Exporters have been urged to improve the quality of their products to meet global appeal, as part of efforts to boost the export trade through initiatives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Ghana, unlike other sub-Saharan African countries that AGOA targets, has not derived many benefits as anticipated during the initial 15-year period of the United States government initiative - which among others was intended to encourage export-led growth.
Available statistics show that Ghana has struggled to contribute at least one percent to the total AGOA exports.
AGOA, enacted in 2000, also aimed to deepen bilateral relations between the United States of America and sub-Saharan African countries to enhance trade and economic development. It provides a non-reciprocal trade opportunity for eligible sub-Saharan African countries to export over 6,400 products on a quota-free and duty-free basis.
But local exporters, according to the Chamber of Commerce, lack understanding of the operations of AGOA - therefore failing to comply, in many instances, with the quality requirements to fully benefit from this trade policy. The Chief Executive of the Chamber, Mr. Mark Badu-Aboagye, noted that: “Meeting the quality, delivery and pricing of products are key requirements under AGOA, but are also the main challenge facing local exporters”.
He said given the competitiveness of the market, local exporters are expected to “produce goods at a very competitive price, at the quality that is acceptable and at the right delivery time to fully enjoy the benefits of AGOA”.
To address some of these issues, in the face of validity period of the initiative’s current extension from 2015 to 2025, he said the Chamber has entered into a partnership with the USAID to establish an AGOA Trade Resource Centre (ATRC) to build the capacity of existing and potential exporters.
This is expected to position exporters and local businesses to able to export under AGOA. He added that the ATRC has so far organised about 12 workshops to deepen capacity for members of the local export market.
However, he reckoned that there is still much to be done, and other collaborations and strategies being implemented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry will contribute to encourage production for local consumption as well as export. Mr. Badu-Aboagye, who was speaking in an interview during an AGOA sensitisation workshop in Kumasi, also said that with all these attempts to assist local export trade from both the Chamber and government, he anticipates that export revenue will go up in the next five years.
Presently, Ghana exports less than 100 of the 6,400 products allowed for export under AGOA, but the Chamber is optimistic that the exports will go up through awareness-creation and sensitisation programmes being organised for local businesses.
A trade officer of the Ministry of the Trade and Industry in the Ashanti region, Mr. Mamuda Osman, announced that the Trade Ministry has launched the National Export Strategy to ensure that each district in Ghana specialises in at least one exportable product in the country. He explained that the strategy will also ensure the establishment of District Export Committees to provide support services, information on AGOA, and market access to exporters.
“The ministry is also putting in place a clear implementation plan in relation to government’s Ten-Point Agenda for Industrial Transformation to increase Ghana’s export earnings by diversifying our exports on the international markets, of which the US market is no exception.”
He charged exporters to take responsibility to ensure that they export quality products, in their own interests and also to raise the country’s image.
The Ghana government, in this regard, is said to be collaborating with the Japanese government to build the capacities of Business Development Service Providers under the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), to enable them to deliver effective business development services to micro, small and medium enterprises. The project is aimed at formulating a strategic model for quality and productivity improvement through the strengthening of BDS for MSMEs in Ghana.
Other facilitators from the USAID and West Africa Trade and Investment Hub took participants through the AGOA requirements and other eligibility processes.
The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) has upped it effort at making sure that operators in the hospitality industry meet set standards as the nation aggressively pushes towards raising more revenue from tourism.
Nana Twum Barima, its Director of Research, Statistics and Information, said they were determined to go the extra mile to ensure that the operations of industry players were consistent with globally acceptable standards.
This, he said, was vital as the Authority worked hard to boost tourism arrivals – positioned Ghana as preferred tourist destination. He was addressing a meeting held with hoteliers, restaurant operators and car rental services in Kumasi on the “Tourism Single Window Project” and “Information Technology Compliance Survey”.
The goal, he said, was to closely monitor their activities, so that the right things were done.
Nana Twum Barima indicated that tourism development could bring enormous benefits to the economy – create job opportunities and wealth for the people. That was why everything should be done to keep the sector on the path of growth, he added.
Mr. Alex Boakye, Director, Quality Assurance, said the introduction of the ‘service charter’ was meant to assure clients of efficient service delivery. He added that it was the way forward to make Ghana the leading tourist destination in West Africa.
The GTA, he said, was eager to see substantial increase in domestic tourism and was working towards that.
More than 300 people were killed and at least 500 injured on October 14 when a truck bomb exploded in a crowded intersection in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. The attack is being called the worst in the history of the city, a particularly alarming statistic considering that the capital has regularly been the scene of violent conflict since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991.
No one has yet officially claimed responsibility for the attack, although the Guardian reported that a man, detained when he tried to drive a second vehicle loaded with explosives into the capital, told security officials that the rebel group Al-Shabaab was responsible.
Al-Shabaab is a terrorist group that has been fighting against the federal government of Somalia since late 2006. It is an extremist Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda, working to include Somalia in an international jihad. Its strength has waxed and waned in the intervening decade. Since 2011, when it staged what it called a “tactical withdrawal” from Mogadishu, its activities in the capital have mainly consisted of suicide bombings, detonations of improvised explosive devices and targeted assassinations of political figures.
Its capabilities in Mogadishu, as in nearly all Somali cities, are held in check by the combined forces of the African Union-backed AMISOM peacekeeping force and the Somali Federal Security Forces. But Somalia’s military is notoriously weak, hampered by the fact that it is made up of a collection of clan militias seconded to the national authorities by their leaders, with often weak allegiance to the national project.
Al-Shabaab continues to control large swathes of the Somali countryside, and retains the ability to carry out large-scale attacks. It is playing a long game. In the short term the group is working to thwart the Somali government’s efforts to consolidate its power, but it does not have enough power to defeat the government or to drive it from the capital. In the longer term, Al-Shabaab professes to be working to expel foreign – Western – influence in Somalia and to establish a state based on an extreme reading of sharia law.
The recent explosion was significant for the scale of its devastation and the size of the arsenal contained in the truck. Details of where the explosives for the attack were obtained are yet to emerge, but it’s clear that the operation must have been planned and carried out by a group with considerable organisational power.
The attack couldn’t have come at a worse time for the federal government of Somalia. A week before, both Somalia’s minister of defence and military chief resigned for reasons that remain unclear. The suspicions are that the two were rivals, but were also frustrated at a lack of support coming from the months-old administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
The government is trying to put in place a new Security Pact, agreed in May 2017 at an international conference held at London’s Lancaster House. That plan, which was to see the first of AMISOM’s troops withdrawing in 2018, is very likely to be stalled as a result of the attack.
The attack is also likely to put a damper on the rhetoric rising out of the city in recent years that Mogadishu was becoming safer. With so many innocent civilians affected, the notion that only high-profile politicians or security personnel are at risk is now seriously challenged. This is likely to deter many Somalis from the diaspora as well as those living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, from returning.
If Al-Shabaab is responsible for the dreadful loss of life, its official silence in the aftermath may be due to the very high number of civilian casualties. One theory is that the truck had been intended to explode outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but was detonated prematurely by the driver when it was stopped by security officials after getting stuck in traffic. The explosion then ignited a nearby fuel tanker, causing a fireball that destroyed buildings over several hundred metres in the centre of the city. Causing so many civilian casualties is likely to lead to serious and widespread backlash against Al-Shabaab – not the kind of PR they are looking for in their battle to bring down the government.
Resilience and solidarity
Yet amid the horror stories of suffering and loss, small glimmers of hope and resilience have emerged. One of the strongest and most immediate sources of support has been the Somali diaspora. Within hours it mobilised to raise money for Aamin Ambulance, the only free ambulance service in the city, to be able to take the wounded to hospital.
Daallo Airlines, a Somali-owned business, announced that it would transport all relief supplies into the country for free. Other crowdfunded efforts were started to provide support to the families of those affected. These efforts have raised thousands of dollars in just a few days.
International support is coming in many forms too. Djibouti responded by sending its minister of health and 30 doctors to help treat the wounded. Turkey evacuated 35 of the injured to be treated in Ankara, and sent ten tons of medical supplies to Mogadishu. Paris extinguished the lights on the Eiffel Tower on October 16 at midnight, and Toronto’s iconic name sign was illuminated in blue and white to pay respect to those affected.
Once the dust has settled, the fires are extinguished and the loved ones laid to rest, maybe – just maybe – this resilience will be able to grow to ensure that the peace that Somali so desperately needs will come at last.
As Burundi grapples with a political crisis that has lasted almost two years now, a shortage of foreign currency is still a major concern for investors in the country.
Burundi imports almost 80 per cent of the manufactured goods it needs, hence the high demand of foreign currency. “We can no longer pay our suppliers so they have stopped sending us goods. Although we have enough local currency, we obviously can’t use it to pay for imports,” said one Bujumbura businessman who imports construction materials.
Since August last year, traders have faced a shortage of foreign currency, a situation that has been blamed for a rise in inflation over several months now. The central bank has continued to loosen its monetary policy in efforts to plug the widening fiscal deficit.
A black market is flourishing, with the exchange rate almost doubling the official rate. The dollar exchanges at Bif2,930 on the black market, against the official rate of Bif1,737.
Negative economic growth
The World Bank 2016 Report indicates that economic growth remains negative due to the fragile political environment. Private consumption likely weakened following a contraction in food production due to climate shocks, a longer than expected lean season and forced migration.
Positive developments in the real estate sector included private investment growing in recent months as the consumer agro-industries and the cement industry found new domestic and external markets. Meanwhile, Kenya and Tanzania have stepped up support for Burundi through trade exhibitions. Tanzania, for the first time, joined Kenya for a trade fair that ended two weeks ago.
“We are showing togetherness as East Africans and as Burundi looks to strengthen its relations with other East African countries,” said Burundi first vice president, Gaston Sindimwo.
Kenya exports more products to its EAC partner states than to any other part of the world. However, Tanzania and Kenya’s share of manufactured goods and services in Burundi have reduced since 2015. As a consequence, the Tanzania-Kenya trade exhibition was designed to rekindle interest and offer opportunities for investments and partnerships between the countries.
Major Kenyan companies have already invested in Burundi including Kenya Commercial Bank, Jubilee Insurance, Safintra, Kobil and some universities. The inflation rate in Burundi has remained moderate at six per cent, which is below the eight per cent convergence level agreed within the EAC’s regional integration arrangement.
Available estimates from the central bank, suggest that public debt is expected to exceed 45 per cent of gross domestic product.
Credit: The East African