The Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Tsonam Cleanse Akpeloo, has called on the government to create an enabling environment for Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SME’s) to thrive under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
He said the nation’s development depended on the private sector since it was the engine of growth for every economy and the largest employer, which needs financial support to thrive.
Mr Akpeloo made the call at a day’s seminar organized by the Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFIC) and the Association of Ghana Industries in partnership with the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA) in Takoradi.
“Though the government is doing its bit, we feel it can do more for private businesses since the financial burden on them makes it difficult for them to flourish,” he added.
The AGI chairman indicated that the business environment for local companies was hostile, making it difficult for SMEs to progress and withstand the test of time.
He said the cost of power supply in the country was high and impeded the growth of SMEs.
According to him, industries paid more as compared to domestic consumers when it comes to utility tariffs whereas in other countries it was the other way round.
He cited payment of local taxes and the unavailability of ready markets for local produce as some challenges facing SMEs in the country.
He said the challenges were negatively impacting businesses and appealed to the government to find ways of harmonizing the process so that local business would not be financially burdened.
He suggested that financial institutions should grant loans to SMEs at reduced interest rates while power cost must come down to boost the growth of SMEs in the manufacturing sector as well as the harmonization of international trading laws.
Mr Akpeloo urged local manufacturers and producers to consider packaging their products to be sold in other African countries no matter how small their businesses.
They should also produce standardized products that meet the demand and requirements of the international market.
He mentioned Kasapreko Company Limited and Grandeur Cosmetics to have exported goods under the AfCFTA agreement and encouraged companies in the Metropolis to come on board.
He explained that the African Continental Free Trade Area has given room to about 1.2 billion people of the continent to trade among themselves.
“The goal of African Union trade centres is to allow citizens of different countries in Africa to trade among themselves and that is what AfCFTA seeks to accomplish,” he said.
Speaking on the theme for the Programme, “Optimizing AfCFTA for Ghanaians; sensitizing all the Regional Business Communities in sync with the Opportunities,” Mr Akpeloo indicated that there were many businesses in Ghana unaware of AfCFTA and hence the need to sensitize people across the country to come to terms with its importance.
According to him the AGI and GITFIC were moving from Region to Region to educate businesses on the subject and hinted that the AGI had created a portal with the profiles of all companies to give them online visibility to market their products across the continent and beyond.
Touching on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, he said businesses should learn to adjust to the existence of COVID-19 and produce items that were in high demand in this era.
“There are many relief programmes for businesses and AGI will keep pushing to make sure that the support scheme benefits its members.”