feature by A. B. Kafui Kanyi/Sepenyo
Ho, April 24, GNA - Another attempt to spur business activity in the Volta Region into a gallop, is in the offing.
Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) Eastern/Volta Branch and the Volta Regional branch of the Ghana Journalist Association, (GJA) are the lead advocates.
The two have the backing of the Volta Regional Coordinating Council, (VRCC), bringing along the local governing bodies.
The business owners group, AGI, has the dossiers, know-how and the sway, while the GJA-Volta, would line up the dozens of media outlets to trumpet the opportunities, difficulties and the successes to make business activity in the region tick.
The region’s potential is huge, as the resources are varied. There are the vast agrarian lands covering all the vegetation zones of Ghana, the sea, Volta Lake, rivers and mountains.
An Investment Handbook on Volta Region compiled by the Regional Planning and Coordinating Unit of (RPCU) listed travel and tourism, wind energy, agriculture and agro-processing, aquaculture, salt mining and quarry as some key areas of investment in the region.
The rest mentioned by the handbook are timber processing, garment production, mining, oil and gas, ceramics and clay products, plastic and paper waste recycling.
The issue is, that ignition to spark off conceptualisation, planning, establishment and running of the businesses has perhaps largely eluded the region.
There have been various attempts to tackle this slow growth in business development. One of such was Volta Trade and Investment Fairs, held annually for a couple of years from 2009 and then cancelled.
During those fairs, there were investment clinics, lectures and field trips, besides the product shows, but not much happened.
Not even the bilateral Sino-Volta business cooperation activities have raised the tempo and so the business profiles currently, remain largely same as eight years ago, low, that is according to an AGI/Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) Eastern Portfolio survey.
The Diamond Cement Factory at Aflao and struggling Volta Star Textiles at Juapong are normally the readily mentioned industrial illuminants on an industrially parched region.
It is this situation the AGI (Volta-Eastern) and the GJA are collaborating to change for the better.
The move started with AGI (Volta-Eastern) sponsoring the novelty Volta GJA Awards that had a slant for business reporting.
That Awards ceremony in December 2017 was followed by a tete-a-tete with the Volta Regional Coordinating Council followed by Business Breakfast Meeting in February, attended by host of Journalists, Bureaucrats and Business People.
There were also visits to some recessing or largely dormant industries, to have a feel of their situation.
Dela Gadzanku, Regional Chairman AGI Eastern/Volta Branch at the breakfast meeting did not see why Ghana should be trailing behind La Cote d’Ivoire in business development and that the Association would work to bring Volta Region in tandem with effort to develop and modernise businesses in Ghana.
“We will support the vision of developing Volta Region beyond handouts,” Mr Gadzanku stated, challenging Dr Archibald Letsa, Regional Minister that “may it be said that it was during your tenure as Regional Minister” that business development in the region boomed.
He hinted that the Association was about to institute a Volta Region Business Barometer, develop academia/industry linkages, link up the region with Togo, Benin and Nigeria in areas of business and organise a Volta Trade and Investment Summit.
Kwame Sowu Junior, an Industrialist in a paper said only 29.0 per cent of an estimated 1,028,500 hectares of Volta lands suitable for cultivation of crops and rearing of animals are being used.
He surmised that if “we were to cultivate the other 70 per cent of the unused land for cassava, for instance, the Volta Region could produce over seven million tonnes of cassava at a current value of more than GH¢1.2 billion”.
Kwame Sowu said Volta Region could build after countries and Federal states with which it has similarities in size and demographics.
Those countries and Federal States include; Cyprus, which has a GDP of 19.6 billion dollars, Mauritius, 12.2 billion dollars, Botswana, 6.7 billion dollars, Malta, 11.1 billion dollars and Namibia 11.7 billion dollars.
He said the US state of Idaho with a population far less than Ghana, has a GDP of 51.15 billion.
Kwame Sowu therefore wants business people in the region to be aware, the global space is same and compact and so must be interested in what “other successful people are doing, how they did it and they look like”.
He wants Volta to take advantage of its geographical placement, in between huge markets, across the borders, Togo, Benin and Nigeria and internally, the bustling Accra-Tema areas.
That is why Volta must ready itself to take advantage of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), exporting clothes, furniture, brick and tiles and also the opportunities offered by the United States’ African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).
Kwame Sowu said agribusiness could be the game changer. Cassava, for example, with its chain from production to the market gates, local and international, connecting and engaging the population at different stages, with good incomes could change the poverty situation in the region.
For him, Kwame Sowu, government’s policies as announced in the 2018 budget and others, including stimulus packages for distressed businesses, could push forward business development in Volta Region and rest of the country.
An important state intervention to boost the cassava business would be making it mandatory for all flour mills to make cassava a component of their product as it pertains in some countries.
Dr Letsa, Regional Minister repeated government’s readiness to provide the needed infrastructure, financial linkages and other support for the region’s industrial take off.
That promise must be policed by the AGI GJA-Volta to ensure not just a rostrum nicety.
Kafui Kanyi, Chairman Volta GJA, invited all political parties, business people and state players to join the push to change the face of the economy of the Volta Region from industrially link-less small and micro enterprises, hardly surviving their founders, to interlinking ventures that rake high incomes.
It appears the new move this time round could change Volta Region from the NGO Mode to the enterprise mode.