Business News of 2014-08-04

Small and Medium Enterprises can do it

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can easily provide the vim to stabilise the economy and engender national prosperity if they receive the support they deserve from government, Vice President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) Dr. Yaw Adu-Gyamfi has said.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting of CEOs in Accra sponsored by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Dr. Adu-Gyamfi, who is also the CEO of local pharmaceuticals company Danadams, made a strong case for state support for industries to tackle the scourges of unemployment and instability of the cedi – which has been blamed on a wide gap between exports and imports.

He said if government supports about five to 10 pharmaceutical companies to expand and produce efficiently around 70-80 percent of the nation’s medicinal needs, it could save the country about US$1billion per annum in import expenditure.

Additionally, if these firms are able to provide about 30 percent of the pharmaceutical needs of the over 200-million ECOWAS population, that could also earn Ghana US$3billion per annum.

He further said aluminium factories producing cookware, hollowware, roofing sheets, frames and panels can become the main suppliers to the ECOWAS region and the rest of Africa, and this can earn the country US$500million annually.

He added that water processing companies, a major employer of labour in the last five years, can produce high-quality processed water for export with potential to earn at least US$100million per annum.

“We can only create jobs when our companies are given opportunities. Ghana is blessed and we must take advantage of the opportunities. If government can give support to industries, we can bring foreign exchange to Ghana. We are ready and can do it,” he said.

Ghana’s cedi has weakened by more than 30 percent against the US dollar in 2014, creating panic among companies and forcing the government to revise its budget targets. The depreciation has triggered a serious debate about the structure of Ghana’s economy – characterised by a high import bill and dependence on a few commodity exports.

Former Trade and Industry Minister Haruna Iddrisu recently announced that government has pumped over GH¢100million to support a number of local pharmaceutical companies. More assistance has been pledged for poultry and rice producers, too, in a bid to curb imports.

CEOs who attended the breakfast meeting were those trained in the ILO’s Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprise (SCORE) programme – a global initiative whose aim is to improve productivity and working conditions of SMEs through better workplace cooperation.

The meeting was under the theme: “Developing SMEs for Employment Creation: The Role of Government and the Private Sector.”

SCORE’s curriculum contains five modules: workplace cooperation, quality management, cleaner production, human resources management and occupational safety and health.

Dr. Adu-Gyamfi said Ghanaian SMEs are not against foreign competition, but simply want support to be able to compete on a par with foreign firms.

“We are willing to be part of the competition if we are given the opportunity. All we are saying is that we can and are ready to make a difference. All we want is for government to listen to us.”

The global SCORE programme currently runs in seven emerging economies covering different manufacturing industries. The Ghana project has begun implementation of the second phase with plans to make the programme sustainable beyond ILO funding.

“The SCORE training has shown that if these companies are supported, then foreign exchange will be generated, many people will have more jobs and we will be able to accelerate economic growth in the country. Through this programme, managers have been trained and we need the support of government to replicate the SCORE programme in other regions.

“As CEOs we appreciate what donors have done in the SCORE project and we hope that government will supplement what the donors are doing so we replicate this project in other regions. Through the SCORE programme a lot can be achieved. It is not about us but securing the future of the nation and that future will depend on the decisions that we make today. We would like to work with government to create jobs for the people of Ghana. We have great potential only if we are given the opportunity,” Dr. Adu-Gyamfi emphasised.

Kwamina Amoasi-Andoh, National Project Manager at the ILO SCORE Ghana Office, said about the 50 enterprises which have implemented their improvement plans have recorded very remarkable progress in their operations.

“Some of these improvements include high financial savings, efficiency in raw material usage and waste reduction by 18 percent, improvements in workers’ attitude to work, improvements in management’s attitude to workers, achievement of an enjoyable workplace through effective workplace cooperation, and increase in employment by 5 to 50 percent.”

As the Vice President of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Dr. Adu-Gyamfi called for the establishment of an SME or industrial bank dedicated solely to providing financing to industries at below-market rates.

“How can we make products cheaper for our people?” he asked, referring to the burden imposed on SMEs by the banking industry which lends at an average interest rate of close to 30 percent.

“We need to get loans at reasonable rates. It takes money to make money. The time has come for government to create an SME or industrial bank whereby we will have access to finance and improve our companies and expand and create more jobs for our people.”

Speaking at the event, Deputy Minister for Employment and Labour Relations Baba Jamal said the demand for SCORE training is increasing and development partners such as the Norwegian Development Coorperation (NORAD) and Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) have agreed to fund the second phase of the programme for five more years, while ILO is investing additional resources to expand the programme to other countries.

He urged SMEs to take advantage of existing interventions to make a conscious effort to grow their businesses, paying particular attention to decent-work deficits and systems that purposefully but gradually migrate SMEs from the informal to formal economy.

Deputy Finance Minister Mona Quartey also said government is committed to improving the economic environment with various policies and plans.

“Government is committed to creating an improved business environment as well as re-positioning the state to pro-actively deliver support to the private sector.

“Government is also committed to providing the appropriate support, platform and enabling environment for businesses to improve competitiveness in the global market. To this end various stimulus packages, tax incentives and the continuation of a wide range of reforms aimed at developing and deepening the financial sector are being carried out.”

Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry Kweku Ricketts-Hagan added that to develop a strong, coherent, transparent and supportive policy on entrepreneurship, there is the need for a comprehensive consultation exercise on the topic, which will inform an entrepreneurial policy in the foreseeable future.

“The opportunity for our SMEs to succeed and grow underpins our future potential for increased employment, growth and prosperity,” he said.

Source: B&FT
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