and other hi-tech areas,” Hu said.

Unik Dezines’ CEO, Denis Anderson, disclosed that the local assembling of automobiles, tricycles, motorbikes and tractors, which is expected to begin immediately before the close of the second quarter, aims at making such items affordable to agricultural, health and education workers.

“We’re planning an arrangement with local banks, insurance companies and government departments to see how these products can be made easily available and at affordable prices to these categories of workers,” Anderson said.

He said a housing project, which is part of the investment package, is expected to be operational by the close of the year and is also targetted at making affordable housing units available to workers and the general public.

Other projects to be completed in the year include factories for salt and sugar production, paper-milling, towels and socks, as well as the assembling of Plasma/LCD televisions and air-conditioners, among others.

Haige Industries’ Chairman Peng Ye Zhen disclosed that the investments will be export-oriented with the aim of making well-known Chinese brands even more competitive for the local and international markets.

“We will be looking to satisfy the domestic market, but we will also be looking to export not only to the ECOWAS market but the international market,” said Peng.

Under the MoU, the Chinese investors hold a 70 percent stake in the venture with the Ghanaian entrepreneur controlling the remaining 30 percent stake.


LG Electronics boss visits Ghana

Mr Jae Young Lee, the Managing Director of LG Electronics in Africa (LGEAF) operations, was in the country last week for a business visit.

As part of the visit, he had business discussions with Somotex Ghana Ltd. - the sole and exclusive distributors for LG Products in the country.

Mr Lee, who has 25 years working experience with LG, visited the Somovision showrooms and LG Digital Centres during his visit and also visited competition-outlets selling consumer electronics and home-appliances in Accra.

Mr Lee at a media interaction in Accra said: “This has been a very instructive and fulfilling visit. I have always wanted to visit Ghana, and the warmth and hospitality extended by all Ghanaians during my visit have been heart-warming, to say the least.

“Ghana occupies a very important position in the growth plans of LG Electronics in Africa, and we are taking more steps to ensure that our presence here is more comprehensive with a view to being able to service all segments of the Ghanaian populace. We shall, along with our partners Somotex Ghana Ltd., always endeavour to raise the bar in terms of product introductions as well as customer satisfaction norms.”

Mr Lee also expressed his concern on the entry of fake LG products as well as LG products brought in by unauthorised distributors, which were not aligned to Africa-centric conditions.

“We are starting immediate and punitive action against those sources from where fake LG and unauthorised LG products are entering Ghana. We feel very strongly about this issue because this kind of illegal representation gives low benefits to our valued Ghanaian customers - who buy LG only because they are assured of the promises that the brand delivers. We reiterate that Somotex Ghana Ltd has been our sole and exclusive sales & service distributor in Ghana for almost 20 years.

“The LG brand, as represented by Somotex, brings to customers in Ghana products that have been tropicalised and designed for the African market with excellent after sales service given by Somotex - unlike the illegal importers, who do not even carry the LG Pan-Africa Warranty service promise on their products.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

British Airways optimistic of 2010

British Airways Ghana says it is optimistic about the airline’s prospects for 2010, as it prepares for the new financial year this month.

“British Airways is “upbeat” about the outlook in the coming year. Despite the recent economic downturn, people continue to travel and we are determined to get ourselves in shape to offer the best possible service and great value fares on a long-term basis.” Country Manager, Paul Dhami said in a statement.

He indicated that planned collaborations with major international airlines will make British Airways stronger, enabling it to offer the best possible service and a wider route network.

“We also continue to invest to make sure our products and services get better and better – we recently launched a new First Class cabin, we are taking delivery of new aircrafts over the next couple of years, and using the latest technology by providing the first mid-air email and text services on UK-US flights.”

“British Airways expects that the FIFA 2010 World Cup will lead to increased flights to the African continent, and Ghana’s stable political and social climate, as well as the recent oil discovery, offers the country important opportunities to attract tourists and investors alike, the Dhami urged the Ministry of Tourism to take advantage of these opportunities.

Mr. Dhami reiterated British Airways’ commitment to Ghana, a country in which the airline has operated for over 70 years. “We care about the community in which we operate.

In recent years, we have been particularly supportive of health and education, and we will continue to be a socially-responsible organisation in Ghana.”

In 2007, the airline also supported the Africa outside Edge Expedition, with adventurer Kingsley Holgate, during which tens of thousands of mosquito nets, mobile libraries and reading glasses were handed out to underprivileged communities in thirty-three countries along the coast of Africa including Ghana.

British Airways has supported school projects in the Greater Accra and Volta Regions, as well as a local domestic tourism essay contest for Junior High Schools.

Fox entertainment to launch on Smart TV in Ghana

Next Generation Broadcasting (NGB) and Fox International Channel have signed a three year agreement covering Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania, enabling SMART TV to bring the best of International entertainment to viewers in these markets.

SMART TV, which is expected to be launched by the end of April as a pay TV service on the digital terrestrial television network, will currently be the only platform to provide Fox Entertainment on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in Ghana.

Smart TV will also offer viewers their favourite free-to-air channels in digital quality. SMART TV provides Ghanaian consumers with a product which is a mix of the best local and international content at an unbeatable price.

SMART TV will initially air in Accra and Kumasi and will be extended to other regions in Ghana in the near future.

Andreas Lanz, Director of Programming for Next Generation Broadcasting said “SMART TV’s content philosophy is to provide audiences with the best mix of local and international content in the market.

Fox Entertainment is an ideal partner as it allows SMART TV to bring some of the best international programming to Africa.

Most TV homes in our markets will now be able to enjoy hit international shows such as, Criminal Minds, 24, Grey’s Anatomy, Simpsons, Arrested Development, Boston Legal, Family Guy and Scrubs which has not been available to them up to now”.

Smart TV will launch in other African markets in the coming months.

Ahmed Wahab, the Head of Marketing and Sales of NGB Ghana said “Pay TV has been out of reach for most Ghanaians and Smart TV will change this by offering quality content at a very reasonable price that can be afforded by all.

Pay TV will no longer be a product that people aspire to get. It will be a product that everyone can afford and Smart TV is making that happen.”

Speaking of the deal, Jason Thorp, MD Fox International Channels UK & Africa said, “Fox Entertainment is already a big success in 106 million homes and 100 different countries. We are delighted to introduce Fox Entertainment Africa into Ghana via Smart TV. We are sure the great mix of drama, comedy, animation and reality will be a big success in this growing market.

The Ghanaian audience will enjoy high quality picture and sound on Smart TV and will also have access to many more TV channels (including local, regional, and international alternatives). An on-screen TV programming guide will also be available, which enables viewers to schedule their viewing.

Next Generation Broadcasting Ghana Ltd is a joint venture between Next Generation Broadcasting NGB Africa AB, Amadeus Communications Ltd and Next Generation Africa Ltd, founded in 2007.

Operating under the brand name Smart TV, Next Generation Broadcasting Ghana Ltd provides affordable, widely accessible and readily available, post and prepaid digital terrestrial TV services to TV households in Ghana, where economic development and rising personal income levels are creating increasing demand for electronic media services.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

British Airways to raise stakes

Paul Dhami, Commercial Manger of British Airways (BA) Ghana says the airline plans to consolidate its good image and reputation by building an even stronger, more efficient and vibrant airline in the country.

“We remain committed to Ghana, a country in which we have been operating for over 70 years. The country’s political and economic environment, as well as recent oil discovery, offers promising prospects this year,” Mr. Dhami said in an interview with B&FT on BA’s achievements and prospects for its 2010 operational year in the country.

Outlining BA’s corporate strategy in the country, he said: “BA plans to sustain efficient operations and continue to compete favourably with other renowned Airlines in the world.

“We are working hard to justify why Ghanaians should use this Airline, because we don’t want them to use the Airline simply because it is a global player but rather its leveraging on technology and innovative strategy.

“There is a need to give passengers good reasons to use BA, and we have proven that in the past,” Dhami said, adding that the facilities and services on BA are comparable to any world-class Airline.

He was optimistic that the prospects of his company in the country’s aviation industry are more positive in the 2010/2011 operation year.

The commercialisation of the country’s oil this year will eventually create opportunities for the country’s aviation sector, which will attract more businesses into the country.

“It has expanded our operations and boosted the travel plans of our numerous passengers.”

BA, this year will intensify its strategic joint venture with other airlines to improve and enhance the global airline business.

BA has rolled-out products designed for ease and convenience of its passengers, which it believes have made it the “World’s favourite airline” over the years.

The company’s website - www.ba.com - is a one-stop shop for British Airways customers, giving them greater control over their travel plans.

The site currently has an average of 2.5 million visitors each week, and is available in 11 major languages including French, German, Spanish, Hungarian and Chinese, allowing customers to book flights, manage their booking and much more in their local languages.

In 2009, the website introduced a dynamic packaging facility enabling customers to book hotels, hire cars, local sightseeing tours, attractions and tickets to create the entire travel experience from one website.

A member of the royal family of European airlines, British Airways (BA) serves about 150 destinations in some 75 countries from hubs at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The carrier operates a fleet of more than 240 aircraft, consisting mainly of Airbus and Boeing jets.

BA extends its network to more than 500 destinations via code-sharing relationships, chiefly with American Airlines and other members of the Oneworld global marketing alliance, such as Iberia and Qantas.

In November 2009 BA agreed to merge with Iberia, Spain's number-one airline, and expects the new collaboration to build an even stronger airline offering passengers a wider route network.

Stanchart unveils smartbanking product

Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana, has unveiled smartbanking solution - targetted at making banking services easier for employees in the country.

The product, which allows customers process salaries of their employees at the comfort of their various offices, is also aimed at providing effective banking services that enable employees to access their salaries on time without any challenges.

This development makes it the Bank with the most products in the country and consolidates Stanchart’s leadership position in the financial sector, said Hemen Shah, Chief Executive Officer for West & Central Africa of the Bank, in Accra at the official launching of the product.

“At Standard Chartered, our brand promise of being the right partner to our client is central in all we do.“We strive to offer our customers creative innovations that deliver international standard quality to them. Increasingly, this means a situation where our customers enjoy 360 degree solutions to all their financial problems at any of our touch-points.

“In Ghana we want to be the best bank; it is difficult but with best employees, opening new branches, and up-grading technologies, we’ll definitely consolidate our leadership position,” Mr. Shah stated.

Mr. Mills-Robertson, Executive Director, Consumer Banking of Stanchart said: “Our 114-year commitment to the country has once more been translated into relevant, innovative solutions that will deliver real, tangible value to the customer.

“Customers no longer have to rush around town to process their employees’ salaries, but can do this through our branches across the country. In doing this, we have created these products with the most current technology and to offer superior services.

“Now, with a couple of keystrokes, your payroll will be dispatched through to the online platform. What’s more, your staff can also check their balances with a couple of keystrokes - through online banking or mobile banking.”

He indicated that the Bank as a right partner has naturally spent time thinking up boosters that will enhance package, that will turn organisation into a great place to work.

“We have done this by configuring a solution that literally puts the bank on your shop floor, right at the fingertips of your employees,” he said.

Alex Frimpong, Executive Secretary, Ghana Employers Association indicated that it is gratifying for the bank to respond to the needs of employees in the country.

He therefore urged other financial institutions in the country to develop similar products that are tailored to the well-being of employees to help deepen the country’s labour market.

NCA commits to mobile number portability

The National Communication Authority (NCA) is in the process of deploying mobile number portability system, a facility that will allow for consumers freedom of choice, says Kofi Totobi Quakyi, board chairman.

The right of movement, he said, will hopefully compel networks to enhance their level of service or lose the “consumer-cedi-vote” as they move to other networks.

“Consumers have a right to demand and expect value for money,” Mr. Quakyi said at the inauguration of the industry forum in Accra. The inauguration of the Forum, which is to serve as a platform to bring telecom operators together to discuss matters of common interest to the industry took place in the absence of the CEO’s of the telecom operators.

He said the NCA is counting on the introduction of the mobile number portability system to bring intense competition into the telecom sector and put operators on their toes.

The number portability system allows telephone users, particularly mobile phone users, to change service providers while retaining the subscribers existing number.

He said the Authority is excited by the high penetration rate in the telephony sector and will now demand from operators a commitment to provide customers a consistently high quality of service.

Mr. Quakyi said the high growth and associated high penetration rate in the telephony sector has brought in its trail consumer dissatisfaction due to poor quality of service provided.

“To an extent, consumers may be right in thinking that they are paying a penalty for being subscribers.

“The general notion is that the rapid expansion that took place has been at the expense of quality service delivery.

“This should not be the case since the two are not mutually exclusive. The situation has caught up with us and we will face squarely our responsibility to lead from the front in seeking corrective measures and improvement,” he said.

There is currently a wave of complaints from mobile phone subscribers resulting from continued call-drops, cross-calls, speech mutation, and wrong voice prompts among others; and the NCA has been criticised for being passive with the implementation of the mobile number portability system to deepen competition in the telecom sector and provide consumers freedom of choice.

The authority has set the beginning of 2012 as the start date for the practical implementation of the number portability after satisfying itself with the pretesting of the system.

Mr. Quakyi said the NCA has over the years helped to make the telecom industry attractive to foreign investors, which has culminated in the high growth, high penetration rate and increased attractiveness of the sector to foreign participation.

He said the NCA is not all about issuing licences and allocating frequencies and would do well to strike a balance between ensuring growth and development of the telecom industry and at the same time addressing public concerns over quality of service.

The Minister for Communication, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, said his Ministry will continue to encourage openness in the management of the communications sector.

He said consumers of communications services are major stakeholders of the industry and efforts must be made at all times to respond to their needs.

The Minister advised both consumers and service providers to consider themselves as major partners in the development of the industry and engage each other in a progressive manner to promote harmony and continuing healthy development of the sector.

He said the increasing complaints about deteriorating quality of services by operators must push the NCA to immediately publish quality of service standards and obligations of the service providers for public consumption.

“The publications must also include monthly performance reports of the operators.”