January 21 will be a great and exciting day for the export sector in Ghana, particularly for export industry experts and organisations, financial institutions, private sector players and key decision-makers as well as the managers of the economy. On that day, the 3rd annual Ghana Economic Outlook & Business Strategy Conference (EOBS2015) comes off at the de luxe Best Western Premier Hotel in Accra.
The series of conferences, which have been recognised in the past three years as the preeminent and the most anticipated business event at the beginning of every year in Ghana, will be attended by over 250 foreign and local delegates. EOBS2015 will be graced by Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, who will deliver a speech on ‘Sustained Economic Growth – Role of the Export Sector,’ Chief of Staff Prosper Bani and other high-level local and international dignitaries. The other attendees include Ministers of State, heads of state institutions, captains of industry, heads of bilateral and multilateral agencies, foreign investors, leaders of civil society organisations, members of the Diplomatic Corps, bankers, exporters and the media, among others.
The confirmed high-profile speakers and panel members include Hon. Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Minister for Trade and Industry; Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture; Mr Edward Effah, Managing Director of Fidelity Bank and 2013 CIMG Marketing Personality; Mrs Marie Laurie Akin-Olugbade, Country Director of the African Development Bank; Major Albert Don-Chebe (Rtd.), Director-General of Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and immediate former President of the Institute of Public Relations Ghana; and Dr Michael Agyekum, Chairman of KAMA Group of Companies. The others are Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission; His Excellency William Hanna, Head of European Union Delegation to Ghana; Economist Kwame Pianim; and Nana Osei Bonsu, President of Private Enterprise Federation (PEF).
The rest are Dr Charles Mensa, founder of Institute of Economic Affairs; Her Excellency Sun Baohong, Chinese Ambassador to Ghana; Mr James Asare-Adjei, President of Association of Ghanaian Industries (AGI); Dr Seth Adjei Baah, President of Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mr Kwadwo Twum Boafo, Executive Secretary of Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB); Mr Felix Felix Addo, Senior Country Partner, PwC; Alhaji Alhassan Andani, Managing Director of Stanbic Bank; Mr Anthony Sikpa of the Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE); Mr Zac Bentum, CEO of Eximguaranty; Mrs Benedicta Boateng , Communications Director of Brand Ghana; and Mr Kwabena Agyekum of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana.
“EOBS 2015 will generate ideas, suggestions and strategies from the government, the export sector, the financial sector and other stakeholders on the role that increased exports could play in promoting and sustaining the growth of the economy. The event seeks to provide opportunities for participants to understand and obtain the latest export statistical trends that could affect business planning; and to provide a forum for the exchange and discussion of accurate, relevant and timely data. It also intends to increase the understanding of the current and prospective policies of the Central Bank with regard to exchange rate management, interest rates, foreign currency availability, the cedi appreciation and the consequential implications for export trade in Ghana,” say Mr Kwadwo Asumaning, Chairman of Africa Business Media (ABM), publishers of Ghana Business and Finance (GB&F) magazine, and organisers of EOBS2015.
Mr Asumaning states further: “The conference will serve as a fertile ground for providers of key public sector services and infrastructure such as utilities, airport and harbour to present their plans and targets for 2015. EOBS2015 also offers a unique opportunity to lead players of the private sector to fine-tune their strategic planning for this year. It will further engender the building of a sense of continuing partnership and shared development agenda for the ‘Ghana First’ model of thinking and planning by establishing mechanisms for routine information-sharing on the performance of the economy; and joint public-private sector exploration of alternatives for pushing Ghana’s economy forward.”
EOBS2015 is on the theme ‘Diversifying Ghana`s Economy Through Sustainable Export Trade.’ EOBS2015 is partnered by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF), FAGE, PEF, GFZB and AGI. According to the recent Bank of Ghana’s Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) report, at the end of October 2014, gross international reserves stood at US$5.9 billion, representing a build-up of US$314.2 million from the end of December 2013, which is sufficient to provide 3.4 months of import cover. The figure has since improved to US$6.6 billion as at November 7, 2014, equivalent to 3.8 months of import cover. It is against this background that ABM anchored the theme of the year’s conference on the promotion and development Ghana’s export trade. The conference will enable participants to meet like-minded colleagues, academics and high-notch speakers to discuss, debate, ask and answer questions pertaining to the export trade and how Ghana can best diversify its economy sustainably to benefit from it.
The creation of a forum like EOBS2015 for extensive discussion on export trade is most apropos. This is especially so at a time when the United States (US) government indicated that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which comes to an end on September 30, 2015, is likely to be extended for another 10 years. Trade experts opined that Ghana benefited from the AGOA through the export quotas given to the AGOA-eligible countries, but a lot of work needed to be done to position the country to reap its benefits. There is, therefore, the need to develop a national implementation strategy for AGOA that establishes targets for development in tandem with the renewed US AGOA policy to help Ghana benefit tremendously.
This is where EOBS2015 offers the appropriate forum that will afford the government, its agencies and other stakeholders, an opportunity to examine the export industry, opportunities in the sector, share ideas and find solutions on how best to gain immensely from the global export trade. It is the intention of the conference that by the end of its four sessions, a pragmatic roadmap would be available to guide the government and the export sector.
Currently, the MOTI put Ghana`s trade deficit at US$20 billion and the need to diversify exports in order to improve the deficit is most welcomed. The government aimed at raising the level of export proceeds from the non-traditional export sector to US$5 billion by the year 2017. But this laudable expectation cannot materialise without a comprehensive support system. Experts at EOBS2015 will discuss the role of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) in developing and promoting the exportation of non-traditional products; giving general advisory services and guidance to clientele; offering technical assistance to clients through training; and marketing. Fortunately, the relevant state institutions in the export sector and their heads will be active participants. The operations of the EDAIF will be fully dissected to make a case for why it must continue with its expansion of credit facilities to exporters and exports earmarked under AGOA.
Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) inflows to Ghana was about US$3.95 billion in 2013, according to GIPC figures, despite Ghana being one of the largest FDI recipients in West Africa. There is need to attract and increase FDI inflows to the country for foreign entities to team up with Ghanaian manufacturers to produce and export goods in order to earn foreign exchange. Adequate foreign exchange will help halt the depreciation of the cedi; reduce inflation; increase liquidity; and ultimately boost GDP growth. The EOBS2015 offers solutions in this direction by facilitating the active participation of external delegates, the diplomatic missions, development partners and international financial institutions.
EOBS2015 is prioritising Made-In-Ghana products and services. The promotion of local goods and services is critical to increasing exports and narrowing the trade and budget deficits as well as strengthening the Cedi and raking in foreign exchange. The conference also intends to address the balance of trade deficit by strengthening local content in the oil and gas and mining industries.
The first EOBS was held in 2012 when the downward growth of the economy began to manifest. ABM decided that it was necessary to arrange for the managers of the economy to meet face-to-face with the business and investment communities to have them informed about the true state of the economy in a setting that would allow for purposeful dialoguing and sharing of information and experiences on the economy. Since then, the country has enjoyed two editions of EOBS – unique business and economic events that attract many foreign and domestic participants. ABM, after much consultations and research, decided to use the third edition of EOBS to direct stakeholders’ attention to the role the export sector could play in the efforts to restore and sustain the growth of the economy. This is why the theme of EOBS2015 was chosen in a bid to diversify and sustain Ghana’s economy.