Friday, July 29, 2016

Britain considers free trade agreement option

The British High Commissioner to Ghana, Jon Benjamin says Britain will consider Free Trade Agreement with Ghana when it finally exits the European Union (EU).
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involve cooperation between at least two countries to reduce trade barriers – import quotas and tariffs – and to increase trade of goods and services with each other.

“We will look to secure Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with countries around the world including Ghana. In Ghana, as elsewhere, we will consult government, business and other interested groups on what that future might look like. We have been encouraged by the interest already shown in a future bilateral FTA by a range of non-EU countries, including some of the UK’s closest allies,” he said.
Ambassador Benjamin was speaking in Accra at a Breakfast Business Meeting christened “Ghana Business Day” which was under the topic: ‘Reducing the Cost & Time in doing business in Ghana and BREXIT: Implications for Ghana - UK Trade."

The programme was organised by the World Trade Centre-Accra in collaboration with The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-Accra) and was aimed at bringing together discussants including business executives, industrialists, policy makers, diplomatic community as well as business owners to deliberate on the implication of Brexit on Ghana’s trade with the UK.

Ambassador Benjamin explaining Brexit and its implications on future trade with Ghana said: “On 23 June, the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%. The new Prime Minister, Theresa May has been very clear that Brexit, as it has become known, means Brexit. 

“But the formal process of starting our withdrawal from the EU and negotiating a new relationship with it hasn’t started yet. It may not start until early next year: the timing is one of the most important single decisions our new Prime Minister will take. She has said that we would take our time to secure a ‘’sensible and orderly departure”.

He added: “Brexit means Brexit and we will make a success of it. While our future relationship with the organisation that is the EU is still to be determined, we are not somehow leaving the continent of Europe. 

“We will want the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, as well as our close friends in North America, the Commonwealth and other important partners around the world.”

He explained that British government’s objective of a Brexit deal will be to support a strong Britain and a strong Europe. 

“We know that what business and markets need is certainty, and while there are no guarantees, we can already give some clarity about the government’s position going in to the negotiation. 

“The government’s ideal components of a new deal, of our new relationship with the EU, would include an arrangement on zero tariffs and zero quotas; some controls on freedom of movement; and passporting or equivalence for financial services.”

Mr Benjamin explained: “Trade deals aren’t agreed overnight. For some, we will be able to build on existing frameworks; others will have to be negotiated from scratch. 

“These negotiations will be wide ranging: including sector requirements from agriculture to financial services as well as regulatory issues such as customs, competition, and procurement.”

He observed that Ghana is the UK’s fifth largest export market in sub Saharan Africa and that Ghana has strong economic, historical and political connections to the UK, adding that although global exports have declined in recent years, bilateral trade in goods and services between the UK and Ghana was just over £1billion according to the most recent figures available, namely for 2014. 

He indicated that the UK government has identified future big ticket opportunities which are aimed at increasing bilateral trade and investment in three key sectors including in mining, oil and gas, and in infrastructure.

“A diversification of exports to Ghana and exports from Ghana to the UK benefits both of our countries. In the UK, it is business that contributes the majority of taxes which then go to fund our schools, hospitals and defence. 

“So if business is winning then we all win. In Ghana, we hope our bilateral trade helps create jobs, increase prosperity and boost the formation of human capital. There are partnerships to be formed with Ghanaian companies, investments to be made, innovative goods and services to trade, bringing more jobs, and prosperity.”

He added: “For smaller businesses, we are delivering and expanding a digital offer which matches exporters and potential exporters in the UK to demand for British goods and services overseas. We have had great response to this offer from companies in Ghana. 

“We are keen to build stronger links between the UK and Ghana’s business sectors and to share UK skills and expertise. 

He revealed that there is a long way to go to negotiate the country’s exit from the EU, from new trade deals to new arrangements for thousands of separate pieces of EU legislation on the UK statute book, “so my message is clear, this is a new opportunity for the UK and our trading relationship with the world. 

“The UK is very much open for business with Ghana. The key message here is that we have a strong economy in the UK: we remain a fantastic place to invest, and have plenty of innovative, successful businesses who are keen to do more business with Ghana to help grow the economies of both our countries.”

UK’s economic potential
Ambassador Benjamin confirmed that the UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, of NATO, of the Group of 7, the Group 20 and the Commonwealth whose voice is prominent on the world stage.

“Our voice is prominent on the world stage. We are the only fully developed national who are already meeting the UN target of giving 0.7% of GNI in official development assistance to the developing world; and the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world. In recent years, the UK has been the fastest-growing economy in the G7 and one of the strongest major advanced economies globally. 

The World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report assesses the UK to be in the global top 10 for competitiveness. “We are in the top 10, too, for ease of doing business: Britain is one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business. The UK has always been an outward-looking, globally-minded, trading nation – we always will be, he said.

“And the UK remains a great place to do business. London is regarded as the world’s leading financial hub; we have the largest market share in the world for financial services. We also lead other countries in insurance, computer and information services.

“Our business and popular culture continues to draw in the best and brightest students and businesspeople year after year. We have a world leading reputation for creativity, which represents 10% of our exports. We are home to 18 of the world’s top 100 universities, and four of the top ten. We are a truly multicultural, multiracial society,” he stated.

He mentioned that the British Council is the world’s leading cultural relations organisation, reaching over 500million people in over 115 countries each year as a key part of the UK’s soft power capability to build knowledge and understanding between the UK and wider world. The Premier League is the most watched football league in the world. 

“The BBC World Service is the world’s largest international broadcaster, broadcasting news, speech and discussions in 28 languages and reaches 246 million people worldwide. 

“All that is testament to just how strong the UK soft power brand is – in sports, the arts, music, drama, entertainment, design, education – you name it.

“Britain is open for business, committed to peace and security, and a leading supporter of the international rules-based system. Our commitment to our extensive security cooperation with international partners remains steadfast,” he remarked.

Commenting on the operations of the World Trade Centre Accra, it’s Managing Director, Mr. Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, said the World Trade Centres Association (WTCA) is a global network whose headquarters is in New York, and whose membership includes over 320 World Trade Centres operating in almost 100 countries.

He explained that the Centre’s mission is to integrate Ghanaian businesses into the worldwide alliance of World Trade Centres and provide these businesses with services and facilities that make the conduct of international trade and investment easier, faster and cheaper, in order to enhance Ghana’s economic growth and prosperity.

Songor Salt Project to produce 60,000 tons salt in 4mths

The Songor Salt Project is determined to meet its annual set target of  between 50,000 to 60,000 metric tons within a period of four months.

According to the Interim Chairman of Management Committee of Songor Salt Project, Lieutenant Colonel retired Jacob Dottey, their peak season of salt making will commence in the first week of August, this year, if no rain sets in.

“The rain fall was a setback and we are trying to recover, therefore we are looking forward to reaching our expectation of salt point in the first week of August, having no rain”,he stated.

Speaking in an interview with the B&FT, Songor Salt Project Interim Chairman, Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Dottey(retd) said this year’s early rain fall has had drastic effect on their production, however, they are determined to meeting their annual designed target by the end of December, this year.

Currently, the salt mine is undergoing limited mining at the salt making field in order to clear silt and algae from the brine ponds to get clear salt, he indicated.

Lieutenant Colonel Dottey appealed to government and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to help create a permanent intake channel for the salt project, it cost the project several thousand of cedis in hiring equipment to push away the sand in order to draw sea water, when the sea is at a low level.

According to him, creation of the intake channel where sea water is drawn into the salt making ponds will save lots of revenue for the project and government; it will serve as a mini harbor to exporting more salt into the neighboring countries, as well as create Employment Avenue for indigenes.

Building of the Ada sea defense, if done quickly will in a way serve as permanent intake channel for the project. He added.

Lieutenant Colonel  Dottey also disclosed that 80% of salt are patronize by neighboring countries, including Togo, Mali, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and other.

BEIGE Capital CEO applauds BoG for instilling confidence in MFIs sector

The Managing Director of BEIGE Capital Savings and Loans, Michael Nyinaku has applauded the Bank of Ghana for its strategic and quick action of restoring the  confidence of the  microfinance sector.
“I will commend the Central Bank for acting in a manner that has stabilised and contained confidence in the microfinance industry. Whatever challenges some institutions are facing will be temporal, everything will settle in relation to the microfinance gabs we have,” Nyinaku told the B&FT, adding that it will be difficult to put a blame on the Central Bank for the recent challenges that hit the sector.

The microfinance business has recently come under a lot of fire from the regulator, customers and stakeholders in the country. Most of these microfinance institutions in the country have causes a lot of individuals and small and medium-scale businesses to lose their trading capital and investment.

Unfortunately, some of them at the time took advantage of its customers and exploited them for their selfish personal gains. Nevertheless, a lot of them are serving their stated purpose and adding value to the lives of people in this country. 

The story of DKM is just one of the numerous negative incidents that have occurred in recent times. It has been revealed that some of its customers have experienced such loss of investment to other microfinance institutions in the past.  

Mr. Nyinaku believed that the BoG, as a regulatory body, employs best industry standards and strategies to ensure that the industry is resilient and robust in the operations within the financial sector.

“The Central Bank did their best, but they cannot be regulating every institution on a daily basis,” saying “the system will take its own level. Competition in the industry would overtime streamline them and ones that were not well structured enough to survive will eventually not get to the top and that I believe is what is happening,”he added.

Mr. Nyinaku, who has led BEIGE to become of the leading indigenous financial institutions in the country, indicated: “People are naturally disposed to doing wrong, but how they react when some of these things happen is what matters. They cannot prevent them from happening like the Police. But when they happen how quickly do they act.” 

BEIGE Capital is currently the leading Savings and Loans Company with an asset size of GHc818million and a stated capital of GH 120million and employ over 1,000 staff.
The company has consistently grown it asset size from GH38m in 2011 to GHc 818million in 2015.

Available data indicates that the microfinance giant has supported the SME Industry with over GH400million in loans and advances to customers which currently serves over 600,000 customers.

BEIGE Capital leads a pack of over 30 registered savings and loans companies. BEIGE Capital was recognised as the Best Savings and Loans Company in 2015 by the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Ghana at the made in Ghana Awards 2015.

Mr. Nyinaku was recently recognised for his sterling contribution to the country’s financial sector and was recognised as one of Ghana’s 100 Most Influential individuals in 2015 by Global Media Alliance.