Tuesday, June 25, 2013

General Motors committed to Africa market

General Motors Sub-Saharan Africa (GMSSA) is striving to ensure that all its customers, based on the continent receive the same perfect service that sets the company apart from its competitors.

This requires a comprehensive approach through liaising with its entire Dealer Network, which covers countries from Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Senegal, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Mauritius.

Daniel Gitau, Service Operations Manager for GMSSA, and a team of technical support experts take responsibility for a wide range of after sales processes.  

These processes include the global warranty management and warranty coordination processes, technical support, after-sales launch readiness processes and technical training with the GM South Africa training centre in Johannesburg, for SSA markets.  

“Technical support is one of the central pillars for ensuring customer expectations are met, especially in cases where products have technical concerns that must be attended to in a much faster manner.

“We provide technical support for our products freely and timeously.  We offer support to our dealers either over the telephone, by e-mail or by directing them to a website. 

“The goal is to get back to the dealer within eight hours of receiving the email or request.  If the issue is still not resolved, the dealer fills out a technical problem escalation form that we send to General Motors South Africa (GMSAf),” says Gitau.

GMSA has a fully established technical support team that GMSSA can ask for assistance in certain cases where they have more experience.  If GMSAf cannot resolve the issue, they involve the source-plant.

Gitau added: “We also offer training to all our dealers. Before the launch of a new product, any dealer approved to access that product must have his technicians trained. The training is based on new model information and diagnosis, which incorporates training on diagnostic equipment and unit overhauls. Training is a prerequisite for sending a new product to a dealer.” 

Gitau is also responsible for following up with other stakeholders regarding the GM Difference and Customer Satisfaction Index implementation in identified markets.

“The GM difference is founded on the notion of creating customers for life. To create customers for life, value creation and delivery is important. Customers determine value, which is at times subjective. We must do everything to ensure we have happy customers through exceeding their expectations.

“Customers buy products for certain purposes. When these products develop technical defects and can no longer operate as intended, the utility is lost. In such a scenario, the customer will require the product be repaired as quickly as possible.”  

General Motors has vehicle assembly operations in South Africa, Egypt and Kenya, and has over 310 dealer and distributor outlets located across the continent. 

Last year, the company sold over 180,000 vehicles in Africa through its Chevrolet, Isuzu, and Opel brands.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ratification nears on global principles on extractives

Abiodun Baiyewu, Global Rights Director for West Africa, has said that Ghana’s readiness to ratify the Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights in the extractives sector will create goodwill for trade and investment, and security for resource communities.
“Ghana has advanced in negotiations and discussions in signing the VPs, and we are hoping that Ghana will be the first to ratify it in Africa ahead of South Africa.

“Signing the VPs will boost investor confidence, leading to an increase in trade opportunities and goodwill, and the facilitation of better trade relations between companies and communities,” she said. 

The VPs on Security and Human Rights, launched in 2000, are a set of principles designed to guide companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within a framework that encourages respect for human rights while helping companies work effectively with Governments that seek to protect human rights.

The VPs are also a useful tool for all Governments with an interest in operations of the extractive industries, and can help contribute to the protection of human rights and the prevention of conflict.

Co-financed and developed by the International Council on Mining and Metals, the International Finance Corporation, the Global Oil and Gas Industry Association for Environmental and Social Issues, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the VPs aim to assist extractive companies balance security concerns with human rights.

It is a tripartite multi-stakeholder initiative with participating States, 11 NGOs, 20 companies and five organisations with observer status as at May 2012.

Baiyewu was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a two-day workshop to deepen media awareness and educate Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on the VPs on Security and Human Rights in oil and mining communities in Accra.

The workshop -- which was organised jointly by the Global Rights, Nigeria, and the Livelihood and Environment, Ghana, (LEG), both NGOs -- was targetted at exploring the role of CSOs in the implementation and application of VPs  and  ensuring that Ghana signs on to the principles.

Austin Onuoha, a consultant with the African Centre for Corporate Responsibility and a facilitator at the workshop, explained that the VPs were developed in response to reports of human rights abuses allegedly committed by security providers contracted by extractives companies.

He said although observing VPs in oil and mining communities is cheaper and cost-effective compared to recruiting a large number of security personnel to maintain their oil and mining business environment, no African country has yet signed on to them.

Studies have shown that oil and mining industries could succeed in working and making their profits without necessarily posing any security or human rights threats to the communities in which they operate if they adhere to the VPs, Mr. Onuoha said.

“The VPs provide for regular consultations between companies, host-Governments and local communities; deal with issues of proportionality and use of force; ensure improved company engagement for protection of human rights by security contractors; as well as regular monitoring of progress of investigations into alleged abuses, among other things.

“Although questions have been raised about lack of transparency, mainly because of the confidential nature of the dialogue on which the VPs are based, there have also been concerns about actual implementation of the principles and the participation criteria. 

“The challenge, however, is to ensure the legal ratification of the VPs by countries to make them more binding to the extractives industry and to safeguard the safety and human rights of inhabitants of oil and mining communities on the continent,” he said.

Richard Adjei-Poku, Executive Director, LEG, expressed hope that through the workshop much education and awareness  will be created among  CSOs, local NGOs and the media to enhance advocacy and move Ghana to quickly sign on to the VPs.

He indicated that the VPs will promote a better business environment and provide a platform to engage with multinational extractives companies and civil society in mutual learning and joint problem-solving on security and human rights.

“It can also support Government policy objectives, including poverty alleviation, investment, and conflict prevention. Signing the VPs will help reduce conflict in the extractives industry and reduce costs related to insecurity, as well as promote greater transparency and accountability that can improve a country’s investment climate,” Mr. Adjei-Poku remarked.

Akwapim Bank posts 102% profit growth

Akwapim Rural Bank Limited in the Eastern Region has recorded one of its most impressive performances since its establishment, with the highest profit in the bank’s history.

The bank’s pre-tax profit increased by 102 percent from GH¢0.563million in 2011 to GH¢1.136million in 2012 as gross earnings increased by 32 percent from GH¢3.684million to GH¢4.875million for the same period.

Mr. Edward Offei-Bokoe, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the bank, made this disclosure at its 32nd Annual General Meeting at Mamfe-Akuapem in the Eastern Region.

He further disclosed that total assets of the bank increased by 33.6 percent from GH¢19.6million in 2011 to GH¢26.156million in 2012.

Deposits grew by 41 percent from GH¢14.680million in 2011 to GH¢20.631million in 2012.

The bank’s loans and advances recorded an appreciable growth of 22 percent from GH¢8.592million in 2011 to GH¢10.505million in 2012.

Mr. Edward Offei-Bekoe said: “The impressive performance is a clear vindication of the decision taken by the Board of Directors in 2010 to embark on a restructuring exercise including the opening of a branch in Koforidua.”  

He announced that work on a new branch-office at Nsawam is almost complete and will be ready for occupancy by the end of 2013.

In a statement read on his behalf, Mr. Kwadwo Aye Kusi, Managing Director of the ARB Apex Bank Limited, congratulated the Board, management, staff and shareholders of the bank for its performance over the years and also commended the Board for meeting its corporate social responsibilities to the community in diverse ways.

He advised the bank -- despite the achievements -- to do more by way of deposit mobilisation, cost control and reduction, and to put in place pragmatic and realistic measures including risk management, staff training, product development and customer service in the face of varied and diverse challenges in the banking industry.

Mr. Richard Addo, Head of Research & Marketing of the ARB Apex Bank Ltd. who represented the Managing Director, enumerated a number of new developments embarked upon by the bank for the benefit of all RCBs.  

These include mergers, a new western union commission structure, reduction in lending rates to RCBs, specie movement, Arch-mobile and establishment of sinking funds to take care of capital expenditure with respect to IT equipment and infrastructure. 

Cocobod demands premium for certified cocoa

The Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) says buyers of the crop must be prepared to pay a premium for cocoa that is certified as having been grown using the best social, environmental and labour practices.
It said the production of certified cocoa must be demand-driven and the market must be willing to pay more for farmers’ efforts in that regard.

“As a producer, we are very ready to meet the 2015 deadline for global cocoa certification; but we want this programme to be demand-led. We can’t supply when the demand is not there,” said Noah Amenyah, Public Relations Manager of Cocobod. 

“Certification involves cost and strict monitoring. We will not subject our farmers to a situation where at the end of the day they don’t get the cocoa beans purchased, for which a return will come to them. Hence, our use of the demand-pull approach to quality.”

Cocoa certification demands that a farmer’s social, environmental and economic activities fall in line with best labour practices, in exchange for receiving a premium price on the produce. The standards also push farmers to develop better drying and fermentation practices. 

“We are ready internally. We can take every action that comes in from the demand sources as long as the demand is there.  But the industry does not even appear ready to demand that kind of cocoa and pay for it -- because you need to pay premium for the cocoa. The farmers are putting in more, developing the cocoa in a special way to meet your real desire,” said Mr. Amenyah.

He said the Board has created proper guidelines to educate farmers to be aware that European Union (EU) regulations and world standards are changing, and this requires certain changes in their practices.
A number of organisations, including Fairtrade and the German Development Cooperation (GTZ), are also working with Cocobod to effectively train farmers to meet the certification standards, he said.  

Mr. Amenyah encouraged industry participants to partner Government which is providing the supportive environment, including enhancing marketing services to ensure that whenever farmers get their cocoa certified through the marketing chain, the products will be appropriately marketed to where the demand is.

The global cocoa industry has increasingly been demanding traceable cocoa that is certified as grown in a sustainable manner. The World Cocoa Foundation, which was formed in 2000, has been helping to improve cocoa sustainability in all three cocoa regions of the world. But because of the importance of West Africa, which produces around 70 percent of the world’s cocoa, a lot of programmes focus on that region. 

The first one is the Cocoa Livelihoods Programme, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and 16 of the company members as well as the German Development Agency.

The programme aims to reach over 200,000 cocoa farmers over the next few years, with the intent of doubling incomes. 

Nigeria, Côte d’Ivorie, Ghana and Cameroon together produce 70 percent of the world’s cocoa, generating about US$13billion annually, while the end-product of cocoa, chocolate, has a turnover of US$105billion.                

Gov’t asked to review axle-load policy

The Ghana National Cargo Transporters Association (GNCTA) has requested Government to pass the ECOWAS reviewed axle-load policy of 68 metric tonnes, which is being implemented in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger -- instead of the current 61 metric tonnes.
Axle-load is the acceptable weight of goods a vehicle is allowed to carry. An axle-load policy is intended, among other things, to prolong the lifespan of roads.

Currently, the axel-load policy among ECOWAS countries is not harmonised, according to a study that was initiated by GNCTA with support from the BUSAC Fund.

Alhaji Aliyu Baba, General Secretary of the GNCTA, explained at a stakeholder workshop in Accra that the axle-load policy has the tendency of prolonging the life-span of the country’s road network. 

He complained of no uniformity and accuracy in the weighing of trucks at designated weighing positions as a result of faulty weighing equipment. There is also the challenge of conveying perishable goods from the hinterland, where there are no weighing facilities. 

“Weighbridge operators may claim that their equipment is not working.  They may choose to delay reporting a malfunction or even disconnect the big screen that publicly displays a truck’s weight so no one else knows the real weight.  In addition, they may decide not to report that their printer is not working, or they may sometimes claim that their printer has run out of paper,” he stated.

According to a study on the implementation of the axle-load policy conducted by GNCTA, “possible solutions would seem to be automatic recording of weights, webcams recording all trucks entering and/or leaving each weighbridge, and integrating Ghana Community Network (GCNet’s) satellite tracking of all northbound transit trucks into the axle weight-control supervision protocols”.

The report also called for more robust audit requirements, providing better carrots and sticks for  weighbridge  staff  to  work  honestly,  and  placing  the  burden  on  any  operating organisation to prove that its staff are acting honestly. 

“Minimally, implementing agencies should have a stock of spare equipment such as printer paper to keep the system working,” the report said.

The stakeholder workshop was aimed at bringing the organised private sector transport operators together to stimulate economic development, reduce poverty and promote economic and social stability by creating jobs in the transport sector.

The programme was also targetted at improving relations between transporters and law enforcement agents, and simplifying the process for weighing of trucks, making it fair, transparent and efficient for the implementation of the axle-load policy.