Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bawumia pushes e-solution for tax administration

The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has asked the Domestic Tax Revenue Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to take advantage of technology to implement an e-solution platform to administer taxes.

“I believe we have reached a stage in our development where we must adopt appropriate, current and improved technology to make tax administration convenient for taxpayers.

In Ghana for example, we have a population of 27 million, but tax payers only amount to 1.2 million.

We are dealing with a very large informal economy, and that means the burden of taxation falls on a very small number of people. We have been thinking about ways to leverage technology to broaden this tax base so that the burden of taxation will be lowered and the collection of taxes will be enhanced,” he said.

Dr. Bawumia said this at the closing of the 38th Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) Annual Technical Conference, in Accra. The five-day conference, which was on the theme: “Leveraging Technology to Enhance Revenue Administration”, brought together 209 participants from 18 Commonwealth countries and International Tax Organisations.

The discussion of the conference was developed around two sub topics: “Facilitating, Monitoring and Enabling Compliance through Technology and Equipping Staff with skills to deliver in an Increasingly Digital Environment.

Dr. Bawumia explained that with technology, tax administration will not only reduce the turn-around time for taxpayers to do business but will also improve service delivery.

He urged participants to be ambassadors of what technology could do and take the initiative in recommending e-solutions to deal with issues.

He said the Customs Division of the GRA, in September this year, started the implementation of a paperless clearance of goods from the ports, which is greatly helping in the GRA’s revenue mobilisation drive, ample testimony of what technology could achieve when properly leveraged.

“With effective tax administration we may not need to higher income and profit tax rates to increase revenue collections. Creating effective national tax systems from policy to administration remains our challenge.

And I believe the outcomes of this conference will move us a step up the ladder in building stronger national tax systems.”

Dr. Bawumia urged the delegates, especially those from developing parts of the Commonwealth, not to lose sight of what technology could achieve for revenue administration.

A communiqué issued at the end of the conference also underscored the need for deploying technology to maximise receipts from taxes.

Mr. Duncan Onduru, Executive Director of CATA, read the communiqué, which said the association recognised that domestic revenue mobilisation played a key role towards the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Communiqué said many member countries were undertaking or considering far reaching reforms and a modernisation agenda with the aim of improving their internal processes, systems and procedures to respond to the evolving needs of the taxpayers and changing business environment.

It said recognising the increasing importance of digitisation was a critical feature of tax administration of the Century; the Association adopted the theme of the conference.

It emphasised that investment in technology was critical to responding to the emerging business models as well as managing the cost of tax collection and improving compliance.

The Communiqué called for continuous engagement by developing countries during the implementation of tax policies and noted the critical role that digitisation would play in the current transparency in tax reporting and exchange of information among countries.

It further said the association welcomed the move towards the creation of the network of tax organisations as a viable platform for building synergies among organisations in their effort to provide service to the mutual members.

GRA charged to leverage on technology to increase tax

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been charged to take advantage of the numerous opportunities afforded by technology to increase the tax to GDP ratio, and thereby help reduce the country’s dependency on aid and donor support.

“The country’s tax to Gross Domestic Products (GDP) ratio, which is quite alarming, hovers around 16% and is much lower than it should be – and that poses a challenge to the economy. Ideally, the economy should be looking at a tax to GDP ratio of about 22% to 25%.”

Professor George Gyan-Baffour, Minister of Planning, said this on behalf of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the 38th annual Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) Technical Conference, hosted by the GRA in Accra.

The ongoing five-day CATA conference, themed ‘Leveraging Technology to enhance Revenue Administration’, is meant to engage fruitful discussions and exchange best experiences for embracing technological innovation in the day to day operation of the revenue administration. It is also an opportune time for tax administrators to catch up with how best information technology may be utilised to transform the various functions of respective revenue administrations.

Prof. Gyan-Baffour explained that due to the inherent advantages associated with leveraging technology to enhance the performance of tax administrations, government will continue to give the needed support and encouragement to GRA to adopt the necessary technological innovations that enable it to deliver the goods.

He added that government recognises the challenges GRA faces in its attempt at casting the tax net wider to embrace as many operators as possible, especially from the informal sector.

As part of the solution, he indicated that government has already leveraged technology to introduce a digital property-addressing system, and will soon introduce a national identity card system.

“We believe that these, among other measures, will help formalise the economy and help the tax administration body to easily locate businesses and potential taxpayers for registration and delivery of assessments.”

He said government abolished a number of taxes while others were reduced in the 2017 budget statement, to give breathing space to businesses as a way of encouraging productive activities.

This strategy was aimed at moving away from the imposition of numerous taxes so as to encourage production and release the business sector’s energies.

“It is my belief that businesses should first be given the opportunity to grow before governments take their fair share of taxes,” Prof. Gyan-Baffour said.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, admitting that the country’s current tax to GDP ratio is much lower than it should be, confirmed that the situation poses a serious challenge to the country’s economy.

Mr. Ofori-Atta said: “We are in the middle of our budget season, and the budget will be read on November 15; the challenges are obvious to us in terms of where we are as a nation. We need to find new ways of generating revenue, particularly since government is losing so much money through the abolishment of a number of taxes.

“As part of the modernisation and reform process, government announced a series of reforms in our 2017 budget statement.

“Arising from these reforms, some taxes – actually 13 or 14 taxes – were abolished while others were reduced significantly…But to continue with this type of reform of reducing taxes there is a need for us to find effective ways of raising revenue – mobilising through technology,” he said.

He indicated that the relationship between technology and tax administration will help Commonwealth tax administrators enhance revenue administration, and thereby improve revenue mobilisation.

Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, Commissioner-General of the GRA, urged current tax administrators in the Commonwealth to see it as a duty to pass on to future generations a more robust, functional, progressive and result-driven organisation.

He indicated that CATA’s mission of helping member-countries to develop effective tax administrations to promote sustainable development and good governance is very much in sync with the modernisation efforts of GRA.

“GRA has since its establishment in 2009 embarked on a series of tax, administrative, structural, procedural and process reforms aimed at modernising the Ghanaian tax administration and improving service delivery to taxpayers,” he said.

Chairman of CATA, Mr. Sudhamo Lal said: “The vast majority of people are doing their personal and business transactions on-line. The new generation of taxpayers no longer considers paper-based channels as the most effective and efficient way of communicating and transacting with tax administrations.

“Taxpayers are always in search of new services, and if tax administrations are not able to meet their expectations it is feared that we may end up with tax compliance issues.

“By meeting taxpayers’ expectations through technologically-accustomed officers and simplifying their service delivery experience, then these taxpayers should find it easier to comply.

“These new services can take various forms such as e-filling of tax returns, e-registration, e-payment, e-objection or automated telephony systems amongst others,” Mr. Lal remarked.

‘#OurTaxesOurFuture’ campaign to expand the tax net

A ‘National Tax Campaign’ dubbed ‘#OurTaxesOurFuture’ has been launched, with a call on the tax paying population to comply with all tax obligations.

The campaign is to ensure that citizens fulfil their civic duty by honestly declaring their taxes.
The national campaign, spearheaded by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), is being supported by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Information Services Department (ISD) to disseminate the message to all districts, churches, mosques, markets, on mobile vans, dawn announcements, community meetings, buses and trotros.

Expected to run for the next four weeks, the tax campaign will witness a series of activities geared toward encouraging citizens to honour their tax obligations for more developmental projects.

Currently, only 1.2 million people are said to be registered for tax purposes. Out of this number, about 1 million are in the formal sector, leaving only 200, 000 in the informal sector.

The contribution of the informal sector to total tax revenue remains below 5%. This is in spite of the fact that the economy is dominated by the informal sector, which has created a huge gap in the national kitty.

This is because individuals and entities within the tax paying population are left out of the tax bracket, resulting in government not making a lot of revenue for its social intervention programmes.

Speaking at the campaign’s launch in Accra, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta applauded the GRA’s decision to embark on a strategy to expand the tax net by creating more awareness on the benefits of paying tax, and by working to improve voluntary compliance so as to increase revenue for development.

“We have, let’s say, 10 million people who are economically active. We have 1.1 million people actually paying…and doing the payee thing. So, through that, we pick up maybe GH¢3billion at the end of the year. That means we have eight million people unaccounted for.

“So, imagine if we all render to Caesar what is Caesar’s? This whole issue of our capacity to support the necessary public good, which is education, health, security, would not be something to talk to donors about, but things that we can personally fund,” he stated.

He added: “Despite the challenges with revenue mobilisation and inadequate revenue generated by the small taxpaying population, government has expressed its commitment to utilising its little resources in human capital development.

“Really, for us in government, we have to make choices, and we decided that the human capital of our society is one of the most important things; therefore, we programmed resources into, for instance, Free Senior High School. What does that mean? If we then do that, certainly other areas will be challenged – but we cannot compromise the future of our society with illiteracy. We just can’t.

“I am sure if I were to take a survey around here and ask how many people have filed taxes, a lot of us would be found wanting; but we do get on platforms and talk about what government is not doing and what Customs is not doing.”
Acting Commissioner-General of GRA, Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, was confident that the successful implementation of the programme will result in greater tax compliance and increase awareness on the need to embark on this necessary civic education.

He was hopeful some of the slogans developed in line with the campaign will yield positive responses from Ghanaians. The slogans include ‘Taxpayers-Nation builders’; ‘I have paid my taxes; have you?’; ‘Every little tax helps’; and ‘Taxes help build great nations’.

Deputy Commissioner of the National Commission for Civic Education, Kathleen Addy, underscored the need for collaboration between the two institutions in the awareness creation campaign on tax compliance, and urged other state institutions to partner her outfit in civic education and awareness-creation activities.

“The NCCE, as a collaborating partner, has been engaged to carry out intensive education on tax compliance, utilising our capacity to fulfil this mandate.

“The GRA-NCCE partnership has come to stay, and as a constitutional body the NCCE will strive to ensure that citizens fulfil their civic duty by honestly declaring their taxes.”

Avnash earmarks US$100m for 1D, 1F policy

Mr. Jai Mirchandani, Chief Executive Officer of Avnash Industries Ghana Limited – the country’s most formidable agro-industrial processing company, has said it is ready to invest over US$100million into government’s One District, One Factory (1D, 1F) policy to ensure its success.

“We are investing over US$100million from next year. I strongly believe in the President’s vision in the One District, One Factory and the Planting for Food and Jobs policies. The President has the right vision and we want to be the anchor company for the policy,” he said.

Avnash Industries Ghana Limited, producer of Golden drop edible oil, has so far invested almost US$150million from 2007 into its agro-business operations and is aimed at adding value to the country’s agricultural produce and creating employment for wealth-creation.

The company is well known for its businesses in edible oil, rice, soaps and detergents, shea butter, liquors, beer, whiskey and its variants, biscuits and allied products, packing and branding of its products – including PET and hard plastic containers. It established a rice-mill in Tamale with a capacity of 450mt per day. It is a fully automated mill of Buhler make, capable of milling par-boiled and brown rice.

Mr. Mirchandani told this to B&FT on the sidelines of the maiden Malaysia-Ghana Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar (POTS), which came off in Accra.

Making a presentation under the topic ‘Branding the Oil Palm Value Chain in Ghana: Avnash’s Experiences’, Mr. Mirchandani charged the country to adopt successful oil palm models to help upscale the sector’s production volumes.

He said: “We need to leverage on models to scale-up the crop’s production and to improve the production volumes. We need to work within the local environment, we need to adopt models that have been successful locally”.

Mr. Mirchandani explained that: “We have been thinking about the development of agriculture from the perspective of others.

“We have been looking at a paradigm incorrectly, because we have tried to take models of where it has been successful like America and Malaysia.”

He explained that the focus of Avnash is to be the anchor of the agricultural industrialisation renaissance of Ghana by focusing on investments in the agro-processing sector to provide ready markets for both commercial and smallholder farmers.

Available data show that in just the first three quarters of 2017, Ghana imported 213,000 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia – valued at US$149.1million and representing more than 70 percent of the commodity’s total imports within the period.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), an organisation that promotes the market expansion of Malaysian palm oil and its products, sees the Ghanaian market as a growing one and is targetting even more exports – particularly for the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry.

The 2017 import figure represents an almost 10 percent increase on the 2016 import of 203,000 tonnes, and the Southeast Asia economic giant is targetting a 20 percent increase by the end of 2017; and up to 300,000 tonnes, estimated at US$210million, by 2018.

The nation’s annual demand for oil and fat is 680,000 tonnes while local production hovers around 480,000 tonnes, leaving the gap of 200,000 tonnes to be filled by imports.

Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor, Chairman of Malaysia’s Palm Oil Council, explained that West Africa’s growing population and economy naturally means the per capita consumption of vegetable oil will increase.

Mr. Chor stated that Malaysian companies are ready to enter joint venture agreements with local palm oil companies to produce the products locally.

“Malaysian companies have entered into agreements with companies in Indonesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Columbia and others, and we are looking at deals like that here. We are hoping to discuss incentives and government policies on establishing palm oil processing companies,” he added.

Mr. Chor noted that: “Ghana is one of Malaysia’s biggest trading partners in this region, with the total trade between the two countries registering US$337million in 2016”.

Commenting on the trade relationship between Malaysia and Africa, Mr. Chor said Malaysia considers the West African market as an important destination for Malaysian palm oil.

“In recent years, there has been a significant upward trend of Malaysian palm oil exports into this region. Last year, Malaysia exported about one million tonnes of palm oil to all countries in the West African region,” he said.

Speakers at the seminar included renowned local industry captains and international experts from Malaysia, Ghana and the UK.  The papers covered topics on oils and fats – ranging from market outlook and trade to oil palm planting and the logistics situation in Africa – and attracted over 300 participants from both Malaysia and Ghana.

Participants from Malaysia took the opportunity to tour the 500mt per day edible oil refinery of Avnash Industries Ghana Limited to acquaint themselves with operations of the company.

The team visited various departments including the laboratory, production and refinery plants located at the Tema Port.

New application to detect ghost names ready

The Public Services Commission (PSC) is hopeful of extending its Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) project to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by end of year, to completely expunge ghost names from government payroll.

“The HRMIS system, when fully operational, will reduce the possibility of ghost names or people being paid double; because the system has restrictions that will not allow entry of invalid data or names of people who were not working, which will save money that could be used for the nation’s socioeconomic development,” said Dr. Lawrence Kannae, Vice Chairman of the Commission.

Dr. Kannae was speaking at an HRMIS training workshop for MDAs in Accra, aimed at providing end-users of the HRMIS system with requisite skills to operate it before full deployment later this year.

He said: “We hope that by the end of this year we would have trained 1,028 staff, mainly from the human resource, budget and accounting classes of the public service, to ensure an efficient public financial management.

“This is what is being rolled out now, and we hope that by the end of this year we will extend it to all the 120-public service organisations that are on government payroll.”

Dr. Kannae explained that the HRMIS will enable information about human resources to be linked to the payroll and subsequently with the budget, so that it will facilitate effective and efficient public financial management.

He said it will also help reduce the time required for processing documents of newly-recruited staff, and issues like promotions and updates of human resources in the various public sector organisations.
The system should reduce the time required for newly-recruited employees to obtain their first pay within a very reasonable period.

He said when the HRMIS becomes fully operational, newly-recruited government workers will be able to have their first salaries within a maximum period of two months, once their data information is captured onto the system.

“Probably, if it is initiated at an early part of the month, that employee can get his or her first pay at the end of the same month. But at maximum, within two months they should be able to get their first pay – which is better than what exists now, where a new employee may take three to six months; and even, in some cases, one year before they receive their first salary,” he said.

He explained that they were training the rest of the public services agencies and preparing them in batches to be enrolled onto the system.

Dr. Mohammed Sani Abdulai, the Project Director, Public Financial Management Reforms Project (PFMRP), urged human resource managers of the MDAs to ensure the HRMIS succeeds.

The HRMIS falls under component-two of the PFMRP and seeks to focus on completing the establishment registers for the remaining government workforce; and completing the rollout of the HRMIS core application, including establishment, profile and cost management, to enhance its coverage to all MDAs, services, commissions and all 10 regions.

The rationale for the HRMIS is to establish a comprehensive, common human resource database of all public service employees, with the view to strengthening controls around entrance, exit promotions, and positions across the various service groups.

The PFMRP seeks to achieve improvement in budget management and financial control and reporting of government, with the aim of enhancing fiscal discipline, strategic allocation of resources and service delivery efficiency through strengthened systems and procedures, and targetted capacity-building.

‘Cocoa is key ingredient for Cadbury Chocolate’

The General Manager of Cadbury Cocoa World, Mr. Gerrard Baldwin, has described the country’s cocoa as best quality and a key ingredient of Cadbury chocolates and other confectioneries.
Mr. Baldwin said that about 25% of cocoa used for making Cadbury chocolates is sourced from Ghana.
According to Baldwin, Cadbury World – through Mondelez  Cocoa Life – has rolled out a US$400 million livelihood empowerment project in cocoa-growing communities of Africa as part of efforts to better the lot of cocoa farmers.

Mr. Baldwin made these remarks when five outstanding Ghanaian cocoa farmers visited Cadbury World at Bourneville as part of a two-week visit to the UK.

Mr. Baldwin used the farmer’s visit to walk them through the company’s operations and its recreational facilities, and commended the cocoa farmers for their efforts at improving the quality of cocoa produced — encouraging them to adopt modern technologies to make cocoa farming attractive for the younger generation.

Mr. Barnett Quaicoo, the Manager of Cocoa Marketing Company Ltd. UK, described Cadbury as one of the biggest trading partners in the UK that sources cocoa beans from Ghana Cocoa Board.
Mr. Quaicoo added that the choice of Cadbury for the farmer’s visit was to allow the farmers experience cocoa processing and interact with the buyers of their produce.

Mr. Noah Amenyah, the Senior Public Affairs Manager of Ghana Cocoa Board who accompanied the farmers, said the cocoa farmers produce an average of about 2,000kg per hectare.

Mr. Amenyah indicated that the farmers had maintained best agronomic and environmental conservation practices to produce best cocoa and emerge as award winners for the 2015 and 2016 cocoa seasons.

He said the trip will encourage other cocoa farmers to work harder to win similar awards.
The farmers are Nana Kweku Adu, 2015 National Best Cocoa Farmer; Nana Opoku Gyamfi, 2016 National Best Cocoa Farmer; and Madam Martha Addai, 2016 Most Enterprising Female Cocoa Farmer. The others are Nana Johnson Mensah, Western Regional Chief Farmer; and Nana Obeng Akrofi, Eastern Regional Chief Farmer.

Gold Coast Refinery pushes for free zones permit to upscale production

Gold Coast Refinery, a leading gold refiner in the country, has asked government to grant it a Free Zones certification permit to enable it upscale production capacity.

The Free Zone status will enable the company to import large volumes of raw gold from the sub-region, then refine and export it to the global market.

B&FT has gathered that the company has already submitted an application to government to be considered for a Free Zone certification permit to be granted.

Mr. Sampson Nortey, Director of Gold Coast Refinery, in an interview with B&FT said: “If we have Free Zones status we can import gold from the sub-region, refine and export. All of that will upscale our production. Currently, we are doing just five percent of our capacity.

“About 90 percent of what we are doing here is for export. But the industry is such that we don’t get certain privileges.

“The fiscal regimes. such as taxes, import duties among others, make our operations very difficult, expensive and uncompetitive if we are to compete in the global market. But with the Free Zones facility it softens companies like the local refineries.”

Mr. Nortey said this after the Minister of Trade, Alan Kyerematen, led a delegation from the ministry to tour the refinery and acquaint themselves with the company’s operations.

The chemical line of the refinery, Mr Nortey said, has an installed capacity of 600 kg of gold per day and 180 metric tonnes per annum, while it also has the capacity to smelt about 150 kg of refined gold at a time.

Explaining the reason for the low production level of just five percent, Nortey indicated that it is largely due to the low stock of gold it receives from the market, adding that the company is seriously under-producing at an average of 5 percent of the refinery’s capacity.

Currently, the refinery only receives inputs from small-scale producers of gold in the country, since it does not have a contract yet with any of the large producing companies.

“Due to the strict regulations on the source of gold input for refineries on the international market, it is impossible for the company to buy from illegal producers – unlike its counterparts from India,” he stated.

He however expressed hope that in the next six months the refinery will go into contract with some producers of gold in the country to allow it increase the refinery’s input-feed.

Nortey appealed for government to intervene and enhance the access to raw gold input, by ensuring large producers of gold in the country refine or add value to at least 20 percent of their produce before exporting out of the country.

“Last year, the country was able to make an output of about 100 metric tonnes of gold; so, if we have an installed capacity to refine 180 metrics tonnes per annum, that should be more than the country’s total production,” he said.

Nortey stated that the refinery could take the West Africa sub-region’s entire production, since statistics for last year show that entire production in the sub-region was about 163 metric tonnes. If the refinery should operate in a double shift, it has a capacity of 300 to 340 metric tonnes per annum.

The Minister of Trade, Mr. Alan Kyerematen, interacting with media after touring the refinery, explained that government will provide all the support required for gold refineries in the country to succeed.

“Obviously, if the company requires any other form of public investment we will look at it purely on a commercial basis,” he said.

He added: “What we have seen here shows that government is on the right track in making the conscious effort of adding value to its natural resources. Our primary desire is to make sure that they have successes as a private company”.

Commending management for the excellent operations being undertaken, Mr. Kyerematen said: “As a government we can talk about industrialising the country, and we believe that it is the only way we can sustain our economy as it provides opportunity for us to create quality job opportunities for citizens”.

He indicated that for over 100 years the country has depended on gold and cocoa. “Regrettably, we have been shipping our raw gold without refining it. It provides an opportunity for us to expand the size of our economy, so we take value addition very seriously.”

He commended the company again for ensuring that over 90 percent of its staff are Ghanaian.

Gov’t targets US$1b annually from handicrafts sales

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) are to promote locally-made handicrafts as a major export commodity on the international market.

The collaboration, which is expected to generate an estimated US$1billion a year, forms part of a broader strategy of promoting made-in-Ghana products globally.

Products classified under the handicraft category include: basket-ware, ceramic products, traditional musical instruments, hides and skins, batik/tie and dye, statuettes, beads, pottery, leatherwork, paintings, drawings and other forms of art and craft.

Data from the GEPA has shown that non-traditional export earnings from the handicraft sector grew by 23 percent in 2015; from US$3.47million in 2014 to US$4.27million – a far cry from what other economies earn from the sector.

Despite these figures, the sector’s potential as a major source of foreign exchange – according to the Craft Dealers Association of Ghana – is still untapped.

Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry said: “The ministry is collaborating with GEPA to develop a comprehensive electronic portal that will position Ghanaian handicrafts products to be seen anywhere in the world – the biggest e-portal selling made-in-Ghana products. We want to create a sector where buyers can sit anywhere in the world to purchase made-in- Ghana items. We are going to promote made-in-Ghana goods aggressively”.

He added: “We want to develop a culture wherein a buyer can sit in his country, buy a product and get it shipped to him”.

Commenting on the dwindling handicrafts industry, Mr.  Ahenkorah said: “No one will allow the sector to die. We intend making arrangements to open the industry to worldwide patronage and sustainable production”.

Alhaji Tanko, Chairperson of the Craft Dealers Association of Ghana, told the B&FT that though various measures are in place to support the sector, the processes for accessing that support are cumbersome.

“I don’t dispute the fact there is support in place; but it is better you don’t even access that support because it will take you years, and you won’t even get the full complement of what you want. By the time you even get the support, it is no longer relevant because market conditions would have changed.”

He added: “If on our own we generating over US$4million, then you can imagine what will happen if government gives us a little support. We are convinced that if government can come to our aid, remove all these bureaucratic bottlenecks, it will help us improve our earnings and ultimately contribute to development of the country – but in the absence of that, we will just be marking time”.

To support the sector’s development, Mr. Tanko said government must create a fund purposely for handicraft production, just as it has done for the creative arts sector.

This, when done, he added, will see the sector’s contribution to the economy more than double.
Consumers taste and preference for imported alternatives and the high cost of raw materials are also some of the major challenges facing the sector.

“The profit that we are supposed to earn is being taken away by other expenses. For instance, government must soften it taxes on the export of handicrafts, because this sector can be a very strategic industry for the country. We understand that countries develop from the taxes that the individuals pay, but government has to soften its taxes to grow the sector first,” Alhaji Tanko appealed.
“As a country, we need to give more support to the sector to create more jobs and generate revenue,” Mr. Alhaji Tanko said.

The global handicraft sector has an industry-value of about US$100billion. Yet, the country has not positioned itself well enough to tap into this huge market.

The handicraft sector remains one of the highest-grossing non-traditional exports for many developing countries.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that globally the handicraft industry has a market value of US$100 billion.

The industry plays a dominant role in the economic development of rural masses by providing seasonal employment, especially during the off-farming season.

Crafts and small businesses, for instance, employ more than 66 percent of Europe’s workforce — around 98 million people.

In the UK alone, craft skills contribute £3.4billion to the economy, and the country’s Crafts Council estimates that there are around 23,000 micro-businesses are in the crafts sector.

Canada also exports about US$100million worth of crafts, and the sector employs about 22,597 persons in the various establishments.

In the United States, the art and craft industry accounts for about US$13.8billion and employs more than 127,000 people.

In the East African country of Kenya, woodcarving plays a very important role in the economy – contributing an estimated US$10million per year, of which a considerable part is export earnings.
The handicraft sector also accounts for 19 percent of Morocco’s GDP, earning the country more than US$70million.

New strategy to eliminate constraints in corporate sector

A three-year Business Regulations Strategy (BRS) aimed at eliminating constraints, modernising the legal and regulatory systems to promote faster growth, job-creation and economic prosperity in the country’s corporate sector is being developed.

The strategy, spearheaded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, in collaboration with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies, is designed to be systemic and permanent in its effects by changing how the government designs and implements business regulations in the future.

Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, speaking at a National Exporters’ Forum in Accra explained that: “Within the broader national economic reform agenda, the BRS aims to promote economic development, deepen and broaden current reform efforts in order to establish a national regulatory environment that sustainably reduces red-tape and barriers, and better promotes private sector activity and job-creation”.

He added: “We are optimistic that this strategy will enhance business operations for better performance.“Our goal as a government is simple: to build the most business-friendly and people-friendly economy in Africa, which will create jobs and prosperity for all Ghanaians.

“We will ensure that growth is socially responsible, diversified, spreads geographically, comes from genuine value addition, is environmentally sensitive, and fair to all participants in the economy including labour.”

He stated that government’s goal is to achieve double-digit Gross Domestic Product growth annually for the next four years, as it works to reduce the cost of doing business, maintain fiscal discipline, reduce borrowing and reduce interest rates to spur private sector investment.

“Our economic programme will further enhance agricultural production and productivity, along with a transformation of the economy through value-addition to raw materials in a process of rapid industrialisation.”

He observed that with exception of the year 2010, when Ghana recorded a trade surplus, the country has had a perennial trade deficit regime since 2004.

“I am, therefore, happy to inform you that indications equally point to a trade surplus regime this year. This surely calls for sustained focus and doubling of efforts by all actors in the sector.”

Ghana’s peers in sub-Saharan Africa are reforming faster and going further. For example, Kenya has improved its ease of doing business ranking from 129 to 108 in the last year alone. Ghana faces competition from other countries that have cottoned on to the importance of institutional reforms and cutting red-tape, initiatives that allow businesses to thrive, create jobs and pay taxes.

Many countries are redoubling their efforts at reforms and in some cases cutting substantially the regulatory burden – thereby easing the cost of compliance. In some jurisdictions businesses can be registered in a day.

In sub-Saharan Africa the best performers for starting a business are Burundi and Liberia, where it takes four days and four and a half days respectively.

In Ghana, it takes on average 14 days to register a business; and the cost of starting a business rose by 70 percent in 2012 alone. This means Ghana has competition for investment, and needs to do more to attract it.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Avnash trains students in Agric Technology

An Indian company, Avnash Industries Ghana limited, has trained 120 graduates in Agric Technology to generate innovative ideas to scale-up rice production in the Northern Region.

The initiative is also to make Ghana more self-sufficient as well as to develop the practical skills of the students and introduce them to the opportunities in the Agric sector.

 According to Avnash, the initiative is in line with its core values of creating more employment opportunities, and helping the evolution of the industrial sector.

The about 120 students drawn from the University for Development Studies (UDS) and Tamale Technical University (TTU) are grouped according to the courses they offer, and were trained for a six-month period.

Avnash calls itself Ghana’s foremost agribusiness company which is run jointly with Kumasi Hive, Ghana’s first hardware-focused innovation hub.

As part of the programme, six teams of students from UDS and TTU were selected to go through to the final stage of the Avnash Agric Technology Hackathon, in which they receive funding to build a working prototype of their innovation for the rice supply chain.

Following training in Design Thinking, the participants formed teams and started to work on solutions to particular challenges that interested them.

The competition, which started in December when Avnash opened the doors of its 500 MT per day rice mills, the largest in Africa, to more than one hundred students from both institutions.

 The students were taken through field visits to some of the 29,000 rice farmers supplying Avnash, and other stages of the supply chain.

 Two rounds of pitching have now narrowed down the field of innovations to the final six who each receive funding from Avnash to build a working prototype to demonstrate their idea.

The students were screened from the 20 students of which the best three were awarded for their innovation, with the winners given prizes as well as supported with logistics to start their businesses.
Team Farms Companion emerged winners of the creativity programme initiated by Avnash, with 254 points and given GH¢2, 000 and offered a trip to the organization’s operation areas.

The second position was won by team Fertilizer with 247 and received GH¢1, 000, while the third position was won by team Critical Thinkers with 246, also taking homeGH¢500.00.

Speaking at the final pitch of Avnash Agric Hackathon at Nyankpala in Tamale, CEO of Avnash Industries Limited, Jai Merchandani, noted that the various tertiary students have the potential to create their own businesses when given the needed capacity training and support.

 He said the company saw it necessary to enable the students come up with innovative ideas that will help both the public and the private industries to grow, adding that research conducted has helped to identify some challenges confronting the farmers making it difficult to product to meet the criteria of the industries as well the market.

“Avnash is committed towards creating ecosystem and opportunities that can connect to its processing plant to produce more to feed the nation and also as a measure to grow the economy, hence the involvements students” he said.

The Kumasi Hive CEO, George Appiah, said the company is committed towards investing in the innovativeness of the youth, adding that “we run many hackathons but we have been very impressed by the creativity of the students taking part in this one.”

He stressed that the company has also designed a five-year development plan to create five million jobs for the youth of the country and therefore called for support in achieving the aim.B&FT