Monday, January 23, 2012

Bui to discharge initial power in last qtr

The Bui Power Authority is hopeful of generating its first power in the last quarter of 2012, barring any adverse or unforeseen circumstances, its Chief Executive Officer, Jabesh Amissah-Arthur, has disclosed.

He told B&FT in an interview that the Bui Hydroelectrical Project (BHP) is scheduled to be fully completed in mid-2013. The Bui power project is a 400-megawatt hydroelectric facility that has been under construction since 2007.

The project is a collaboration between the government and Sino Hydro, a Chinese construction company. It will be the third major dam in the country after the Akosombo and Kpong hydroelectric dams.

Amissah-Arthur, speaking at a training programme for the company’s technicians at Akuse, explained that the major electro-mechanical components for the project have started arriving in the country.

He indicated that the first of such components which are the turbine runner and set-up transformer for the first unit of the Bui Project arrived at Tema Harbour last December.

“The turbine-runner is a key part of any hydroelectric plant because it extracts or converts the force of the water into mechanical power, which is then in turn converted into electrical energy afterwards.

“The set-up transformer is the component that will increase the voltage of the power generated to the higher level that is required to feed the power produced into the National Interconnected Transmission System.

“Other major components and equipment for the other two units of the project are expected to follow in the coming months,” he said.

He indicated that the equipment to be installed will be operated by a team of Ghanaian engineers and technicians.

“However, in order to operate them effectively and be able to maintain them properly, the Bui Power Authority has engaged the services of the VRA Training School in Akuse for the training of personnel.

“The programme is very important since it should equip the technicians with all the necessary information and skills for the proper operation and maintenance of the equipment.

“It is a huge investment and we want to ensure that the people who will operate the equipment at the Bui plant are very capable,” he added.

Glo commences ‘Reserve Your Number’ campaign

Glo Mobile Ghana Limited has commenced its ‘Reserve Your Number’ campaign aimed at providing the general public with a special interactive Glo SMS-based facility to enable customers reserve their preferred numbers on the Glo Mobile Network’s 023-3 number series.

The campaign will enable up to one million users in the country to reserve their preferred numbers on the Glo Mobile Network which marks the commencement of its activities marking the launch of the network.

George Andah, Chief Operating Officer of Glo Mobile Ghana addressing the media in Accra said: “The Reserve Your Number Campaign’ marks the first of a series of launch activities earmarked for the entry of the highly anticipated Glo Network onto the Ghana Market, adding that other exciting activities have been lined up which will culminate in a mega corporate and mass cerebration.

“In the increasingly dynamic world of business, we at Glo believe that the customer is the king. That is why we have decided to commence our launch activities with the ‘Reserve Your Number Campaign as a mark of honour to our customers and also in response to the feedback we have received from the public regarding people’s desire to acquire certain special numbers on a first request first served basis.”

He explained that the reservations will be limited to only million requests and shall be conducted on a first-request-first serve basis.

“In accordance with National Communications Authority guidelines on Number Registration, no single individual subscriber shall be permitted to reserve more than five Go Mobile numbers and the numbers will be activated upon the commencement commercial operation.”

He explained that the last three years the company had been methodically putting together everything needed to deliver world class service to customers.

“Our state-of- the art infrastructure includes over 1,600 base transceiver stations,four switches with capacity for up to 10 million lines with congestion free service, 18 Base switching centre, 800 3G Node Bs, an ultra-modern Call Centre and 25 Glo World outlets.

“The Glo Network is powered by the latest telecommunications technology in mobile data broadband and is complemented by the high-capacity Glo 1 submarine fibre-optic cable,” Mr. Andah said.

“Glo operations are backed up by a 2,900 kilometre-long network of terrestrial fibre optic ring which we successfully built across the country.

“With such a formidable technological foundation, we wish to assure customers about the quality and reliability of our network. We also believe that activating our integrated telecommunication system will generate a chain of direct and indirect employment and business opportunities throughout the country,” he remarked.

SMEs get boost

An initiative targetted at bringing thousands of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) online over the next year has been launched in Accra.

Christened ‘Africa, Get Your Business Online’ and powered by, it is to ensure that businesses across the county will have the opportunity to create their own websites and develop online presences for free.

This project was first launched as a pilot in 2010 by Google, showcasing a selection of businesses within Nigeria and was aimed at small and medium-size businesses, giving local companies the resources and skills to grow their companies online.

“The initiative is expected to transform the Ghanaian SME landscape and contribute to the country’s fast-paced economic growth by making it quick, easy and free for businesses to register online, at a time when more and more Ghanaians are accessing the internet,” said Estelle Akofio-Sowah, Google Ghana Country Manager, at the launch in Accra.

“You often hear an entrepreneur or business owner lamenting how hard it is to build an online presence due to the cost involved, unreliability of suppliers, or simply, their own lack of knowledge about the steps needed to build that online presence.”

She explained that ‘Africa, Get Your Business Online’ addresses these challenges by helping SMEs to take that first bold step towards being online: creating a website, listing themselves on Google maps and setting up a Google+ page.

Ms. Akofio-Sowah added that: “It is easy and free and the potential impact for a business is truly exciting. Together with our partners, we plan to help thousands of Ghanaian SMEs get online.”

Deputy Minister of Communications, Ernest Attuquaye Armah, in a speech read on his behalf said: “In line with goals to build a viable digital economy and sustainable information society in the country, the government supports projects and initiatives that help small and medium businesses in the country to join the digital revolution.

“Google’s ‘Africa, Get, Your Business Online’ initiative presents a significant opportunity for businesses to reach more customers and grow.

“Government remains committed to facilitating e-governance in the country and has been systematically putting in place the necessary platform for launching our nation into the growing world of information and communication technology.

This is evidenced by the robust deployment of ICT infrastructure by the National Information Technology Agency, an agency to facilitate government’s commitment to ensuring that the country is not left behind in the information and technology age.

“On the enhancement of the use of ICT in the country, the government on its part remains committed to facilitating policy developments aimed at promoting ICT education and developmental programmes that will ensure that the youth and graduates are equipped with the necessary information technology to be competitive on the jobs market,” he said.

Mr. Armah encouraged all businesses without an online presence to take advantage of the initiative.

Review of customs law begins

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) says the re-crafting of the country’s customs law will commence at the end of this month to harmonise and organize the administrative procedures and processes for effective revenue mobilization, the Authority’s Commissioner-General, Mr. George Blankson has disclosed.

The Customs Division of the GRA accounts for more than approximately 50 percent of total revenue collections agencies. Customs collected GH ¢ 3,604.82 million representing an excess of GH¢536.30 million against its last year’s revenue collection target.

Although the Customs collection is about 52 percent of total tax revenue from Import Duty, Import VAT, Export Duty, Petroleum Taxes, Import Excise and other taxes, it has relied on The VAT Service to collect Excise Duty on its behalf, except the Excise Duty on Petroleum products.

The Customs is expected to ensure the protection of revenue by preventing smuggling, but this is one area where it perceived by the public and the business community as weak.

As a frontline institution at the country’s frontiers, Customs also plays a key role in maintaining the territorial integrity of the country as part of the nation’s security network. In addition to these functions, Customs performs agency duties on behalf of other state institutions by enforcing laws relating to import and export restrictions and prohibitions.

Mr. Blankson speaking at a media interaction in Accra said: “The GRA's focus on the tax reforms has been on the review of the tax legislations for purposes of simplifying them and streamlining processes.”

“In this direction, a draft consolidated Administration Act, which brings together the administration provisions in the Act under which direct tax, VAT and indirect taxes and customs duties are administered, has been produced.”

He disclosed that a draft four year strategic modernization plan ending 2014 has been produced, and is expected to be the blueprint for the modernization of GRA.

“The management of GRA is devising strategies to increase revenue mobilisation to meet this year’s target and that it would focus attention on streamlining the operation of the customs bonded warehouses, Value Added Tax refunds, issuance of permits to boost revenue collection.”

“In spite of the challenges, the reform process is on course. GRA management is committed to ensuring that the objectives set for the modernization process are realized.

“Management will continue to maintain a careful balance between revenue mobilization and the reform agenda in the year 2012, to ensure that the revenue target is achieved and even exceeded to provide sufficient funds for national development,” he said.

The Authority anticipates to collect over GH¢11.16 billion for the 2012 fiscal year, after reforms helped boost collections in 2011.

This projection represents 28.3 percent over 2011 revenue collection of GH¢7.53 billion. The Authority as at December 2011 had collected GH¢8.71 billion, an amount that exceeded its target by 15.4 percent.

The revenue mobilisation performance for 2011 exceeded that of 2010 by 46.6 per cent, the GRA said.

Government in the 2012 budget statement predicts an increase in tax revenue from 16.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2011 to 17.3 percent in this fiscal year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Springboard Road Show

The 2012 Springboard Road Show has been launched with the target of rallying over one million youth within the next five years to rebuild Africa’s persistent socio-economic challenges, Albert Ocran, Executive Director of the Springboard Road Show Foundation, has disclosed.

“The impact of the 2012 Springboard Road Show is expected to be significantly multiplied. This is an unprecedented initiative with the potential to contribute to the transformation of the youth by promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and excellence that is essential for our national developmental effort,” Mr. Ocran said.

The Springboard Road Show is a personal-development conference aimed at equipping participants in areas like planning, investments, entrepreneurship, career-enhancement and relationships.

It is organised by the Springboard Road Show Foundation, a non-profit civil society organisation run by Legacy and Legacy, a human-capital development firm.
At a media briefing in Accra to officially launch the 2012 road show on the theme,

“Promoting Excellence through Innovation and Technology”, Mr. Ocran said: “With over 50,000 alumni, it is the foremost point of convergence and preparation for the country’s emerging crop of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.

“The 2012 road show will cover the nation, Gambia and the United Kingdom with a rare interaction with 30 high-profile speakers and business leaders.”

He announced that this year’s event, which will visit the 10 regional capitals, will commence with a national convocation at the Trade Fair Centre, La-Accra, on Saturday January 28. It will then proceed to Fountain Gate Chapel, Bolgatanga, on Saturday February 4; Radach Memorial Hall, Tamale, Tuesday February 7; and University of Development Studies (UDS) Auditorium, Wa, on Saturday February 11.

The road show will then continue at Sunyani Polytechnic Auditorium on Wednesday February 15;, Calvary Charismatic Centre (CCC) Kumasi on Saturday February 18; New ICGC Church Complex, Koforidua, on Wednesday February 22; UCC Campus, Cape Coast on Saturday February 25; Takoradi Polytechnic Auditorium on Wednesday February 29; and Ho Polytechnic Auditorium for the grand finale on Saturday March 3.

Mr. Ocran projected to reach between 15,000 and 20,000 participants in the main-country events, and will also visit 15 Senior High Schools to provide career-guidance and mentoring sessions for the students.

“We have consistently kept a database of attendees for the purpose of communicating with them and following up on their progress and some of their success stories. Over the years, we have built up a list of 50,000 alumni that we regularly keep in touch with through email, text and the media.”

He said: “If every young person in the country could be challenged to be informed, principled and excellent in their work, we will be on our way to building a better society and a stronger continent and raise our own success stories by engaging and challenging the youth with the right values and connecting them to role models who have been outstanding in their fields of work.

“I have no doubt in my mind that a child who grows up hearing stories and programmes on possibility, achievement, discipline and diligence in our various media will eventually end up living out these values and making a positive contribution to the development of our country and continent.”

He called on corporate organisations and the media to continue to support the use of the airwaves for educational and motivational interventions.

Daniel Asiedu, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Zenith Bank Ghana Limited, observed that Africa is currently coming under the spotlight of the international community.

“This calls for aggressive and sustainable development strategies to equip the youth, who are indeed the future of the continent, with tools and practical knowledge on technological advancement and innovation grounded on a culture of excellence. If there is a time when we need an informed and capable youth in the nation, it is now.

“We at Zenith Bank believe in the future of our nation, and therefore are particularly interested in the capacity-building of the youth.

“We will continue to invest in personal development by supporting activities that improve self-knowledge and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realisation of dreams and aspirations,” Mr. Asiedu stressed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to make mining become a blessing

The Chamber of Mines anticipates a mixed outlook for the country’s mining industry next year, expecting gold to sustain its good performance in the global market, while bauxite and manganese exports could fall as a result of a decline in demand, Daniel Owiredu, President of the Chamber has predicted.

“The coming year looks promising for the mining industry. Additional production from new mines-Adamus Resources and the prospects from the Owere Mines is expected to bring an increased production beyond the marginal output arising out of existing mine projects.

“The expected higher volumes of mineral production and the strengthening of gold price are expected to result in increased mineral revenue, with a corresponding increase in mineral royalties and corporate tax payment to government,” Owiredu said.

According to the Chamber, The total investment inflow into the mining sector in 2010 was US$ 770 million up from the US$ 762 million which was recorded in 2009.

Cumulatively, the investment inflow into the sector from 2000 to 2010 stood at approximately US $ 6.2 billion. The total mineral revenue rose significantly from US$2.93 billion in 2009 to US$3.73 billion in 2010, representing an increase of 27 percent mainly on the account of healthy price of gold, although the other minerals also recorded increases in prices during the period.

The mining sub sector grew remarkably by 11.2 percent compared to the 6.8 percent it recorded in 2009. By this growth performance, the industry came second behind the electricity sub-sector which grew by 16.7 percent in 2010.

In 2010, mining companies retained about 68 percent of the US$3.7 billion mineral revenue to the country through the Bank of Ghana (BoG) and the private commercial banks.

An average of 20 percent was repatriated to the country through BoG and the remaining 48 percent through private banks. This ensured that the country receives considerable foreign exchange from the mining sector to support the nation’s foreign currency transactions.

Though the mining industry has been successful in attracting foreign capital, it has also been subjected to criticism from the government, environmentalists and human rights activists. Foreign players have been known to exploit legal loopholes and abuse both human rights, as well as the environment. Among other critical issues to be considered by policy makers and governments includes:

Critical issues for consideration in 2012

Support local business

An estimated 34 % of annual mineral exports, currently enjoyed by foreign firms and expatriates providing mining services in the country could revert to locals if they take steps to make themselves able to provide these services.

Estimates according to the Minerals Commission show that these services procured by the mining firms in 2008 alone came to US$680 million, and they continue to go to foreigners because the locals have not positioned themselves to take advantage of these opportunities in the mining sector.

Local content and capability issues are national issues and so they call for collaborative approach between public and private partnership.

The best way to keep the mining industry as an integral part of the country’s economy is to put in place deliberate and sustained local content and capability development policies, backed by legislation and enforcement mechanisms, and not just resorting to appeals or pleas to mining exploration and production companies.

The non-existence of capacity currently in the country should not be an excuse.

There must be conscious and systematic development of local capability. Ghanaians can participate in exploration and production in a more significant way, if we make it a policy to encourage them to do so. Yes, it is capital intensive but it is not rocket science.

Government should, as a matter of urgency, set up a local content and capability development committee with specific time frame to do broad consultation with industry, academia and the public sector to identify the areas in the entire extractive sector value chain that local participation will lead to the Ghanaian economy deriving maximum benefits.

Thankfully, Cabinet has approved the policy framework for the local content and participation in the petroleum activities, which is aims at ensuring that Ghanaians obtain maximum benefits from the oil discovery, said, Mr. Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Deputy Minister for Energy.

The policy initiative should not only be directed towards the Oil and Gas industry alone but to other areas of the economy such as the mining industry.

Repatriation of profits and unequal distribution of revenue

While the country has investment laws which encourage foreign investors, very liberal policies regarding repatriation of profits and expatriate wages, make it difficult to reverse the status quo of unequal distribution of the revenue between foreign firms, domestic entrepreneurs and the overwhelming majority of the citizens.

Additionally, many traditional chiefs do not use royalties received from minerals for the development of their communities, hence denying the people basic infrastructure such as hospitals, clean water, schools among other social amenities.

There is also the need for policies to boost country’s stock of human and social capital to ensure the best possible education and training to promote research and innovation that are crucial ingredients in improving productivity.

Mr. Benjamin Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Commission said: “It is up to governments to ensure that the nation’s mineral resources are exploited in a responsible and economically attractive manner. We owe this to all citizens in our efforts to lift standard of living and improve the educational and health needs of the people.”

It is important that further regulation be developed based on practical goals to ensure that local communities benefit from mining projects. This should incorporate strict environmental and reclamation compliance in line with world’s best practices.

Inadequate Compensation and human rights

Ghana is still many leagues behind South Africa when it comes to regulations to protect the rights of communities in the vicinity of mining operations.

Stakeholders in the sector claim that regulations pertaining to compensation need to be updated, as the price levels for valuing crops, livestock and landed property have not been reviewed for a number of years. They also point out that in other African countries, such as Tanzania, the State pays the compensation and not the miner.

An official at the country’s sector Ministry, Lands, Mines and Forestry, disclosed that approximately 30 percent of the country’s land is under concession to mining companies, and every year more farmland is converted for this use.

Injustice against the mining communities and lack of proper compensation is an everyday affair that usually passes unnoticed.

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) also claims that Ghana’s mining laws are designed to attract foreign investors and not to protect the rights of communities. Particular problems include the pollution of water sources, the deprivation of land and the loss of livelihoods.

Dealing with illegal small-scale mining head-on

There have been evidence of the growing involvement of some foreigners, especially the Chinese and Indians in the illicit mining by either providing support to the illegal miners or directly engaging in the activity.

The practice of illegal mining, popularly called galamsey, is a dangerous venture. Hundreds of diggers are killed each year. Because the practice is illegal, corruption flourish and is deeply rooted in areas known for illegal mining.

There is revenue leakage in terms of tax payment and proper accounts of the quantum of mineral receivables among others.

This deprives government of valuable revenue in the form of taxes and royalties. The unregulated activities of galamsey operators also have a damaging effect on the environment.

The Ghana Police Service recently arrested 25 illegal Chinese diggers said to be engaged in galamsey activities around the village of Wasa-a mining community in the Western region.

Environmental activists say Chinese entrepreneurs are illegally controlling small-scale operations behind the scenes; typically through a local intermediary.

This unfolding development has prompted the Vice President John Dramani Mahama to call for a holistic approach towards the fight against the illegal small scale mining (galamsey) to protect the environment and increase government revenue.

“Let us all stop the blame game as to who was encouraging or not encouraging galamsey operations on our lands and forge ahead to fight the canker,” he said.

Government would provide the necessary support to eliminate the practice in all the mining areas while calling on all those interested in the small scale mining to acquire licenses to operate and stop the current practice that was degrading the environment and denying government the necessary revenue for development.

Dr. Toni Aubynn, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines proposed to government to strengthen its resolve in tackling the nuisance of illegal miners.

“Illegal mining should no longer be considered “as business as usual” and that while he supported the participation of Ghanaians in the mining value chain, the illegality around a large number of their operations and the negative impact on the environment was totally unacceptable.

Mining tax-hike

The announcement of new mining and mineral taxes expected to be implemented next year has been received with mixed reactions with sector operators describing them as too high, and having the potential to impede future investments in the sector.

“The country’s new tax moves have brought forth warnings and cautions about the impact these measures could have, such as making the nation unattractive for future mining efforts and scaring off investors.”

Dr. Toni Aubynn, CEO Ghana Chamber of Mines, told B&FT: “Uncertainties must be looked at carefully. The new reforms could deter the mining companies from making further investments in the sector.”

Government in its 2012 budget statement announced that the corporate tax rate for miners is being increased from the current 25% to 35%, while a windfall profit tax of 10% will also be imposed.

The proposals announced by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, in the 2012 budget include -- in addition to the hikes in corporate and windfall taxes -- the reduction in capital allowance tax from 80% to 20% for a period of five years for all mining companies, as in the case in the oil and gas sector.

But indeed the reactions have so far been mixed -- with mining firms fretting over the impact the measures would have on their earnings and investments even as groups such as the Ghana Mineworkers’ Union celebrate the changes.

Seth Terkper, Deputy Finance Minister, explained: “The changes in the taxes are part of a rationalisation plan. Later on, other natural resource sectors will be brought on board. So, it’s not about targetting mining companies; and they are not meant to be anti-investment.”

“It is the government’s intention to review its involvement and interest in the mining sector, and it has been engaging with miners on the changes it intends to bring about.”

And, Civil society organisations are commending government for the bold move, in particular for measures to rationalise fiscal operations in the natural resource sector. Others, especially the mining community hard hit by the proposals, are unhappy and are calling on government to take a second look at them.

Outlook for 2012 and beyond

Industry chieftains, in calculating its forecasts have taken account of the vast untapped potential of the extractive sector, and expect the value of the mining industry to increase from US$0.64billion in 2009 to US$1.68billion in 2014.

The long-term outlook for the country’s mining sector is bright, but requires the acceleration of both political, economic and industry reforms to ensure that the mining communities and the indigenes derive the full benefit from the earnings generated by the mining and the extractive sector.

The country in particular has the right blend of prospectively, strength of leadership, political stability, professional talents and an attractive social and cultural environment for mineral investments.

The mining sector should be viewed as an economic “bonus” with which to accelerate structural change rather than as the backbone of the country’s economy, this should therefore inform stakeholders to undertake clear-cut mining codes and competitive tax regimes to attract capital injection in the mining sector.

ADB to be listed on GSE in 2012

Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), is to be listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) before the middle of next year to raise additional reserve to deepen the banks operations, Alhaji Ibrahim Adams, Board Chairman of ADB, has revealed.

“ADB going public next year will also enable the bank to finance capital intensive businesses in all sectors of Ghanaian economy including the oil and gas sector.

Alhaji Adams speaking at the Bank’s end of year party held in Accra disclosed that the bank is in discussion with government and currently awaiting approval to be listed on the GSE to raise capital for further expansion projects.

"We are now waiting for a go ahead from the government to do so". "We are not selling the bank, but rather offering part of its shares to Ghanaians.”

“The bank is committed to building a strong customer-oriented bank run by knowledgeable and well-motivated staff, and which provides profitable financial intermediation and related services for a sustained and diversified agricultural and rural development.”

ADB, a leading universal bank, which provides full range of banking products and services in retail, commercial, corporate and investment banking, was set up in 1965 by Act 286, it is wholly publicly-owned with government owing 52% of the shareholding, while the remaining 48% is being held by the Financial Investment Trust on behalf of the Bank of Ghana.

Mr. Stephen Kpordzih, the Managing Director of the Bank assured customers of improved services next year aimed at making banking more exciting and relevant.

He said the bank had performed creditably during the year and fulfilled its promise of improving its service delivery and that the effort has been acknowledged through several awards the bank won

“The enhanced performance of ADB has been acknowledged in several awards including CIMG Bank of the Year, Africa Investor Agribusiness Investment Award, and an International Award for Business Excellence, which is a new Millennium Award for Banking Services,” he said.

He said the bank opened 11 new branches as part of its expansion project; refurbished old branches; introduced a new range of products and new channels of transaction, and computerised its systems of banking, adding that these had helped to improve its uptime in credit delivery.

Mr Kpordzih also indicated that the bank now had a VISA platform which was in operation but expected to be formally launched next year to make the bank’s services easily accessible to its customers.

He assured customers of the bank’s efforts to enhance its service delivery in all areas of its operation in the coming year despite challenges the bank is currently facing.

The bank continues to remain the number one financier in the agricultural sector. This is evidenced in the bank's yearly performances. In 2010, ADB lending to the agricultural sector climbed to GH ¢174.2 million, as against GH ¢105.3 million in 2009, representing an increase of 64.5%.

This development resulted into an increase in the share of agriculture of the total credit portfolio from 24.1% to 28.9%, depicting a purposeful channeling of credit to the agricultural portfolio of the bank.

To further consolidate its position as the premier financial institution in agricultural lending, ADB's total loan approvals for agric purposes made the first half of 2011, increased by nearly 70% as compared with the same period last year.