Monday, August 30, 2010

GM foods hold potential for nation

Ghana holds untapped potential in the consumption of Genetically Modified (GM) products as it awaits parliamentary approval for the deployment and the full commercialisation of the products, said Gary Blumenthal, a U.S Biotechnology Expert and CEO of World Perspective Incorporated.

“Ghana has capable scientists who could work on the application of the GM technology if the bill is passed and dispels the fears of sceptics who held the view that GM products are unsafe so they reconsider their position.”

Biotechnology is a technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, to make or modify products which when embraced would effectively solve food insecurity and ameliorate the likely impact of climate-change on farming and improving agricultural produce in the country, Mr. Blumenthal stated at a media roundtable discussion on biotechnology and other related issues hosted by the US Embassy in Accra.

Cabinet has approved the Bio-safety bill which will allow the full commercialisation of biotechnology and the deployment of Genetically Modified (GM) products in the country.

Promulgation of the bill into law will enable the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service and the Immigration Service to monitor, regulate and control genetically modified food products imported into the country.

In May 2008, Parliament passed a legislative instrument that permitted closed field-trails and tests of biotech products, but not their commercial production.

This entails confined field trials using biotechnology cowpea, sweet potato and nitrogen use efficient rice. These field-trials would be conducted in Savanna Research Institute, Crop Research Institute and Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute at the University of Ghana.

Dr. Alhassan Yakubu, Member of the Parliamentary, Select Committee on Environment, Science and Technology told B&FT that the draft bill when passed will authorise the use and consumption of GM foods in the country’s consuming market - adding that the passage will have enormous implications for the country’s future biotech crop production in the agricultural sector.

This will be the second GM foods-related bill that Parliament will pass after it earlier passed the Legislative Instrument on Bio-safety (LI 1887), which along with other existing legislation could be used to start field-trials of GM crops in the country’s agricultural sector.

The use of biotechnology has been the subject of an ongoing and healthy public debate in the country and many other countries. Some have argued that biotechnology and advanced science may help in dealing effectively with issues of food security and the likely impact on farming from climate change.

Professor Walter Sandow Alhassan, Coordinator, African Biosafety & Biotechhnology Policy Platform, mentioned that though Parliament was yet to pass the bill, Ghanaian farmer-based organisations have been using GM technology to enable them improve their production in order not to be outdone by their Togolese, Nigerian and Burkinabe counterparts who would flood the local markets with such products.

He called on government to speed up passage of the bill to allow Ghanaian farmers to use the GM technology and enhance production, which would ensure food security and contribute immensely towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

“Several other crops currently under development may be relevant for Ghanaian farmers; including insect-resistant cowpea, insect-resistant cotton, nitrogen-use efficient rice, and drought tolerant maize,” Prof Alhassan revealed.

GM crop production globally is reported to have reduced the need for external inputs, thus saving 356,000 mt of pesticides from 1996 to 2008. Its contribution to climatic change is estimated as equivalent to removing seven million cars off the road.

It expected that hectares under cultivation will double by the second decade of commercialisation in 2015.

Future prospects of a new wave of biotechnology crops between 2010 and 2015 are encouraging, therefore top priority must be assigned to the operation of appropriate responsible, cost-effective and timely regulatory systems.

In the 1990's, scientists from the United States Food and Drug Administration warned about health problems associated with GM foods.

PEF intensifies local content participation

Stakeholders in the oil and gas industry have proposed to government it develops policies that will have 90 percent local content participation by 2020 to make the industry more beneficial for Ghanaians.

This is to ensure that Ghanaians derive the maximum benefits from the sector by fully participating in the activities of the petroleum value-chain.

Dr. Osei Boeh-Ocansey, Director-General of Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF), addressing the media in Accra on the ‘Opportunities In Ghana's Emerging Oil And Gas Industry For Local Participation,’ said government needs to focus on standardisation and skills development for local operators in the industry in order to achieve 90 percent local content by 2020.

“Government should develop local content policies by following existing international best-practices to help in increasing local content and high local participation in the industry.

“As a country, we should clearly define appropriate standards and communicate these to the local companies; what assistance can be provided in helping local companies meet these standards; and how to monitor compliance regarding utilisation of local content in the oil and gas industry.

“A key development objective of government regarding the country’s oil discovery is to grow the economy rapidly to achieve accelerated development and industralisation.

It is anticipated that development of the oil and gas industry will be a source of accelerated growth, poverty reduction and general prosperity to the people of the country,” he stated.

Dr. Boeh-Ocansey also mentioned that the active involvement of Ghanaians in oil and gas development through local content and participation has become a major issue, and it is the desire of government and the citizenry to control as well as derive the benefit inherent in the discovery and production of the resources.

Government sources have indicated that a concluded draft local content policy, expected to be passed into law by Parliament soon, provides for an initial 50 percent participation by Ghanaians - in terms of staffing of companies servicing the sector as well as in the deliveries of goods and services.

Dr. Robert Adjaye, Rector, Petroleum Skills Development Institute, indicated that though government may have put in place a local content regime for the emerging oil industry, Ghana should not to relax and expect that things will fall into the right places. Rather, it should make meaningful contributions to ensure that policies put in place are pursued.

He urged the public to position themselves to strategically to derive maximum benefit from the sector.

Dr. Kumbour speaks on family-planning

The Minister for Health, Dr. Benjamin Kumbour, has said it is time for the country to restore its international leadership role in family-planning for the well-being of the citizens and development of the nation.

“Family-planning will reduce the number of mothers dying and increase the number of children surviving, and also improve the outcomes of girl-child education,” he stated.

Available figures reveal that family-planning could decrease child death to about 200,000 within the next 10-year period in the country, whilst almost 400 maternal deaths per year could also be averted.

Dr. Kumbour was speaking at the official re-launch of a new "Life Choices" family-planning promotion campaign aimed at enhancing education on available contraceptive choices to help the public make informed decisions.

The campaign, which is a four-year project under the Ghana Behavior Change Support (BCS) project with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and being managed by the John Hopkins Centre for Communication Programme (JHU/CCP), is in partnership with CARE and PLAN International, the Ministry of Health, and the Ghana Health Services (GHS).

“For us to achieve our development goals, we would have to put as much as efforts into creating a well-rounded set of interventions. These interventions could go a long way to forestall further damage to the natural environment and make all of the development efforts more sustainable - including the water system, roads, electricity, education, job-creation and many more.”

Dr. Kumbour observed that the high usage of contraceptives among the people will amount to benefits like poverty eradication, health benefits, good education and gender balance.

Dr. Elias Sory, Director-General, GHS, mentioned that the project was to assist in achieving health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDG) through sustained and coherent social and Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) interventions.

He revealed that BCC is aimed at increasing demand and use of commodities and services, and creating positive behaviour in areas of maternal, neonatal and child-health, family-planning, malaria prevention and treatment, and nutrition as well as water, sanitation and hygiene.

Dr. Sory said the project would work closely with regional, district and sub-district health teams to build and strengthen local non-governmental organisations to undertake effective and synergised community mobilisation in both rural and urban settings.

He opined that the project should also blend community, interpersonal and mass-media approaches, building synergy around a platform of integrated approaches to address a wide spectrum of health topics simultaneously over the duration of the project.

“Though family-planning services have been available in the country for some years now, there still exists a wide gap, and contraceptive usage among women in the country is less than 25 percent - and about 30 percent of women of reproductive age have their needs unmet,” emphasised Dr. Sory.

Professor Fred Sai, Former Adviser on HIV and AIDS, called for political leadership, commitment and support on reproductive and family-planning issues.

“The benefits would not only include gender equality and planned fertility, but also help slow down population growth and improve the quality of health for women and children - thus enabling government to focus on the socio-economic development of the country,” Prof Sai remarked.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Make the ports investor friendly-Hammah

The Minister of Transport, Mike Hammah has expressed worry about complaints of the high cost of doing business at the country’s ports.

Although, Ghana’s cargo throughput has increased from 6.5 million metric tons in 1996 to 15 million metric tons in 2008 and dropped to 12.5million tons in 2009, indications are that throughput for 2010 could reach 16 million metric tons.

This has positive implications for national development through economic growth, leading to poverty reduction; however, there are still complaints about high costs of doing business at the ports.

Consequently, the minister has suggested that a mechanism is developed between service providers and the Ghana Shippers’ Authority for discussions on measures and charges introduced by service providers that directly or indirectly add to the cost of doing business in the country.

He thinks that this mechanism should help address the numerous concerns of shippers and service providers alike in the overall national interest.

“I wish to encourage service providers to play it fair since theirs is a symbiotic relationship, where their survival is inextricably linked to the continuing stay in business of the shipper.

“From Kantamato, through Abossey Okai, to Suame and Kejetia ,from Bawku to Tamale, they travel to Taiwan, Dubai, Guanzhou, Korea and Europe to bring imports upon which the country’s tax revenue depends and therefore nothing must be done to frustrate the efforts of shippers’ in Ghana,” he told delegates at the fifth national Shipper’s day celebration in Accra.
The Minister also expressed concern about reports on the conduct of some shippers, who connive with freight forwarders, customs officials and other operators to evade customs duties and taxes through the alteration and falsification of documentation.

These activities do not only deprive the nation of the much needed revenue for national development but also have serious implications for national security and in the long run hinder trade facilitation as deterrent measures are instituted to curb these nefarious activities’ he said.

The two-day event – themed “Trade Facilitation” - A Catalyst For Rapid Economic Growth could not have been more appropriate, taking into account the critical role of trade facilitation in the economic development of the nation.

Ghana has witnessed a steady improvement in its ports infrastructure, with particular reference to quay extensions, new container terminals and acquisition of equipment, especially at the Tema port. Plans are underway to re-develop the Tarkoradi port, especially on account of the activities that will take place following the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Western Region.

In a related development, Ms Hannah Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry, announced that the Ghana Community Network System (GCNet) had been authorised to deploy the valuation module of the Ghana Customs Management System, which started in June this year to assist Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to validate valuation opinion provided by the Destination Inspection Companies.

"This has become necessary due to concerns being raised about revenue loss to government as a result of malpractices in the valuation of imports," she said.

Ms Tetteh expressed the hope that the migration from manual import declaration to electronic import declaration when completed would reduce some of the delays associated with the clearing process.

She urged the clearing and forwarding agents, as well as self-declarants, to ensure they became familiar with the electronic system so that when the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) port electronic data transfer system and the Ministries, Department and Agencies, whose activities impacted on the import system, became fully integrated with the GCNet system, shippers could reap the full benefit of the electronic system.

Ms Tetteh said the country's economy thrived on the trading activities of Ghanaian merchants adding that any malfeasance within the operations of the trading system would undermine the economy.

"It is in light of this that CEPS has to adopt the World Customs Organisation's Unique Consignment Reference System to facilitate legitimate international trade while at the same time strengthening effective audit based controls," she said.

She was hopeful that the 'binding together of data' concerning international trade transaction from the initial order and consignment of goods by the supplier, to the movement of goods and the arrival at the border, through to the final delivery to the importer, would enhance data exchange between trade organisations.

The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Kofi Mbiah, disclosed that his outfit had completed the construction of an administrative block for the Boankra Inland Port project and had extended electricity, telecommunication and water facilities to the site.

He said the authority was in the process of establishing logistics platform in Takoradi, through a public private partnership, to service the oil and gas industry.

"The Authority would soon introduce in Ghana the Electronic Cargo Tracking Note, which is expected to track the movement of cargoes from origin to destination," he said.

Source B&FT

2010 Nissan Sentra unveiled

Auto Parts Ghana Limited has officially unveiled the 2010 Nissan Sentra vehicle in Ghana.

The cars, manufactured with less fuel consumption mechanism to satisfy drivers demand has an impressive exterior decoration, which has an aero dynamic.

It also has interior decoration with high quality modern material, and provides comfort for passengers, with an ample passenger volume of 97.7 cubic feet.

The new Sentra the first vehicle to own a feature of two compartments, the divide and hides a trunk system, has a raised seat that can be double-folded to create space and flexibility for driving.

Fawaz Baitie, Sales Manager, Auto Parts Limited told B&FT in Accra at the ceremony that: “We are very pleased to celebrate the official launch of the 2010 Nissan Sentra model car in the country to consolidate our strong market presence in the automobile market.

“We look forward to bringing our customers here well-engineered Nissan vehicles that will deliver on driving pleasure and overall vehicle satisfaction.

“The design of Nissan Sentra expresses sophistication and functional beauty. From city to long-distance driving, for leisure and daily use, it also provides a stress-free driving experience.”

The 2010 Nissan Sentra is available with a 2.0 engine and 4 cylinders inline DOHC, with maximum power of 105kw (140hp) @ 510rpm and maximum torque of 199 for improved performance and fuel efficiency.

Baitie explained that its new MR2ODE engine built has a successor to Nissan's QG18 engine, and has high level fuel economy, reduced unit friction and improved driving performance with increased shift speed as well as advanced shift control programme.

Another feature with the Nissan Sentra is that of the Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) gear box that increases the benefits that come with the car, as in smooth power delivery, without any shift shock and excellent acceleration performance, he said.

“Competing with Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Mitsubishi Lancer, the Nissan Sentra’s handling abilities are unremarkable, We appreciate the Sentra’s technology offerings, including it optional navigation system, but it takes more than high-tech toys to hack it in this segment. The Sentra is not a bad vehicle to own,” Baitie remarked.

The Sentra has received the United States national high way Traffic Safety Administration’s five star highest rating for front impact crash safety.

GSB warns importers of substandard goods

Ghana Standards Boards (GSB) has declared its intention to crackdown substandard electrical cables that have entered the country’s local market through unapproved routes.

This will involve conducting a thoroughly search for seizure and destroying as well as closing down of shops dealing in the importation of such products.

Official database from GSB has established that most of the substandard electrical cables enter the country through the entry points, at its eastern frontier especially from Nigeria.

This is possible due to the rather porous nature of these entry points and resultant difficulty in tracking and inspecting these products.

Meanwhile a special task force made up of Ghana Standards Board and National Security in collaboration with Ministry of Trade and Industry have been formed with the mandate to deny entry into the country any substandard electrical cables, while those already in the country would be thoroughly searched for, seized and destroyed.

Electrical cables are high-risk goods and the substandard ones finding their way into local markets pose a very serious health and safety problems to the consuming public. The cause of some fire outbreaks in the country has been attributed to these substandard electrical cables used in wiring the premises.

The country lately encountered a number of major fire outbreaks, destroying properties, national assets and documents. The most hit ones are the recent fire outbreak that devastated the Ridge residence of the former President Jerry John Rawlings and consumed personal effects of the former first couple. The cause of the fire, has since believed to be an electrical cable fault.

Also was that of the foreign ministry’s fire that swept through a nine-storey building and destroyed several historical documents. Most of the documents, including those dating back to Ghana's independence from Britain in 1957, were burnt in the inferno.

Acting Executive Director of GSB, Dr. George Ben Crentsil, said this at a forum on electrical cables and accessories in Accra, aimed at clamping down importers of substandard electrical cables and accessories into the country’s local market.

Dr. Crentsil making a presentation on the topic: ‘The Importation of Substandard Electrical Cables and its Challenges’ mentioned that one major problem confronting the nation is the presence of substandard electrical cables that pose a danger to lives and property in the country.

“It is a problem that must be seriously dealt with to ensure the safety of people in the country.”

Mr. Kofi Nagetey, Acting Director, Inspectorate Division of the GSB indicated that the Board is committed to ensuring that every effort is made to address the challenges brought in by high risk goods, that is, products that have serious health and safety implications on the consuming public.

“The problems associated with these cables are high conduct resistance, bad and inadequate installation, shorter length and improper, labeling and marking,” he said.

Mrs. Kate Quartey-Papafio, CEO of Reroy Cables Limited observed that substandard electrical and accessories like switches, stabilizers brought into the country and improper installation of electrical appliances have largely contributed to the fire outbreaks in the country.

“Substandard cables are very dangerous because the high conductor resistances normally associated with substandard cable leads of cable overheating, with time causes a cable to lose its insulating properties thereby leading to circuit malfunction and possible electrocution.

“The fight against substandard electrical cables and accessories is a collective responsibility and not only one institution. Unless all of us intensify our efforts in our respective ways there is no way we can achieve success in this battle, Mrs. Quartey-Papafio remarked.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

KOSMOS increases loan facilities by US$350m

Kosmos Energy yesterday said that the company has signed definitive documentation to increase its project finance debt facilities by US$350 million, raising the total amount of its debt commitments to US$1.25 billion.

The funds will support Kosmos' share of the Jubilee Field phase-one development, appraisal of additional discoveries, and ongoing exploration activities on the West Cape Three Points Bloc and adjacent Deepwater Tano Bloc offshore Ghana.

The US$350 million of debt adds US$250 million to Kosmos' senior facility for a total of US$1 billion, and US$100 million to the company's junior facility for a total of US$250 million.

The additional amounts include commitments from Standard Chartered Bank, BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale, Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank, Credit Suisse International, Citibank, N.A., Natixis, HSBC Bank and FirstRand Bank Limited.

"We are pleased that we have expanded our project finance debt facilities. This will ensure Kosmos is fully funded to execute our development and pre-development plans, as well as pursue our aggressive appraisal and exploration programme underway in Ghana," said W. Greg Dunlevy, Kosmos Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer said in a statement issued in Accra.

"Additionally, we believe this achievement demonstrates the continuing strong support of the international financial community, including development institutions such as the IFC and AFC, for Kosmos' plans to remain in Ghana. Since Kosmos' founding in 2003, we have raised nearly US$2.3 billion in capital to develop, appraise and explore these assets and build a strong Africa-focused exploration and production enterprise," he said.

"Following Kosmos' recent announcement that the company will remain in Ghana, this funding demonstrates our commitment to further build the value of these world-class petroleum assets," added Brian Maxted, Kosmos’s Chief Operating Officer.
Kosmos Energy cancelled a deal to sell its stakes in the Jubilee oilfield to ExxonMobil, an accord that met fierce resistance from government.

“First production from the Jubilee Field's phase-one development, scheduled for late fourth-quarter 2010, and the recent Owo oil discovery highlight our ongoing development and exploration success. We hope to continue our great track record of finding oil for the people of Ghana and delivering substantial returns to our investors," the company said.

Ghana National Petroleum Corp, the state oil company which opposed the sale to the U.S. major, said it remained keen to up its own holding in a field due to produce first oil later this year and see output rise to 120,000 barrels per day by mid-2011.

Ghana is on track to pump its first barrel of crude in December, and is poised to become one of the world's fastest-growing economies next year after its offshore Jubilee field comes on line.

"In December this year, Ghana will join the league of petroleum producing nations as commercial production begins in the Jubilee Field," he told an oil and gas conference in the capital, Accra. "Ghana cannot see the oil industry as a miracle wand to solve all problems."

He said government was seeking to ensure transparency in the use of oil revenues from Jubilee, which he said holds about 1.6 billion barrels of crude, and to guarantee locals are employed in the sector.

Tullow Oil, operator of the Jubilee Field, said in February output was scheduled to start in November - though the company and government officials have since said output would start by the end of the year.

The field will take four to six months to reach planned output of 120,000 barrels per day - a level it will maintain for three years, Ghana's energy minister told Reuters in an interview last month.

The government has projected oil production will boost GDP growth to 20 percent in 2011, up from around six percent in 2010, making it one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

Source: B&FT

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

GroFin welcomes cash-starved SMEs

Mr. Mathias Dorfe, the Country Manager for Growth Finance (GroFin), has observed that most small and medium businesses fail to operate in the country because of lack of appropriate types of financing and adequate management expertise of entrepreneurs.

“Most Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) businesses fail because they lack the appropriate type of financing and adequate management expertise of entrepreneurs. Even those SME businesses that are doing well can no doubt do better with appropriate management support services,” he said.

The SMEs constitute over 85 percent of businesses in the country, but are being hampered by the adoption of inefficient technologies, poor management, inadequate working capital, high interest rates and low margins, and limited access to banks and other financial institutions.

Mr. Dorfe speaking at a media interaction in Accra as part of the company’s entry into the country’s SMEs financing market, aimed at empowering small businesses to grow through access to financing and capacity building programmes.

He revealed that GroFin has so far assisted 185 businesses across Africa with finance totalling US$72 million.

“At GroFin, we work in a friendly yet professional way, always championing the needs of small and medium business. GroFin goes the extra mile to tailor-make a solution in line with your needs. At the core of our finance solution is a fair risk-reward relationship between you and GroFin. By providing you with detailed business planning, cash flow analysis and financial forecasting, we not only assist you in identifying and mitigating your business risk; we are also able to create a finance solution that reflects both the cash flow and risk profile of your business.

“We support committed entrepreneurs in the country looking to start a new business or grow their existing business further, and consider the financial needs of each business in its entirety. We do not have a specific sector focus and welcome business opportunities in the service, commercial and manufacturing sectors of all industries - including franchises.

“GroFin does not use a standard interest rate. Instead, each unique need will be matched to a unique finance solution and will take into consideration the development stage of your business, the projected cash flow and profitability, the risk involved, your own capital contribution and any collateral you may be able to provide,” Mr. Dorfe said.

Anthony Annan, Business Development Manager, GroFin, explained that the company‘s objective is influenced by its passion for delivering long-term finance solutions and expert support designed to meet the growth needs of the SMEs.

“Ghanaians will find us different from most other financial institutions in the sense that we consider all entrepreneurs for finance, including start-up businesses. We focus primarily on the credibility of the entrepreneurs and viability of the business. We structure our facilities in accordance with the cash flow potential of the business while we provide business support services which help to mitigate the risks involved in the business. Our support services are designed to enhance the chances for success of the entrepreneur we finance.

“Our local business managers draw on the collective knowledge of a pool of experts across the six other African countries in which we operate to deliver local solutions that meet the growth needs of your business,” said Mr. Annan.

Vodafone Ghana earmarks GH¢150,000 as social investment

Vodafone Ghana Foundation is to commit GH¢150,000 into its ‘World of Difference’ project to enhance community development and social investment programmes.

Kyle Whitehill, Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana who disclosed this, said the investment is directed at making a positive contribution to the society by providing specialised capacity building programmes for locally registered charities and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) with suitable social investment strategies and objectives.

“By investing in the community in this way, the Vodafone Ghana Foundation seeks to make a contribution to poverty reduction and strengthening conditions for the most vulnerable members of society to participate in the country's future economic growth.

“When Vodafone Ghana Foundation was launched, one of the promises we made was to deliver a different yet refreshing approach to corporate charity. We said volunteerism and community building were going to be key drivers of our foundation,” he stated.

Mr. Whitehill, made this statement in Accra at a programme to officially introduce thirty final applicants selected to commence voluntary work in partnership with NGOs and deprived communities to make a positive contribution to the underprivileged people in society.

The applicants, including doctors, teachers, journalists, football administrators, nurses, social workers and lecturers, will be expected to bring their experience and knowledge to bear on the work of NGO’s they have opted to work with and help change lives in their communities.

The Vodafone World of Difference aims at bringing corporate philanthropy to a new level, whereby individual professionals step out of their regular jobs and get into peri-urban and rural areas - making a difference to rural folks’ prospects and lives.

The project, which is one of the key activities of the Foundation, currently runs in 17 operating companies and has seen individuals make a huge difference and transformation to the lives of communities and NGO’s across the world.

Ms. Afua Amankwa Sarkodie, Secretary Vodafone Ghana Foundation, said the project is a way of renewing the spirit of volunteerism in the country while reshaping the approach of corporate entities to helping the needy in society.

“I am optimistic that the applicants will bring a swift and sustained change to the lives of NGO’s and particularly the communities in which the NGOs’ operate.”

She explained that applicants will be spending a total of two months with a chosen NGO or charity and get paid for the period. This is to make their stay as pleasant as possible.

Dr. Kobina Quansah, Board Chairman of the Foundation, said “I am excited for the future of our country. I am excited that there is hope, that we still have committed young men and women who are willing to sacrifice their time and knowledge to build our country.”

Vodafone had invested over 100 million pounds in projects since 2002, concentrating on disaster relief, helping disadvantaged young people via sport and music initiatives, and specific local projects across Vodafone's 23 foundations worldwide.

Vodafone is the world's leading international mobile communications group, with approximately 269 million customers as of June 30, 2008. Currently, it has equity interests in 27 countries across five continents and over 40 partner networks worldwide.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Report on mining’s contribution to economy out

Local mining companies’ contribution to public finance constituted 7.2 percent of their total turnover paid to government, the 2009 Global Mining Report has disclosed.

Available data indicate that the mining companies’ combined turnover recorded an excess of US$600 million as at the end of 2003.

The second edition of the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC) 2009 Global Mining Report on ‘Total Tax Contribution’ (TTC), revealed that the country’s mining sector taxes, royalties and other contributions amounted to 56 percent - with property and corporate tax income recording 26 percent - of the country’s total tax payment.

The study, which justified mining companies’ long-asserted claims of significant economic contributions to the public finances slated for national development, also disclosed that the average wage and salaries per employee in the country’s mining sector recorded US$11,733 - with employment taxes per employee registering US$3,049.

“One company made a large contribution to the government and public finances in 2008 totalling approximately US$9 million. Of this, less than one percent is corporate tax, with other taxes and contributions making up more than 99 percent of the total,” the report stated.

The study, which aims to bring greater transparency to the full contribution that mining companies make to public finances, covered the income taxes paid by mining companies and analysed their total payments to governments for the year ended 2008.

It also intends to pressure both government and business to increase transparency in the extractive industries with a call for companies to publish how much they pay, and for governments to publish what they receive and how they use such revenues.

The result will provide new information about the economic footprint of mining companies and how they contribute to public finances and the communities where they operate.

The study involved 22 mining companies operating in some 20 different countries - with seven companies from Ghana – and covered a turbulent period, with the financial crisis unwinding and the start of the global economic recession. The impact of the downturn on the sector is reflected in the result - the total tax rate increasing.

Mr. George Kwatia, Tax Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers Ghana, presenting the findings of the study in Accra explained that the contribution of the mining sector is usually not recognised.

He revealed that the 22 mining companies that took part in the survey had a large number of employees and made an important contribution in employment taxes. The companies reported a total of 302,880 employees in the countries for which they provided data, and a total of US$1.7billion in employment taxes borne and collected.

On average, for each one of their employees, these mining companies paid an amount of US$15,349 to government in employment taxes alone, split between US$5,290 taxes borne and US$10,059 taxes collected.

“Employment taxes per employee are an indication of the direct benefit brought to public finances for each job created or maintained by these companies.”

Corporate income tax formed 40 percent of all taxes and contributions in addition to other non-income taxes comprising royalties, Value Added Tax (VAT) and infrastructure funding.

It was also confirmed that mining companies contribute substantially to public finances, as an amount equivalent to 15.3 percent out of their total turnover was given to governments.

Ghana is endowed with minerals such as gold, diamond, manganese and bauxite as well as other industrial minerals like salt, limestone and kaolin that are exploited on a small-scale in the country.

Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Chamber of Mines, Dr. Joyce Aryee, explained that the release of the report, which is timely, vindicates the mining sector’s huge economic contribution to government and the national development.

“Most people believe that extractive companies - which are mostly trans-nationals - are interested in extracting the non-renewable resources, repatriating huge profits and leaving the host country dry. The perception is that these extractive companies milk their host countries dry.”

Dr. Aryee mentioned that mining companies have over the years consistently maintained the position as the highest gross foreign exchange earner as well as providing jobs in the country.

Mineral royalties increased from GH¢1.9 million in 1990 to approximately GH¢90 million in 2009.

Data from the Minerals Commission indicate that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the mining sector increased from US$6 million in 1983 to US$427 million in 2007.
The mining industry in 2009 also paid an amount of GH¢125 million as corporate tax while GH¢1.7 billion was collected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from the sector.

Mineral revenue for the first quarter of 2010 stood at US$809.89 million - up from US$640.15 million for the same period in 2009.

“Government need to increase the quantum of mineral royalties that go to the mining communities - and it should be earmarked for specific developmental projects in the mining communities,” Dr. Aryee stressed.

GroFin to rescue SMEs

Growth Finance (GroFin), a multi-national SMEs finance and development firm, has officially opened its corporate office in the country to commence business operations.

The company’s entry into the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) financing sector is aimed at empowering small businesses to grow through access to financing and capacity building programmes.

The SMEs constitute over 85 percent of businesses in the country, but are being hampered by the adoption of inefficient technologies, poor management, inadequate working capital, high interest rates and low margins, and limited access to banks and other financial institutions.

Mathias Dorfe, the Country Manager for GroFin indicated that: “If you are an SME entrepreneur whose business needs term finance of between the Ghanaian cedi equivalent of US$50,000 and US$1.0 million over a tenor of up to six years to grow your business, and also believe expert business support service will help your business growth agenda, then GroFin has come specifically for you.

“GroFin does not use a standard interest rate. Instead, each unique need will be matched to a unique finance solution and will take into consideration the development stage of your business, the projected cash flow and profitability, the risk involved, your own capital contribution and any collateral you may be able to provide,” he said.

Mr. Guido Boysen, Chief Investment Officer (CIO), GroFin, explained that the company‘s objective is centred on its passion for delivering long-term finance solutions and expert support designed to meet the growth needs of the SMEs.

“Ghanaians will find us different from most other financial institutions in the sense that we consider all entrepreneurs for finance, including start-up businesses.

We focus primarily on the credibility of the entrepreneurs and viability of the business. We structure our facilities in accordance with the cash flow potential of the business while we provide business support services which help to mitigate the risks involved in the business. Our support services are designed to enhance the chances for success of the entrepreneur we finance.”

“Most SME businesses fail because they lack the appropriate type of financing and adequate management expertise of entrepreneurs. Even those SME businesses that are doing, we can no doubt do better with appropriate management support services.

“Our local business managers draw on the collective knowledge of a pool of experts across the six other African countries in which we operate, to deliver local solutions that meet the growth needs of your business,” Mr. Boysen.

July inflation slows to 9.46 percent

Headline inflation for the month of July dropped marginally to 9.46 percent, a further decline of 0.06 percentage points from the June figure of 9.52 percent, latest figures released by Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) have shown.

The current fall is the 13th consecutive time that the country’s inflation rate has declined, paving the way for a further policy rate cut by the Bank of Ghana – which has indicated it signals continuous stability of the real value of money and makes banks more willing to reduce lending rates. Last month, the policy rate was reduced by 150 basis points to 13.5 percent.

The fall in the rate also puts inflation at its lowest level since December 2007 and, if the trend persists, leaves the West African frontier economy in line to firmly achieve a key criterion for the implementation of the Eco – the regional currency unit being pursued by the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ).

Current downward pressures on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) were driven generally by both the food and non-food sectors, but the non-food component, which constitutes 55.09 percent, exerted much more pressure with an increase to 11.96 percent from the June figure of 11.89 percent, as compared to food component which represents 44.91 percent and recorded 5.84 percent inflation after increasing to 6.13 percent in June.

Dr. Grace Bediako, Government Statistician, briefing the media in Accra, explained that the items in the non-food basket such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco and narcotics (18.71%), hotels and restaurants (17.13%), clothing and footwear (16.53%) and housing, water, electricity and gas, were items in the non-food sub-group that recorded high inflation rates above the group average of 12.20 percent.

Government has attributed the continuous drop in the inflation rate to the effects of government’s relatively tight fiscal and monetary policies and the stability of the cedi against major trading currencies in the past quarter.

A statement from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning said inflation rate for July dropped despite the over 50 per cent increase in government expenditure in 2010

The statement said the notion that government was holding back payments to creditors which had caused the inflation rate to decline and was also starving commercial banks of cash inflow, thereby making it difficult for the banks to reduce their lending rates was not only false but a complete misrepresentation of the facts. “Contrary to what the critics believe in, Government expenditure is rather on the increase,” it added.

The ministry explained that inflation reached 18.1 per cent in December 2008 as a result of demand pressures arising from the fiscal expansion stance of the previous government and rising crude oil prices.

It said this led to a build-up of strong inflationary pressures in the economy, which caused the inflation rate to continue to rise in the first half of 2009, reaching an all time high of 20.7 per cent in June.

The statement said the inflation was also fuelled by the weakened domestic currency, which lost more than 30 per cent of its value against the dollar between July 2008 and June 2009.

However, it said since June 2009, the inflation rate had been on a steady decline, reaching 16 per cent in December 2009, and by June this year, the inflation rate had dropped to 9.5 per cent and expected to reach at least seven per cent by December this year.

On course to achieving single digit, The Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, says government is on course to achieving eight percent single digit inflation by December 2010 as inflation continues its downward trend. The government’s end of year inflation target is pegged at 9.2%.

Inflation slowed from 20.7 percent in June after the cedi closed down its decline against the dollar. The cedi, which declined 15 percent against the dollar in the first half of 2009, rose 4.5 percent in the second half of that year and is little changed this year.

In the previous year, the rate of inflation, which stood at 18 percent in October 2009, declined to 16.9 percent in November and then to 15.9 percent in December 2009.

The possibility of further easing of inflationary pressures, according to analysts, hinge on more favourable food prices and continuous exchange rate stability – two factors that have been key to sustaining the current trend.

Some analysts however contend that the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSS) coupled with crude oil price dynamics on the global front will serve as upside risks to the current trend of inflation.

The Bank of Ghana is expected to take a cue from this further fall as it monitors closely events in the economy, in anticipation of the Monetary Policy Committee’s deliberations in September.

Private sector and business sentiments are also likely to improve as they look forward to the banking sector to lower lending costs in line with the spate of macro stability and the fall in cost of mobilizing funds and deposits.

Aero offers online check-in voucher for customers in Accra

Aero Contractors, a regional airline operator, has introduced an online check-in and online excess baggage vouchers on Accra-Lagos–Accra route.

Passengers can now check-in and buy discounted excess baggage vouchers online at

The online check-in and excess baggage portal is open for booked passengers to select their seats and generate and print their boarding passes starting from seven days up to two hours before their flight departure; while excess baggage can be purchased online as from when the booking is confirmed up to one hour before departure.

This innovative service, according to the airline will save time, and enable customers to take control of their travel plans, chooses their preferred seats and is rest assured that they are on the flight without any anxiety.

Aero’s Head of Commercial, Robert Prophet said; “This is an exciting innovation which will help our customers handle their travel plans better, choose their seat and give them more time to pursue other important ventures. We are committed to giving our customers a stress-free online experience.”

It is very simple and easy to check-in and buy your excess baggage voucher online. All the customer needs to do is to visit, click on the online check-in tab on the home page of Aero website and enter the booking reference and surname in the space provided. Click on terms and conditions check box to confirm you have read it. Click ‘next’ to access the portal. Carefully read and follow the instructions on the pages.

“It is a whole new experience for our Accra-Lagos-Accra passengers, as they will no longer have to queue up for boarding passes at the airport, and of course enjoy about 80% discount on the online excess baggage voucher. Passengers with online check-in boarding passes are expected to approach the airport check in desks for all international flights for the purpose of identification and necessary verification.”

“Aero remains at the forefront of e-travel experience for her numerous customers in the region,” Mr. Prophet said.

Billabong Ghana showroom opened

The Australian High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr. William Billy Williams has officially opened Billabong showroom to commence business operation in the country.

Billabong, a subsidiary of Woolworth Ghana, is an Australian youth apparel manufacturing company that designs and produces high quality, functional products for surfing, skateboarding, wakeboarding and snowboarding sports.

It has a long and distinguished history of leadership in the designs and distribution of sport ware and lifestyle industry and has demonstrated a strong commitment to the environment, providing sustainable products.

Mr. Williams at the ceremony in Accra expressed delight about Billabong’s entry into the country’s retail sports ware market, saying “the entry marks a wonderful development into the country’s business expansion programme which will help create jobs for the country’s youth.”

Billabong’s designs depict lifestyle which is synonymous with Australia’s culture.”
He stated that Australia is increasingly deepening its long term partnership with Ghana which is a deep rooted relationship that existed between the two countries.

“This reflects Australia’s commitment to broadening and deepening engagements with Ghana across a spectrum of issues including enhanced trade and commercial investments, strengthened diplomatic links and increased development assistance.

“We are partnering selected number of Ghanaian organisations who have successfully gone through a rigorous and competitive process to implement developmental projects," he said.

Australia government this year announced its development assistance to Africa by more than 40 per cent to 163.9 million Australian dollars in 2009/2010.

Mr. Williams said the grants project, namely the Direct Aid Programme, Africa Regional Small Activities Scheme and the Australian Human Rights Small Grants Scheme would be working in areas such as education, solar energy, provision of street lights, health, sanitation, assistance to women co-operatives and human rights advocacy groups.

Joe Ofori-Atta, Chief Executive Officer of Woolworth Ghana said the establishment will expose Ghanaian youth to the surfing sport and will offer jobs as well.

Ernest Bendeman, General Manager, Billabong South Africa indicated that the entry into the Ghanaian retail sector is a manifestation of the company’s determination to sustain its business relationship with its Ghanaian customers.

“Billabong is in the country for a long haul which would help create jobs for the youth and reduce unemployment situation,” he remarked.

Kofi Annan’s plea

African heads of state, industry representatives, the international donor community and farmers will meet in Ghana at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in the first week of September to create an action plan on the acceleration of a Green Revolution in Africa.

Chaired by Kofi Annan, chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), this is the first time the forum will be held in Africa. It is expected to be one of the continent’s major gatherings of both public and private players to focus solely on agriculture development.

“We will be looking to governments for leadership to create an environment that will enable agriculture to prosper and grow and we will be looking to the private sector to drive and sustain that growth,” says Kofi Annan. “Working together we can achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa.”

The AGRF promotes investments and policy initiatives that will drive income growth for African farmers in an environmentally sustainable way. The AGRF will also show progress in unlocking Africa’s agricultural potential and facilitating sustainable economic growth thanks to new investment and public-private partnerships.

“As Secretary General of the United Nations, I called for a uniquely green revolution in Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015. And six years later, I am encouraged to see that the Green Revolution has taken hold and is gaining momentum.

We have reached global consensus that agriculture is Africa’s lifeline and, from that realization, we are gaining global support and funding commitments as well as the support of African governments and the attention of the private sector. But we need an action plan to translate this momentum into tangible support for Africa’s famers,” says Mr. Annan.

To substantially increase food production in Africa requires a comprehensive and integrated approach to improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of smallholder farmers. The new expansion must take into account its effect on climate change – the warming planet is expected to reduce yields by 20-30 percent by 2050 if left unchecked.

A number of private players will take leading roles at the AGRF.
Jørgen Ole Haslestad, Chief Executive, Yara International ASA, says: “At the African Green Revolution Forum in Ghana we expect to continue the momentum from other recent summits. We need both the entrepreneurship attitude from business and political leadership to create environments that enable financing and smallholder farmers to flourish.”

Clive Tasker, Chief Executive, Standard Bank Africa, says: “Commercially viable agriculture can yield food for millions and eliminate hunger. Farmers, NGOs, public and private partners will sit at the same table at the African Green Revolution Forum. Together we will support the real progress on the ground.”

The NEPAD Agency Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, says “Africa has the potential to become a major food producer ensuring food security on our continent and beyond. This opportunity can only become reality if systemic transformation takes place at the farmer, NGO, policy and continental level.

Moving AGRF to Africa, is a clear statement on the need for rooting the Green Revolution on the ground, and will be a key driving force, in eliciting stakeholders’ commitments to transformation.”

"Governments must create the right policy environment to allow for appropriate investments in research and development to enhance productivity and increase production" says Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD).

Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation, says “The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to continue our almost century long commitment to food security around the world. As we look back on the lessons of our own Norman Borlaug and his colleagues, we are proud to now work with dedicated partners to bring a Green Revolution to Africa.

The African Green Revolution Forum is an enormous opportunity to connect partners from governments, foundations, NGOs and the private sector to find new ways to increase food security in an era of climate change and establish Africa as a thriving and innovative global agricultural market.”

The Ministers, private sector partners and donor representatives at the AGRF will launch national breadbasket projects for Ghana and Mali.

The projects, which enable agricultural areas with high production potential to gain access to new markets, are a model for delivering on the AGRF’s aims to achieve food security through sustainable agriculture and to reduce poverty in Africa.

The AGRF will also review progress of the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor in Mozambique, and the second corridor project in Tanzania.

Ford ranked highest quality among non-luxury cars

For the first time, the three Ford brand has been ranked the highest initial quality model among all non-luxury brands, J. D. Power and Associates’ 2010 Initial Quality Study (IQS) has revealed.

Ford which continues to outpace the overall industry’s quality improvement, has posted nine consecutive years of gains in the closely watched quality study, based on consumer evaluations after the first three months of new-vehicle ownership.

Some of Ford’s most popular nameplates received top honours for their respective segment, including Ford Focus, Ford Taurus and Ford Mustang.

As a company, Ford has eight models in the top three positions within their respective award segments. The company’s Hermosillo Assembly Plant also received the Silver Plant Quality Award for outstanding quality in manufacturing.

J. D. Power and Associates’ 2010 Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 82,000 new 2010 model-year vehicle owners after they have driven their new vehicles for three months. It measures problems per 100 vehicles and was based on November through February registrations.

Bennie Fowler, Ford Group Vice President, Global Quality & New Model Launches,said: “These results are remarkable in many ways,” adding that,“Steady and meticulous attention to new model launches along with consistency in how we do them across the brand and the globe are having a very positive effect on the initial quality of our all-new or redesigned products. These results are a true testament to the strength of the One Ford Plan.”

“The Blue Oval is becoming synonymous with high quality,” Fowler said. “While we are pleased with where we are today, our job is not done. Our plan is to keep improving quality each and every year.”

Automation of business registration underway

Ghana Community Network Service Limited (GCNet) is spearheading automation of the Registrar-General’s Department (RGD) to reform business registration processes, promote transparency, and enforce tax compliance in the country.

The project, valued at US$59 million, will fast-track online business registration, searches and filing of returns when automation is completed in April 2011. It will improve companies and businesses registration, civil marriage registration and estate and death gratuity administration.

The automation when completed will connect the Department to all the tax agencies, including Internal Revenue Service, Value Added Tax and the Customs Exercise and Preventive Service. This is under the government e-Registration programme (GeReg), which is in partnership with the World Bank Group and managed by the INFOTECH.

Under the programme, INFOTECH - the lead technology partner - will develop the GeReg system that is to support the new business processes at RGD as part of administrative reform to streamline operations.

Mrs. Jemima Mamaa Oware, Chief State Attorney at the RGD, spoke with B&FT after the signing ceremony between INFOTECH, GCNet and the Department in Accra - saying that the investment will bring significant improvement in revenue collection at all collection points connected to the system, thereby plugging most sources of revenue leakage and augmenting transparency of operations in the business registration process.

She explained that the time and cost of registering and doing business is set to drastically reduce from next year, following automation of the Department.

“This development represents a significant milestone in the project as it will provide the baseline to proceed to the next stage of the GeReg system development, which forms part of the administrative Reforms of the business process re-engineering project to streamline its business processes.”

Mrs. Oware added: “This is a major administrative reform to achieve its vision of becoming a highly progressive department able to effectively service its customers, which will increase revenue with more supported revenue-generation services.

“It will ease and improve confidence in Ghanaian businesses as companies’ information will be made readily available through the system.”

Patrick de Souza, Network Manager, GCNet, indicated that the automation would permit clients to do business with ease by the press of the button, and this would enable the company to effectively service its customers.

“Once the system is linked to the various revenue agencies, it will make it easier to check companies that default in their tax obligations," he said.

He indicated that the intervention of GCNet has enhanced business facilitation: through improvements in the processes for company registration, and the issuance of documentation through the deployment of an electronic platform for government ministries department and agencies.

He emphasised that the operations of GCNet has become a hallmark in the documentation management of the country’s business sector and is being hailed by other countries - who are adopting it - and added that GCNet will continue to invest in ICT infrastructure, hardware and software to ensure that its operating systems are stable, reliable and secure to meet its high operational standards and requirements.

“In spite of the current hardware capacity, GCNet is committed to a programme of new investments in ICT to ensure that it deploys systems at the cutting edge of technology and which meet international best practices.” Mr. Souza remarked.

Mr. Suresh Agarwal, Managing Director of INFOTECH, the lead technology partner, revealed that the project started in April 2010 and that INFOTECH and RGD have been working closely together for the past three months in defining the Business Requirement Specifications.

“The scope of the project includes Company and Business Registration, Marriage Registration, and Estate and Death Gratuity Administration.

“This conceptualised as a public private partnership to design, finance, build, operate and transfer an e-Government application for the revenue generating agencies and the Registrar General’s Department,” Mr. Agarwal said.

Rakish 2011 Sonata sedan car unveiled

Hyundai Motors and Investments Ghana Limited have officially unveiled its sixth and latest generation of the 2011 Sonata i45 sedan model car in Accra.

The new generation, which has taken Hyundai automaker four years and US$372 million to develop, is a clear departure from the previous design and is packed with tools to entertain users and provide safety and comfort.

More flamboyant in its styling, the new Sonata has a rakish fascia with peeled-back headlights that cut into the angular front bumper and has a three vertical slat chrome grille that houses a big Hyundai logo.

Slightly larger than the existing Sonata, the new car is substantially roomier inside and special attention has been paid to materials and design, making it substantially more up-market than before, the company’s Marketing Manager Manish Daryanani told journalists at an official launch in Accra.

“As has been the case with every new generation of Sonata, this 2011 model new Sonata - code-named YF - adopts Hyundai’s new ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design language and boasts outstanding performance with the powerful 2.4 Theta GDi engine.

“Every 2011 Sonata comes with built-in iPod, USB and auxiliary input jacks. Just plug and play using an available Hyundai iPod cable. Track and artist information will appear on the stereo readout and can be controlled with the stereo head-unit or steering wheel mounted audio controls. Bonus: Your iPod charges while it plays,” he explained.

“It’s no wonder that our safety engineers wanted to equip the Sonata with as many features and technologies as they can. Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control and an advanced ABS braking system are standard across the board - all of which are designed to help you outmaneuver dangers on the road. And when it comes to protecting passengers, the Sonata’s reinforced design and advanced front airbags are there to help in the event of a crash.

“All of which adds up to a Sonata that’s one of the safest cars in its class, and safe enough that our engineers can sleep soundly at night.”

The sixth and latest generation Sonata was launched in September 2009 in Korea and reached cumulative sales of 5 million units worldwide as of May 2010. In the United States alone, 21,195 units were sold in May, taking it into the top-10 best-sellers in the U.S market for a second month in a row.

Sonata is now entering the sixth generation since its launch in 1985, gaining steady popularity worldwide as Hyundai’s leading sedan and competing head to head against Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord.

Launched in 1985, the first generation Sonata was based on the mid-sized car called Stella and came with a 2-litre engine. The second generation Sonata in 1988 was the first Korean mid-size to be fitted with a front-wheel drive system.

The third generation Sonata was the first in its class to be fitted with airbags, while the fourth generation Sonata in 1998 was mounted with the high performing Delta engine that was developed entirely with proprietary technologies.

Monday, August 9, 2010

BoG pledges to deepen bond market

The Bank of Ghana has pledged to deepen its commitment to development of the country’s bond market. Aimed at boosting investor confidence and sustaining investor appetite, this will provide the required long-term financing needs for economic growth, Kwasi Amissah-Arthur, Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), has stated.

“As a market for long-term savings, the bond market in the country can only develop within the context of macroeconomic stability.”

The bond market, which is also known as the debt, credit, or fixed income market, is a financial market wherein participants buy and sell debt securities - usually in the form of bonds.

Among other initiatives the Bank intends to implement to ensure development of the market are included: recognising the primary dealer system, strengthening the trade and settlement infrastructure, harmonising the legal and regulatory framework and responsibilities of market players to support the growth of the market, Mr. Amissah-Arthur told investors, bankers, government officials and other participants at the Access Bank’s 2010 Seminar on the Bond Market in Accra.

Mr. Amissah-Arthur explained that the strategy for developing an active bond market in the country critically depends on continued fiscal consolidation and macroeconomic stability, with private and public enterprises having strong balance sheets and respect for contractual obligations.

He indicated that the Bank will collaborate with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to release an assurance calendar for bonds to help deepen the market and establish incentives to encourage secondary market activities.

“To develop the bond market further, the BoG has facilitated the establishment of market infrastructure for efficient issuance trading and settlement systems of government securities. These include establishment of the Central Securities Depositary, and the Electronic Real Time Gross Settlement System which ensures that traded securities are settled immediately after sale - in line with international best practices.”

Mr. Amissah-Arthur also said the Bond financing strengthens the financial sector and diversifies financing channels in the economy away from traditional bank financing and stock market. Bond markets also provide new channels for investing long-term savings.

“Deep and liquid bond markets provide governments with opportunities to issue long-dated instruments, and to effectively manage debt without disturbing macroeconomic stability,” he stressed; adding that successful bond market development hinges critically on macroeconomic stability fostered by monetary prudence and fiscal sustainability.

The seminar, which is the first of many in a series of such events to be hosted by Access Bank, was aimed at addressing topical issues which entrench global best practices with a view to contributing to development of the country’s economy.

“At Access Bank, we recognise the enormous potentials available in the country’s capital market. We therefore seek to bring our tested expertise, garnered from across the continent, to bear – so as to harness these potentials and position the Ghanaian capital market as a leader in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This conference is a demonstration of our commitment towards actualising this objective,” said Mr. Herbert Wigwe, Group Deputy Managing Director, Access Bank PLC.

Yomi Akapo, Managing Director, Access Bank Ghana, said: “At Access Bank, we strongly believe that an active Bond market will help create alternative sources of financing and, more importantly, free-up capital for businesses through the issuance and trade of corporate bonds.

“We therefore seek to contribute to development of the Bond market by supporting government’s efforts in grooming this market, and also aid in strengthening investor participation for an efficient secondary market.”

Cedi expected to remain stable

The local currency has been predicted to remain stable for the rest of the year, reinforcing sentiments expressed by the Bank of Ghana that the macro-economy will continue to stabilise in the short-term.

Analysts and researchers in separate reviews of the economy have observed a strengthened currency since the start of the year, and forecast a similar trend for the last six months of the year.

Earlier in the year, the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) reported that lower inflation and currency stabilisation were important outcomes of government’s fiscal restraint and prevailing upbeat expectations about Ghana becoming an oil-economy.

“There have already been signs of the cedi appreciating against key currencies in the first quarter of this year, and this trend is expected to continue for the rest of the year,” CEPA had indicated.

More recently, analysts at Business Monitor International (BMI), a business and economic intelligence provider based in the UK, have forecast a “broadly stable” cedi in the coming months - and further anticipate that the local currency will trade sideways within the GH¢1.4100-1.4300 range against the US dollar.

“Our view is based on our expectation for the underlying drivers of the cedi to remain in balance. On the one hand, the current account should stay in deficit, with capital imports weighing heavily on the account. On the other hand, we expect sizeable inflows to the capital and financial account as Ghana receives increasing attention from foreign investors,” the analysts reported.

Ghana’s trade deficit - the major component of the current account - for the first half of the year widened to US$1.2 billion, compared to US$1 billion in the same period last year. The increase is owed to a higher rise in imports than exports – while exports grew by 22.8% to US$3.9 billion, imports in the first half of 2010 amounted to US$ 5.14 billion, 28.1% higher than the level recorded in the previous period of 2009.

This trend on the current account was significantly offset by Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows estimated at US$599.34 million between March and June this year. This figure represents 90.44% of the total value – US$662.68 million – of the 105 new projects registered by the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GEPC) in the second quarter of 2010.

These underlying drivers of the cedi’s value have been fairly balanced over the last few months and contributed substantially to the relative stability of the domestic currency in the period.

The local currency’s depreciation since late-2008 slowed in mid-2009, declining in year-on-year (y-on-y) terms by 14.8% against the US dollar as at December 2009 – an improvement from the 29.8% y-on-y depreciation recorded in June 2009.

Also, the cedi depreciated against the pound sterling and the euro by 22.4% and 16.2% y-on-y respectively in December 2009. By January this year, y-on-y depreciation had slowed to 10.2%, 20.7% and 15.6% against the US dollar, the pound sterling and the euro respectively.

This improving trend continued to March this year, when the cedi’s y-on-y depreciation against the US dollar slowed to 2.5%, and subsequently entered positive territory in June this year with y-on-y appreciations of 3.3%, 13.3% and 18.4% against the dollar, pound sterling and euro respectively.

Most researchers and market watchers expect the cedi - on the back of this impressive trend - to still perform strongly for the rest of the year, with new anticipated investment inflows proving enough to counter any deterioration on the economy’s current account.

As oil production begins in the final months of 2010, market indications are expected to reveal strong investor interest in Ghana’s economy, contributing to the overall favourable outlook for the cedi.

With this bullish outlook for the Ghanaian currency, businesses that rely on imports could see stable input costs that have overall positive effects on profitability.

CEPA, however, has warned of the downside effects of a strong currency – Dutch Disease – especially as Ghana becomes an oil province in West Africa. It has therefore called for effective and proactive management of the cedi to counteract any threats to export-competitiveness.

The Central Bank, though, projects that this trend, together with stable food and fuel prices as well as fiscal consolidation, will keep inflation in check and broadly around the year-end target of 9.2%.

Source B&FT

FAGRO, FBX signs agreement

The Food and Agric Show (FAGRO) and FBX Global Exhibition Services have entered into a three-year agreement to promote the 2010 FAGRO on the international platform as well as help attract and sustain investments for the country’s agricultural sector.

As part of the agreement, FBX Global Exhibition Services will bring on board 50 foreign companies from Spain, Portugal and China to exhibit and participate in FAGRO 2010 scheduled for Tuesday, October 12, to Sunday, October 17, 2010 at the Ghana International Trade Fair Centre.

FBX Global Exhibition Services is a multinational company based in Barcelona, Spain, and specialises in the organisation of exhibition promotions and showrooms in Southern Europe and China to promote countries that wish to exhibit their products, industry and culture on the global market.

The FAGRO Secretariat is the country’s promoter of the fair, under the theme “Sustainable Agriculture Through Appropriate Technology”.

The Chief Executive Officer, FBX Global Exhibition Services, Francesc Borras, signing on behalf of the company, said the collaboration would facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technologies across borders.

“FBX’s experience in the areas of food and renewable energies among others, and its knowledge of Africa, encourages us to firmly believe in a brighter future for this continent,” Mr. Borras said.

He pledged the company’s commitment to ensure that the country’s agriculture and FAGRO 2010 is more efficient, modernised, sustainable, international, profit-oriented and less expensive for farmers.

The Exhibition Director, FAGRO 2010, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, explained that the decision by the Secretariat to promote FAGRO on the international platform is to expose the country’s agricultural sector to modern agricultural methods.

“Projecting FAGRO will attract such technologies into Africa, since Africa has little or no capacity to develop these technologies to compete favorably on the international market to develop our economy.”

FBX and FAGRO’s collaboration will allow us to work in the coming years, in the same direction and with the objective of developing the agricultural sector which contributes over 50 percent to the country’s gross domestic product,” she said.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Superior service won us award – GT Bank

Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank’s focus has been on superior customer service delivery, hard work and effective banking strategies over the years, Joana Bannerman, Senior Manager, told B&FT after receiving a plaque on behalf of the Bank for winning the overall best bank for 2009 at the 9th Ghana Banking Awards ceremony.

GT Bank emerged the overall best bank after winning awards in several categories and accumulating the highest weighted score from both customer survey and corporate client assessments.

The award for the overall best bank takes into consideration scores accumulated in the customer survey across a range of categories including product innovation, customer care, corporate social responsibility and financial performance, during the year under review.

GT Bank, within four years of operating in Ghana, has grown its asset base by more than 1,000% to GH¢ 285.83 million at the end of 2009 with outstanding growth of over 858% in its profit-before-tax. The bank has also kept a high quality of assets, as is evidenced in a ratio of non-performing assets to total loans pegged at 3.57% in 2009 – against an industry average of 13.2%.

The Bank swept a total of eight awards in as many categories out of the total of 15, picking up first place in seven of them. These were: Best Bank in Advisory Services; IT & Electronic Banking; Product Innovation; Retail Banking; Short-term Loan Financing; Best Growing Bank; and the prestigious Bank of the Year for 2009. The other award came as first runner-up in customer care.

Stephen Abban, Group Head of Technology of GT Bank, said: “for four years, we have laid a strong foundation for the benefits we are reaping; we truly deserve it all.”
Other awards were given for the Best Banks in Medium and Long-term Loan Financing, both of which were won by the First Atlantic Merchant Bank – in addition to it being chosen as the best bank in customer care and picking awards in four other categories.

SG-SSB won two awards: Best Bank for Financial Performance, and Competitive Pricing. Standard Chartered Bank was adjudged the most socially responsible bank, while Ecobank and The Trust Bank won top prizes for Best Bank in Trade Finance and Corporate Banking respectively.

The Agricultural Development Bank grabbed awards in two categories, while Zenith, Prudential, Ghana Commercial Bank, United Bank for Africa and UniBank all won an award each.

In all, 17 banks won awards in various categories. Among them were CAL Bank, which won awards for Advisory Services and IT & Electronic Banking; Merchant Bank, which won awards in three categories; ICB, which picked up three awards; and Fidelity, which won two awards.

Mr. Wilson Atta-Krofah, President of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, speaking at the ceremony conveyed to banks the concerns of industry about the wide interest rate spread in the banking industry.

“My members have asked me to ask you why credit remains expensive in spite of the lower policy rate and declining inflation,” he stated.

He also wondered why banks, despite demanding collateral as security for loans, charged an additional cost for assuming risks to make up their total lending rates. He thus called on them to do more to ease credit conditions for industry.

Mr. Afotey Odarteifio, the Executive Secretary of Corporate Initiative Ghana (CIG), organisers of the Ghana Banking Awards, stated that his outfit had become famous for hosting landmark events for the banking industry.

Charting the progress of banks over the years, he praised the industry for continuing to innovate and leverage IT platforms and infrastructure to improve their business.
He cited Short Message Sending (SMS) banking as a particularly successful innovation that has raised the industry’s level of efficiency.

He also indicated that CIG is committed to finding ways of instilling deeper competition among banks in the country through its activities.

“We are also going to provide post-award feedback to the banking community while we continue to improve the awards,” Mr. Atta-Krofah assured.

MTN supports Play Soccer Ghana

Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) Ghana Foundation has presented equipment and cash donation valued at GH¢14,000.00 to Play Soccer Ghana, a local youth football academy.

The items made up of 500 pieces of MTN play soccer branded T-Shirt,200 pieces MTN Play Soccer branded Training bibs and 100 pieces footballs also include 12 pieces of first aid kits, 12 pieces inflators and assorted MTN products as well as souvenirs.

The presentation which forms part of the MTN’s corporate social responsibility initiative was also aimed at deepening the development of grassroots football while contributing to community development through innovative and sustainable means.

Mr. Robert Kuzoe, Executive Secretary, MTN Ghana Foundation at a ceremony in Accra said the objective of the presentation was to equip children with the requisite life skills needed for their healthy development into skilled, capable, educated adults and also to act as a catalyst for community development.

“The many health and educational projects we involved in across the country has seen MTN’s footprints in nine out of the 10 regions boldly attest to this fact.

MTN’s rational for supporting Play Soccer is rooted in our avowed belief in youth football development as a key to Ghana’s success at world football tournaments,” he said.
Mr. Kuzoe explained that as an African multinational heavily involved in football, we are excited about the innovation of using football as a social development tool in our deprived communities.

“The three editions of our pioneer flagship football reality show: MTN Soccer Academy has exemplified this fact by producing some young talents who have already featured for the various national teams,” he remarked.

Mr. Alexander Williams who received the items on behalf of Play Soccer Ghana thanked officials of MTN for their kind gesture, emphasizing that the academy will put in place proper monitoring and evaluation measures to ensure that the equipment would be put to good use.