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Business News Mon, 29 Jan 2001

Unilever reaffirms confidence in Ghana

Unilever is boosting its investment in Ghana by 50 billion cedis this year in a gesture to reaffirm its confidence in the economy, top officials of the company said on Monday.

The company has, in the recent past, sunk 100 billion cedis in its business concerns in the country. "We are very confident of the future prospects of Ghana and will help in a modest way to build the country," Mr Anton Lenstra, President of Unilever responsible for Africa, Middle East and Turkey said in Accra. Mr Lenstra, who was speaking with President John Agyekum Kufuor at the State House when a Unilever delegation met the president, added that there is also political stability.

The six-member delegation included the company's senior vice president, Mr Adriano Regondi and the Chairman of Unilever Ghana, Mr Ishmael Yamson. With President Kufuor were Vice President Aliu Mahamah, Dr Kofi Apraku, Trade and Industry minister-designate, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister of Presidential Affairs-designate, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of Media Relations-designate and Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Agriculture-designate.

Mr Lenstra noted with concern the poor standard of education in the country and urged government to pay special attention to it as it has a rippling effect on the country's manpower base for development. He cited his company, saying it spends six per cent of its total turnover on manpower training. Mr Lenstra also spoke about the high inflation rate, saying it is impeding steady growth of the industrial sector. He congratulated President Kufuor, his team and Ghanaians for the peaceful conduct of the recent elections and the subsequent smooth transition, which has projected Ghana as a beacon of democracy.

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President Kufuor recalled operations of Unilever in Ghana and said it has contributed much to the Ghanaian economy. "We look on Unilever as a development partner. We can't write our development history without Unilever-related names like UAC." President Kufuor noted that in the past, Ghana had been bogged down with export of raw commodities.

"We should be expanding into manufacturing and adding value to the traditional export commodities." He repeated that his government has a chief ambition to usher in a golden age in business for the private sector. "My government is a liberal democracy to give concrete meaning to free market economy, rule of law and development of our people."

The President asked Unilever to be the flagship of the government's efforts to develop private business in Ghana by letting others know that Ghana is a right place for investment. Government itself will be disciplined in adopting policies, he said.

Source: GNA
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