Thursday, April 24, 2014

New technologies support farmers create fodder market in Ghana

Agricultural researchers are introducing new technologies for local farmers to access fodder from their farms to feed their livestock and sell supplies to others.

Fodder – animal feed – is any agricultural foodstuff mostly used to feed domesticated livestock – such as cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and pigs.

Under the integrated crop-small ruminant production system in West Africa, Ghana’s Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is researching into the production, storage and marketability of fodder.

This is in line with the goal to increase agricultural productivity for poverty reduction and enhanced food security.

According to Animal Scientist on the project, Dr. Christopher Antwi, the new technology would enable farmers access quality feed for livestock production.

“The farmers do complain about the bulkiness of the fodder coming from the farm to the homestead, so we try to develop this technology which will reduce the cost of transportation,” he said.

Dr. Antwi says the technology is simple and cost-effective, involving a rectangular box – 75cm x 50cm – stuffed with fodder materials, compressed and tired with a rope to reduce the bulkiness.

“In the dry season, we don’t have enough fodder for feeding, so these would be back-up for the farmers to feed; so if other farmers see the bills in colleagues’ homes, they’ll buy to feed their animals,” he stated.

The project seeks to develop and strengthen the crop –sheep and goats value chain in the sub-humid tropics of Ghana and Benin and semi-arid regions of Gambia and Mali.

Agricultural Economist, Jonas Osei-Adu says there are opportunities in fodder marketing, especially in the northern parts of Ghana.

“When you grow cowpea or maize, how do you make use of the leaves to feed your animals? Economically, it’s going to increase farmers’ income because instead of buying special feed for your animals, you’re going to get feed at very cheap price and sometimes you don’t have to buy because you’ll get them direct from your farm to feed your animals,” he noted.

Some Ghanaian farmers are recording 50-200 percent increase in crop yield under the innovative project that integrates crop and small ruminants for sustainable production.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

IITA plans higher women representation in agricultural research

Increasing the quota of women in research transcends the clamor for gender mainstreaming; it is all about improving productivity and efficiency, says IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga.

He says the need to increase the population of women in IITA is driven by the productivity of women staff which had proven to be above their male counterparts over the years.

Citing an instance at the Threshing Building— a unit involved in the threshing of crops such as maize, soybean, cowpea, and rice―Dr Sanginga said out of a workforce of over 100 in that unit, 30 percent are women, but in terms of output, they account for more than 70 percent.

“Another example that comes to mind is the IITA Women’s Group that is involved in charitable programs including donations to orphanages, community development, and the provision of scholarships,” he said.

The Director General described the women workforce as productive but yet to be fully tapped resource.

Making the vision a reality

But more than increasing the numbers of women, Dr Sanginga said that he envisioned more women in management of the Institute in the years ahead.

He called on women to come out of their shells and aspire for higher positions.

“You need to be excellent in whatever you are doing... You need to be innovative,” he said.

But like elsewhere, challenges abound that limit the performance of the women folk. For instance, several young working mothers have children and husbands to take care of. For many, taking higher positions that would compromise the care of their children is a non-starter.
 
Another challenge is the cultural perception which sees women as weaker vessels and has cast a shadow of an inferiority complex on women, especially in the African context. In this wise some women see some jobs as “no go areas for them” and in some cases the Human Resources Unit is compelled to invite only men as women don’t apply.

This is why Dr Sanginga charged the women: “Apply for positions... Don’t be shy.”

Delivery is key

As positive sentiment across several organizations to increase the quota of women grows, several organizations have different propositions to address this challenge of low populations of women.

In IITA, the key is for women to muster more courage than ever before and participate in project execution to ensure that IITA meets its delivery goals. “If we are able to meet our delivery targets, I will not hesitate to employ more women. But if we fail to meet our project execution targets, we will have no option but to downsize,” Dr Sanginga said.

In less than 2 years, IITA has doubled its annual budget and there are still prospects for growth.

Dr Sanginga said the energy from the women is needed now to ensure that the Institute meets its obligations, emphasizing that “if you (women) take care of IITA, IITA will take care of you.”

In response to the call for greater participation of women and to be able to fill top management positions in IITA, some women called for policies that would enable them to further their education while at the same time keep their jobs and take care of their babies.

“We need to further our education,” Mrs Kafilat Odesola, IITA Scientist, said, emphasising that such opportunities would not compromise research, “because women can multitask and do a hundred things at the same time.”

The women staff set up a committee to map out an implementation strategy to increase the workforce of women, and advise on matters relating to staff promotions in IITA.


The committee, which has strong institutional backing, plans to raise the number of women staff by 50 percent over the next 3 years. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

IITA boss wants governments to tap agriculture for job creation

The Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga, has called on Governments to make use of the potential in agriculture to create wealth and jobs.

In his address delivered to stakeholders at the Oyo State Economic Summit, Dr Sanginga said there were opportunities for the youth to start small businesses in seed production, input supply, weed control, and processing, among others.

He explained the youth could also be farmers and use modern methods that reduce the labor required, raise yields and increase income.

Citing the example of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs model, Dr Sanginga said that there was the need to change the mindset of the youth.

The Youth Agripreneurs project – the first of its kind in the CGIAR—engages young people from various educational disciplines and through mentoring and training transforms them into agripreneurs.

Dr. Sanginga noted that making agriculture a business is at the core of the program.

“This project has so far been successful and we need to scale up,” he said.

National Coalition on Mining questions Dr. Aubynn’s appointment as head of Minerals Commission

The National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) has called on President John Mahama to reconsider his decision to appoint Dr. Tony Aubynn as Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission, a body mandated by law to regulate and manage the minerals sector in the national interest.

The Coalition describes as “shocking” the appointment of Dr. Aubynn, stating that “the appointment points to a pattern of capitulation by the Mahama government to the interests of foreign mining capital”.

The National Coalition on Mining is a grouping of CSOs, community groups and individuals who work for the respect of human rights in mining and optimal national and citizens’ benefit from the country’s mineral resources.

The full text is reproduced below:

Champion of transnational mining companies

Dr.  Aubynn is a citizen of Ghana. However, our call, shock and concerns arise from the fact that Tony Aubynn is a champion of transnational mining companies.  Until his appointment, he was the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines in which position he consistently defended the interest of transnational mining companies. 

There is a record of his pronouncements in defence of these interests which are not only diametrically opposed to the optimisation of national benefit from the country’s non-renewal mineral resources but raises questions about his capacity to discharge the responsibilities as head of the Minerals Commission impartially and equitably.

A striking example of his defence of corporate interests has been his role in the campaign in Ghana and around the world against efforts to raise royalties and taxes paid by the mining companies. At a time when gold prices had risen astronomically (from $400 in 2003 to almost $1900 in 2011) and government wanted to introduce legislation to capture a lot more of the share of this bounty, the Chamber of Mines, fronted by Dr. Aubynn, resisted this move. This was based on the palpably false claim that the industry was overtaxed.

In seeking to deflect the demand for a greater national share of mineral earnings, the Chamber tried to make itself the champion of a greater community share of royalties.

Worrying pattern

Dr. Aubynn’s appointment comes soon after President Mahama used the 2014 Davos World Economic Forum to make public his government’s capitulation to the mining companies. It was there that he announced that in response to their pressure the government was shelving its plan to impose a windfall tax aimed at increasing the public share of mineral earnings.

Is it unreasonable to assume that Dr. Aubynn’s appointment to head the Mineral Commission does not only underline the influence of the mining companies in the corridors of power but also means that they now have a firm ally in charge of the key public body overseeing the mining sector?

The context of Dr. Aubynn’s appointment makes the President’s decision even more shocking and worrying. The decision of the Mills government to raise mineral royalties and review the most unfair mining contracts placed Ghana in a global and African process where mineral rich countries, from Australia to Zambia, were taking steps to increase national earnings from increased global mineral prices.  Domestically a mining contract renegotiating committee chaired by Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr has been set up and has been working with the close support of the Minerals Commission. 

Over the past few years Ghana has been an active participant in the development of the Africa Mining Vision and the formulation of steps for its realisation. Mr. Ben Aryee, the ousted CEO of the Minerals Commission, distinguished himself as Ghana’s representative in these processes and also earned the respect of his peers for his intellectual contributions. Across the world mining companies mounted a campaign against steps which they denounce as “resource nationalism”.

The negative attitude of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, expressed by Dr. Aubynn, is our local experience of this corporate resistance to change.
Unfit for purpose

Given Dr. Aubynn’s long standing defense of the interests of transnational mining firms we doubt his capacity to be impartial, equitable and lead the drive towards the optimal use of Ghana’s mineral wealth for the benefit of its people.  We have serious doubts about Dr. Aubynn’s ability to serve the national interest as CEO of the Minerals Commission, especially at this juncture when the whole of African continent is moving to break with the mining regimes that subordinated national to corporate interests. 

Given his history as a champion of mining corporate interests we wonder how Dr. Aubynn can effectively head a state organization which should be ensuring that the mining industry develops better environmental and social sensitivity, and that the country derives maximum benefit from its mineral assets and also be a leading voice in the ECOWAS and Africa reform process.

Is it unreasonable to fear that the Commission under his leadership will prioritise the interest of the companies for whom he has been such an energetic mouthpiece?

Over the past few years the National Coalition on Mining, communities and other civil society organisations have been working with the Minerals Commission to improve interaction and mutual confidence between mining policy makers and society towards reducing the negative impacts of mining while improving the contribution of the sector to national development and citizens’ benefit. 


A lot of work remains to be done in this regard. The appointment of a defender of corporate mining interests to the important office of CEO of the Minerals Commission is not a good signal for the health of these collaborative relations.

Sustainable cattle rearing in Ghana under threat

The beef you may be enjoying today is probably from processed cattle from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Only a small quantity of meat Ghanaians consume is from the Northern part of the country.

Local breeders however fear Ghana will not be able to breed cattle locally in the next two decades if the current land tenure system pertains.


Kofi Adu Domfeh reports...

Please find audio link below:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yaa Asantewaa Rural Bank to list on the Ghana Alternative Market

The Yaa Asantewaa Rural Bank could be one of the early birds in the Ashanti region to get listed on the Ghana Alternative Market.

The Ghana Stock Exchange has lowered cost and introduced incentives to make the stock market attractive to SMEs.

Investment advisors are particularly entreating rural banks and microfinance companies to turn to the Alternative market to access long term financing.

Yaa Asantewaa Rural Bank, which started operations less than two years ago, has expressed interest to go onto the market.

“The alternative market gives us a brighter opportunity,” says Samuel Addo Otoo, Board Chairman of the Bank. “We’ve opportunity and even gone beyond Ghana by having interactions with institutions in South Africa and Dubai trying to bring capital in; so if the opportunity is there for us to assess it locally, I think it is a brighter time”.

The Bank has the target of opening eight branches within the next five years, in addition to the current two.

Mr. Otoo believes the listing on the stock exchange would enable the bank quicken its expansion drive.

He however entreats the Ghana Stock Exchange to shorten the application process “and also be able to come out with a way of making the process quite simple and accessible by all institutions, especially start-ups that are viable to succeed in the future”.

SMEs with high growth potential can raise Gh250,000 minimum capital on the Ghana Alternative Market.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Three firms access Funds to list on the Ghana Alternative Market

Three Ghanaian companies have received approval to access the ‘SME Listing Support Fund’ to facilitate their listing on the Ghana Alternative Market (GAX). 

The GAX has been established by the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) to facilitate the mobilization of long term capital by SMEs and other indigenous companies.

Deputy Managing Director of the GSE, Ekow Afedzie, says the successful share floatation of the three firms will mark the official launch of the alternative market.

“So far the interest is quite good; we’ve had three companies applying to utilize the funds already, we’ve approved them and we are hoping that very soon we’ll have these three companies floating shares onto the market and that will serve as a good example for others to follow suit,” he said.

The idea of the Ghana Alternative Market is to make it easier for small businesses to list on the stock market by shortening procedures and reducing requirements for listing.

According to Mr. Afedzie, cost has been lowered and incentives introduced to make the market attractive to SMEs.
 
The GSE has also intensified education to promote opportunities in listing on the alternative market.

Investment advisory firm, Prestige Capital, is leading activities to get businesses in the Ashanti region to take advantage of the GAX.

Chief Executive Officer, Prince Acheampong, tells Luv Biz rural banks and microfinance companies should turn to the GAX to access long term financing.

“The first thing is to have access to very cheap long-term funds because usually they do on-lending; and if you take depositors’ funds, for instance three months investment, you can’t use that money to engage in any capital intensive project like building branch networks. But if you list on the Ghana Stock Exchange, you’ll be able to raise that capital required for those expansion,” he opined.
 
Mr. Acheampong added that trading on the stock exchange helps build good brands and enhances the credibility of the listed company.

SMEs with high growth potential can raise a Gh250,000 minimum capital on the GAX.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Economic Justice Network of Ghana welcomes ECOWAS suspension of EPA decision

The Economic Justice Network of Ghana (EJN) has welcomed the decision of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to postpone the final decision on the adoption of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the European Union.

The West African economic bloc has suspended the decision for two months pending the resolution of technical problems raised by some member-countries of the community, notably Nigeria.

EJN in a statement noted the decision by the Heads of State affords all stake-holders in all countries of ECOWAS the opportunity for meaningful dialogue on fundamental issues of economic development of the region and its people that have been raised by the agreement.

“We welcome in particular the formation of a four-country technical committee to examine the technical concerns of member-countries, and urge the countries concerned to open the process up for genuine in-put by all ECOWAS citizens. And we are willing and ready to support the committee, in particular Ghana’s role in the committee, with our skills, capacities and resources to enable development-friendly outcomes,” it said.

According to the Network, the ECOWAS-EPA on the table will undermine government revenue, eliminate jobs, destroy local production, jeopardise the industrial prospects of member countries, constrain South-South co-operation, and undermine sovereign capacity to make policy to enable development. 

Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry has indicated resolve to conduct a thorough fiscal audit of the EPAs before Ghana’s agreement to adopt it. 

The EJN is urging government to facilitate an open, inclusive and meaningful process of national consultation of all stakeholders in Ghana.

The Network also calls on President John Dramani Mahama to use his role as President of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS “to ensure that the opportunities provided by the decision for the re-think of the EPA are fruitfully exercised in support of the genuine development, economic transformation and integration of our region”.



Fufu processing device among African innovations for the future

Fufu is a traditional staple eaten all over Sub-Saharan Africa – dishes are usually made from yams or cassava, sometimes combined with plantains.

Preparing fufu involves pounding the boiled crops into a dough-like consistency, which involves vigorous stirring until the fufu is thick and smooth.

Togolese innovator, Logou Minsob, has designed a device to replace the mortar and pestles used in preparing the popular fufu dish.

The “FOUFOUMIX” is a small electrical food processor that generates discreet, quick and hygienic fufu in 8 minutes, substantially reducing the amount of time needed to prepare the dish, while also enhancing the hygienic conditions during production.

Logou’s innovation is among ten African innovators announced finalists of the prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2014, organised by The African Innovation Foundation (AIF).

Other finalists include Ashley Uys (South Africa) – OculusID Impairment Screening; Daniel Gitau Thairu (Kenya) – Domestic Waste Biogas System; Elise Rasel Cloete (South Africa) – GMP Traceability Management Software CC; Joshua Okello (Kenya) – WinSenga; Dr. Nicolaas Duneas (South Africa) – Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (Altis OBM™); Maman Abdou Kane (Niger) – Horticultural tele irrigation; Melesse Temesgen (Ethiopia) – Aybar BBM; Sulaiman Bolarinde Famro (Nigeria) – Farmking Mobile Multi-crop Processor; and  Viness Pillay (South Africa) – WaferMatTM.

The innovators have created practical solutions to some of the continent’s most intractable problems, from a domestic waste biogas system to a wafer matrix for paediatric antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment. Chosen from almost 700 applications from 42 countries, the finalists for the IPA 2014 represent Africans’ potential to address the challenges that are unique to the continent.

The winners of the IPA 2014 will be announced at an awards ceremony on 5 May in Abuja, Nigeria, where keynote speaker, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of finance, will highlight the importance of innovation to unlock Africa’s potential for sustainable development and economic growth.

The winner will receive US$100,000 for the best innovation based on marketability, originality, scalability, social impact and clear business potential.  A runner up will receive US$25,000 for the best commercial potential and another winner will receive US$25,000 as a special prize for innovation with the highest social impact. 

Prior to the awards ceremony, a roundtable featuring innovation experts will take place, to address the theme “A Path to Building Industrial Nation Skillsets in Africa”.

“As global leaders gather for the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa to discuss approaches to inclusive growth and job creation, the IPA 2014 innovators demonstrate that the best way to achieve equitable economic growth for all Africans is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, founder of the African Innovation Foundation and the IPA.

The Awards has been the pinnacle showcase event for African innovation since 2012. The Foundation believes that the best solutions to the challenges Africans face on a daily basis can and will come from Africans themselves and innovation is the key.

The IPA selection committee represents private equity investors, seed funders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, innovation catalysts and development leaders who are looking for ideas that move Africa forward. 


The prize also encourages private equity investors, government and development leaders to invest across sectors and build a climate that fuels Africa’s economic growth. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Upscale of clean cookstoves critical to save Ghanaian lives

 Firewood and charcoal remain the dominant source of cooking and heating fuels in Ghana.

The country’s shortfall and high cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and other energy sources has increased demand for wood-fuel.

However, conventional charcoal-fuelled stoves contribute to deforestation and cause harmful smoke emissions and health problems. Toxic cookstove smoke contributes immensely to chronic illness, killing about 14,000 Ghanaians annually.

The use of efficient biomass cooking stoves is promoted as a healthy alternative for a greener economy.

Some enterprises in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi have been engaged on developing clean technology solutions for economic value creation and health improvement.

The producers are however challenged in reaching high scales of manufacturing. They need to have in place good management structures, financial systems, business coaching and access to technical support.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is seeking to support these local producers to achieve high production levels.

“Maybe you are producing five or ten thousand stoves and now you have to go to 100,000 or half a million stoves and plus; when you get to that level, you need a much better business structure and so we help businesses build capacity; we help engage banks to show them this is a profitable business that they need to invest in,” stated Kwesi Sarpong, Regional Market Sales Manager for West Africa.

The Alliance, a public-private partnership led by the UN Foundation, has allocated US$2million to support such local entrepreneurs to contribute meaningfully to the cleaner fuels sector.

The objective is to promote sustainable alternative to clean cooking – technologies in clean cookstove contribute to reduction in smoke and toxic emissions, reduced cooking time and fuel requirement and improved cooking efficiency.

Mike Commey of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is engaged in research and development of institutional cookstoves.

“The research we are doing, whether LPG or firewood or charcoal or any energy source, it would have to reduce the amount of energy you use in cooking,” he said.

Mike and his team are focused on installing the institutional cookstoves in Senior High Schools and other mass production food markets.

With an expected rise in demand, following the attraction of the technology by kitchen crew at the Kumasi Secondary Technical School (KSTS), Mr. Commey says the team is ready for scale up.

“It takes us two weeks to build; now we want to scale it down to two days. So if there are two masons in that school, they should be able to build three stoves in two days,” he stated.

The Ghana Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Fuels is leading activities to promote the environmental and social impacts in the manufacture, sale and use of efficient cooking stoves in Ghana.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Africa vulnerable to Climate Change, warns PACJA

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has warned African leaders of grave consequences of climate change if high rates of deforestation are not immediately stopped on the continent.

Samson Ogallah, the Program Manager of PACJA, says climate change will further decrease the supply of available fresh water, and a rapidly growing population will increase demand and land degradation.

“Recurring droughts, high rates of deforestation, agricultural expansions and high population growth will bring grave consequences on African Continent,” he warned.

The statements were made during a Post-2015 Development workshop dubbed ‘Integrating Population, Climate Change, Environment and Development in Kenya”.

Dr. Alice Odingo from the University of Nairobi warned that African people are more vulnerable to environmental change and shrinking natural resources such as food, water, energy, and services.

“Africa is facing poor health and inadequate reproductive health care, particularly for women and children. Increasing poverty and insecurity due to resource competition,” added.

Ms. Tianna Scozzaro, a Population and Climate Associate from Population Action International (PAI) discussed the severe impacts of climate change and how they are projected to impact different countries in different ways.

According to her, “there is low resilience to climate change, water scarcity, high percentage of women with an unmet need for family planning and individual women struggling to feed and care for their families in a changing climate”.


The workshop which was organized by PACJA in collaboration with PAI brought together a number of stake holders, CSOs, Kenya government and County government representatives.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Africa’s growth set to reach 5.2 percent in 2014

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) continues to rise from 4.7 percent in 2013 to a forecasted 5.2 percent in 2014.

This performance is boosted by rising investment in natural resources and infrastructure, and strong household spending, according to the World Bank’s new Africa’s Pulse, a twice-yearly analysis of the issues shaping Africa’s economic prospects.

Growth was notably buoyant in resource-rich countries, including Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It remained steady in Cote dIvoire, while rebounding in Mali, supported by improved political stability and security. Non-resource-rich countries, particularly Ethiopia and Rwanda, also experienced solid economic growth in 2013.

Capital flows to Sub-Saharan Africa continued to rise, reaching an estimated 5.3 percent of regional GDP in 2013, significantly above the developing-country average of 3.9 percent. Net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the region grew 16 percent to a near-record $43 billion in 2013, boosted by new oil and gas discoveries in many countries including Angola, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

With lower international food and fuel prices, and prudent monetary policy, inflation slowed in the region, growing at an annual rate of 6.3 percent in 2013, compared with 10.7 percent a year ago.

Some countries, such as Ghana and Malawi, have seen an uptick in inflation because of depreciating currencies. Remittances to the region grew 6.2 percent to $32 billion in 2013, exceeding the record of $30 billion reached in 2011. These inflows, combined with lower food prices, boosted household real incomes and spending.

Tourism also grew notably in 2013, helping to support the balance of payments of many countries in the region. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by 5.2 percent in 2013, reaching a record 36 million, up from 34 million in 2012, contributing to government revenue, private incomes, and jobs. 

“High-quality university programs in Africa, particularly in areas such as the applied sciences, technology, and engineering, could dramatically increase the regions competitiveness, productivity and growth, says Makhtar Diop, the World Bank Groups Vice President for Africa. “Strategic reforms are needed to expand young people’s access to science-based education at both the country and the regional level, and to ensure that they graduate with cutting-edge knowledge that is relevant and meets the needs of private sector employers”.

Diop further notes that a number of African countries are now routinely among the world’s fastest-growing countries as a result of sound macroeconomic reforms in recent years and the fact that the rest of the world has steadily updated its reality of the continent as a high opportunity region for trade, investment, business, science and technology, and tourism.

“Poor physical infrastructure will, however, continue to limit the regions growth potential. Significantly more infrastructure spending is needed in most countries in the region if they are to achieve a lasting transformation of their economies,” he observed.

Africa’s Pulse says that the regions infrastructure deficit is most acute in energy and roads and that across Africa, unreliable and expensive electricity supply and poor road conditions continue to impose high costs on business and intraregional trade.

Risks to fast growth remain

Africa’s Pulse notes that while GDP growth in the region is expected to remain stronger than in many other developing countries worldwide, a number of important risks remain. 

Commodity prices--weaker demand for metals and other key commodities, combined with increased supply, could lead to a shaper decline in commodity prices. In particular, if Chinese demand, which accounts for about 45 percent of total copper demand and a large share of global iron ore demand, remains weaker than in recent years and supply continues to grow robustly, copper and iron ore prices could decline more sharply, with significant negative consequences for the metal-producing countries.

Locally volatile food prices--within Sub-Saharan Africa, strong local price pressures have emerged in a number of countries driven in part by large currency depreciations, as in Ghana and Zambia, and also by unfavorable weather conditions. In francophone West Africa, drought in 2013 resulted in crop losses of up to 50 percent in parts of the Sahel region. Larger currency depreciations and lower local harvests due to intensifying drought conditions could hurt poor buyers, and result in higher inflation. Increasing integration with larger regional markets can reduce the magnitude of the price effects from localized shocks, while lower trade barriers and better trade infrastructure would allow faster and more efficient response to localized food shortages.

Political uncertainty--domestic risks associated with social and political unrest, and emerging security problems, remain a major threat to the economic prospects of a number of countries in the region. In South Sudan, a ceasefire, signed between the conflicting sides on January 23, 2014, remains tenuous, and sporadic violence has continued to disrupt oil production. In the Central African Republic, insecurity and large-scale displacement of persons are severely disrupting economic activity and livelihoods. Also on the domestic front, upcoming national elections in several countries may slow the pace of much-needed structural reforms.

In a special analysis of the region’s growth and trade patterns in Africa, Africa’s Pulse says that export diversification remains a tough challenge for many African countries, especially oil producers.

“Although Sub-Saharan Africa’s exports remain concentrated in a few strategic commodities, the regions countries have made substantial progress in diversifying their trading partners, says Francisco Ferreira, Chief Economist, World Bank Africa Region.

“Over the last decade, exports to emerging markets such as the BRICs Brazil, Russia, India, China have grown robustly, primarily due to the prolonged boom in commodities demand. The BRICs received only 9 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s exports in 2000 but accounted for 34 percent of total exports a decade later”.

Ferreira says total exports to the BRICs surpassed the regions exports to the European Union (EU) market in 2010 and continue to grow. In 2012, the regions exports to the BRICs reached $145 billion. China alone accounted for about a quarter (23.3 percent) of the regions total merchandise exports. Of course, this shift in trading partners also underscores the regions vulnerability to any slowdown in the BRICs, particularly China.

Trade in services is untapped

Africa’s Pulse
notes that globalization of services is a potentially important source of growth for developing countries. Technology and outsourcing are enabling traditional services to overcome their old constraints such as physical and geographic proximity. Modern services, such as software development, call centers, and outsourced business processes, can be traded like value-added, manufactured products, enabling developing countries that focus on such services, innovation, and technology to leverage services as an important driver of growth.

Has Sub-Saharan Africa tapped this potential? At over $50 billion, the regions services exports trail all other developing regions; however, it is expanding annually at about 12 percent, on average. Traditional services such as transportation and travel have declined from 73 percent of total services exports in 2005 to less than 64 percent in 2012, while modern services exports in the region have increased their share by nearly 10 percentage points from just over 26 percent of total services exports to about 36 percent over the same period.

In some countries such as Mauritius, Rwanda, and Tanzania, modern services exports recorded annual growth rates of over 10 percent between 2005 and 2012, with Rwanda starting from a low base of less than $40 million in services exported in 2005 to over twice that amount at almost $85 million by 2012. In both Mauritius and Rwanda, rapid expansion in modern services is a result of increased activity in tradable business and financial services. Over 60 percent of those employed in large companies in Mauritius work in the service sector, which offers more employment opportunities than either agriculture or manufacturing.


“While Mauritius, Rwanda, and Tanzania have experienced a rapid increase in modern services, others like Kenya are also emerging as places where modern services are becoming drivers of growth and development. This is exciting news for other African countries looking to expand into the globalized services business,” says Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist of the World Banks Africa Region, and author of Africa’s Pulse.

Guaranteeing the independence of Ghana’s Audit Service

Ghana’s supreme audit institution, the Audit Service, is charged with the responsibility of promoting good governance in the areas of transparency, accountability and probity in the public financial management system.

The Service acts to protect the public purse by auditing the management of public resources and reporting to Parliament.

However, the independence of the Audit Service cannot be guaranteed in the current institutional arrangement where the President appoints the Auditor-General, observed the Audit Service Divisional Union of the Public Services Workers Union.

“To carry outs its role effectively, the Service needs to be financially, politically and administratively independent of Executive control. However, the Auditor-General is currently appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State in contravention of the Lima Declaration,” said Samuel Teye Kofi Amoako, Chairman of the Union.

The Auditor-General, who currently reports to Parliament, must be appointed by Parliament through advertisement by Parliament, he opined.

Mr. Amoako also proposes a fixed term in office of ten years or retire at the age of 65 years, whichever comes earlier.

To guarantee the financial independence of the Audit Service, the Union has proposed that “just as the Ghana Revenue Authority is allowed to retain 3% of revenues collected for their administrative and other expenditure, 1.5% of all expenditure should be set aside as audit fees”.

The 4th Delegates Conference of the Audit Service Divisional Union has been held in Kumasi on the theme: “The Role of the State Auditor in National Development – Challenges of the Audit Service”.

Stakeholders at the conference noted that the challenges facing the Audit Service have the potential to undermine the effectiveness of government financial management if not addressed with the seriousness required.

Richard Amparbeng, General Secretary of the Public Services Workers Union, challenged assertions Ghana’s public sector is unproductive.

He says public sector institutions are rather bleeding with corruption and financial malfeasance, hence the need to plug all leakages.

“The State Auditor needs a lot of resources and protection to do a good work. The Auditor should be given the latitude to do his work without interventions from influential people in society”.

Meanwhile, Auditor-General, Richard Quartey, says management is working to provide requisite resources and remuneration to improve staff efficiency and productivity.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Suame Magazine Industrial Park project gets committee

A nine-member committee has been inaugurated to oversee the project of transforming the Suame Magazine in Kumasi into a globally-competitive industrial complex in automobile engineering.

The Suame Magazine Industrial Park will re-settle the local artisans who are currently faced with the difficulty of coping with the new technology in vehicular repairs and securing a permanent industrial space for their operations.

The committee has a mandate to secure the necessary documentation on a thousand acre land at Kodie-Adubinsu-Kese in the Afigya-Kwabre District earmarked for the project.

This should be achieved by end of June for the project to attract a multi-donor partnership support, spearheaded by the Danish International Development Cooperation (DANIDA).

According to Lars Joker, DANIDA Team Leader for Business and Green Growth, the Danish interventions at the Suame Magazine will focus on training, technology transfer, especially auto-diagnostics, and better working environment for the artisans.

“If you look at Suame Magazine today, it’s very crowded, working conditions are not too good; it can be unsafe – fire and environmental problems. What we are looking at is can we support Suame Magazine in that relocation, can we support them in developing better facilities for the companies out there so they can grow,” he noted.

The quest of the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization (SMIDO) is to enlist all stakeholders to support the project.

Nyaaba-Aweeba Azongo, Consultant to SMIDO and the industrial complex project, is confident the inaugurated committee is a boost to meeting the demands of DANIDA.

The project committee is chaired by the District Chief Executive Officer of the Afigya-Kwabre, Kaakyire Oppong-Kyekyeku under whose jurisdiction the earmarked land for the industrial complex project is located.

Other members include Mrs. Emelia Botchway, District Coordinating Director, Isaac Owusu Mensah, District Planning Officer and Mr. Eric Yaw Owusu, District Engineer.

The rest are Clement Sarpong, Chairman of SMIDO Land Committee, Nyaaba-Aweeba Azongo, Consultant to SMIDO, Mark Williams, a representative of the Danish Embassy, Palma Afesi, from the United Pension Trustee, corporate Managers of the Suame Magazine Industrial Development (SMID) Fund and Nana Owusu Apeasa II, Chief of Adubinsu-Kese, custodian of the project land.

Ashanti Regional Deputy Minister, Samuel Adusei, inaugurating the committee on behalf of the Regional Minster, commended SMIDO for demonstrating rare perseverance and leadership in the pursuit of the project.

“The whole world is expecting something good comes out of Suame Magazine which is the hub of vehicle repairs and sales of parts and host of artisanal works in West African sub-region. The dream of Ghanaians is that Suame Magazine and the mix of artisans with the skills to handle all types of vehicles should be in a position to come out with its own make of cares to contribute to Ghana’s industrialization effort”.
 
The Suame artisans last year unveiled the “SMATI Turtle 1” prototype vehicle, locally built in partnership with an NGO from the Netherlands.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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