I represent the new face of industry - New AGI boss
When the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Asadtek Group Limited, Mr James Asare-Adjei, realised on the evening of November 21 that he had been elected the president of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), the feeling that greeted him was not very exciting. It was a mixed one; the kind that blends excitement with sheer responsibility.
But Mr Asare-Adjei is not entirely new to the activities of the AGI; an advocacy institution for manufacturers and related service providers in the country, and the responsibilities the position comes with.
Prior to his ascendency to the presidency, which he described as a humbling responsibility, Mr Asare-Adjei was the Vice President of the association's Tema Branch; a position he held for four years.
While there he experienced the challenges that the AGI has been fighting against.
Thus, after seeing himself as one who could help in the business advocacy initiative while giving new hope to the AGI, Mr Asare-Adjei, a native of Daako in the Ashanti Region, put himself up for election.
But as the excitement from that success and the subsequent congratulations from well-wishers began to fade, the reality of the new task has dawned on him.
At his investiture on January 17, this year, Mr Asare-Adjei, said he was not oblivious of the responsibility and the expectations of members and the general business community from the new leadership of the AGI, of which he now leads.
"In our current challenging economic times, where industry is lagging behind in all key aspects, I am particularly humbled that you all have entrusted in me this enormous responsibility as president of the AGI.
Mr Chairman, I humbly accept this responsibility and I promise that the team under my leadership will work assiduously to steer our ship into calmer waters. Be assured that we will not fail you," a clam looking Asare-Adjei said to a thunderous applause from the audience.
The AGI presidency is a two-year term that is subject to renewal only once.
The immediate past president, Nana Owusu Afari, served a two term before retiring and that paved the way for the November 21 elections, which ushered in Mr Asare-Adjei.
Why I contested
I knew combining the running of a business as robust as real estate developing and the manufacturing of roofing sheets, cooking utensils, among others, with presiding over the activities of an advocacy institution such as the AGI would not be an easy job.
He told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in an interview that that resolve was born out of a need to serve and the willingness to put forward his longstanding experiences in industry, advocacy and diplomacy at the disposal of the Ghanaian business community, particularly members of the association.
"When you see that you have some qualities that will help grow industry or you have ideas that will be very useful to industry as a whole, you won't want to sit on the fence. You come forward and with the support of others ensure that the little that you can do will be brought to bear on this our association, which is a strong brand," he explained.
He added that a larger section of the association's membership clamoured for a change, the one he thinks he currently represents.
If there is something that Mr Asare-Adjei wants to be remembered by while serving as president of the AGI, he said it should be the formation of a bank to solely finance SMEs in the country.
He told the paper that his key priority in office would be to work with the relevant institutions, donor agencies and the government towards aggregating the various funds available to businesses into the establishment of an SME Bank.
That bank, he said, would be dedicated to financing the operations of SMEs, which currently constitute over 85 per cent of economic activities in the country.
He suggested that funds for the establishment of the bank could come from the US$50 million SME Fund that was proposed in the 2014 budget, the Japanese grants, monies from the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF), among others.
"You need just US$50 million to set up a bank by the Bank of Ghana's rules. In the 2014 Budget, government talks about allocating US$50 million as SMEs in Manufacturing Fund. So, you are left with only US$50 million to be able to establish a bank specifically for the SME sector," Mr Asare-Adjei said, noting that although the EDAIF lent at lower rates to businesses, it was currently saddled with huge funds to disburse due to lack of cooperation from its designated financial institutions.
"The traditional commercial banks make the assessment or qualifying criteria (for the EDAIF) so stringent such that it is very difficult to assess these funds. So why don't we put some of these funds into avenues such as a bank, which purposely will be managed such that SMEs qualify for them," he asked.
Interest in the idea, he said is already massive and Mr Asare-Adjei said he would ride on that as encouragement to make it a reality, hopefully within the next 12-months.
"With the needed commitment that we have for the growth of the private sector, especially for the SME sector, I believe we should be able to get this bank running within the next 12 calendar months," he said.
While commending government for the passage of the local content bill, Mr Asare-Adjei also served notice of his intentions to re-engage government on the strict implementation of the bill, possibility of extending it to cover more sectors as well as working to limit the country's over-reliance on imports.
"The government can adopt a targeted tax policy, where imported raw materials or products which already exist locally are given discriminated tax levels. AGI also calls on the Tariff Advisory Board to be at the forefront of the situation," he said.