Ghana Free Zones Authority cuts red tape and upgrades services in Africa’s industrial hub
GFZA encourages local entrepreneurs to operate in the Free Zones, and axes bureaucratic processes to help them succeed in their businesses
World Investment News (WI): What have been your priorities and objectives since you took office?
Michael Okyere Baafi (MOB): We have come up with a four-point agenda to change the face of free zones in Ghana. The paradigm shift we made has been phenomenal in ensuring that the GFZA is a worthy competitor worldwide.
The first step was the rebranding agenda. We wanted to change the face of the free zones. We have moved away from the old mentality that free zones are meant for foreign direct investments only, and we encourage local investors with financial muscle to invest in the free zones.
Secondly, we have introduced speed as a strategy. The aim is to do away with excessive bureaucratic processes to help investors succeed in their businesses. This has been one of our priorities and has improved confidence in us as an authority. Previously, documentation process could take about eight days instead of the required three days.
Our third point has been to introduce service quality to operate uniquely, and thus be distinct from other state institutions. We did not want our institution to be seen as just a public-sector organisation but rather as one with a private-sector orientation.
Last, but not the least, building the capacity of our working staff. Staff capacity building gets them motivated and bound to achieve results. Workers are given timelines, proposed good incentives, mentality tickled and emotionally boosted for them to work as though they own the business.
This process has been able to turn things around and we are looking to attract serious anchor tenants into our enclaves, not just as mere attendees of investment promotions. Our sole aim is to target and encourage people who are financially sound and interested in doing business in Africa, to invest in Ghana while we build long-term relationships with our partners.
To achieve this, we introduced a new department, the Research and Business Development Unit, mandated to research into businesses that thrive in free zones across the world. We research business modules that can run well in free zones and that can be suggested to investors who come on board.
One of the priority areas of the government’s transformational agenda is to establish industrial parks in every region of the country with the purpose of converging business, both small and medium businesses. We aspire to be the model for other African countries who seek to succeed in the free zones sector.
WI: How far is Ghana from becoming an industrial hub in the region, and what is still to be done?
MOB: Ghana is already the industrial hub of Africa. The president is of the view that it is time Ghana focuses more on industrialisation. The government is calling for a total push of industrialisation, thus moving from a raw material producing economy to a value addition one. A country that is not part of the value-added chain cannot generate much foreign exchange. Adding value to raw materials would generate more foreign exchange for the country. For instance, adding value to cocoa beans to produce chocolate and other by-products. Going that way can position us strategically to compete within the international business market.
We are tuning the minds of companies to add value to their products for higher returns. China is considered to be a great business focused country, and Ghana is ready to partner with Chinese; which will help boost the economy through industrialisation.
Michael Okyere Baafi, executive secretary of the Ghana Free Zones Authority (GZFA), explains the four-point transformation agenda the authority has established, and the strategic role industrial parks and free zones play in the government’s development plan.