President John Agyekum Kufuor has opened the 11th Ghana International Golden Jubilee Trade and Exhibition Fair urging local businesses especially small and medium scale enterprises to explore joint ventures possibilities to forge strategic partnerships.
He said the opportunity offered would enable them to expand their businesses and enhance their access to market to benefit fully from the process of globalisation.
The President's speech was read on his behalf by Mr Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade, Industry and President's Special Initiatives, at a ceremony, which saw the beautiful display of Ghana's colours, Red, Gold and Green.
Over one million local and foreign participants are expected at this year's fair under the theme, "Championing African Excellence".
President Kufuor noted that this year's international trade and exhibition fair, had come at a time Ghana's economy was poised for accelerated growth and said it should therefore serve as an instrument to stimulate investment opportunities.
He stated that it must spur growth by providing a common platform for manufacturers, traders, exporters, importers and all categories of service providers to showcase what they have to offer to the world.
President Kufuor said the Ghana's Golden Jubilee Independence anniversary provided an opportunity to take stock of the nation's past experiences and to reflect on the challenges that had confronted the country in business development and the growth of the private sector.
"We can say without doubt, that trade fairs and exhibitions have contributed significantly to increasing Ghana's domestic trade as well as our share of the global market.
"This is one of the main reason why the Government is exploring all avenues to develop the trade fair centre to bring it to international standards as a centre of excellence for commercial transactions and to showcase with pride what Ghanaian industry can provide," he said.
President Kufuor said, the government had succeeded in laying a solid foundation for development, by implementing policies and programmes that have significantly transformed the economic landscape of Ghana over the past six years.
Giving a background to Trade Fairs in Ghana, Ms Esther Ofori, Chief Executive of the Ghana Trade Fair Company, said Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first President, established the Centre 40 years as part of an industrialization programme to expand international trade especially inter-African trade.
She said his dream of holding the 1st Ghana International Trade Fair in February to March 1966, a few months after hosting the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Conference in 1965, was curtailed following the overthrow of his government.
Ms Ofori said Lieutenant General J A Ankrah, who became the Head of State after the 1966 Coup, therefore officially opened the 1st International Trade Fair on February 1, 1967.
A total of 17 foreign countries, seven African as well as over 40 infant Ghanaian industries participated in the 1967 Fair.
Today, in 2007, 11 foreign nations have registered to participate with nine African countries having over 126 established industries as well as several small and medium scale enterprises taking part, she said.
Ms Ofori said despite the "twist and turn" that the Centre went through, it had found its bearing once again and resumed the international fairs to create a promotional platform to showcase corporate Ghana, her goods and services.
Mr Eddie Mbeah-Amoako, Board Chairman of the Ghana Trade Fair Company, stressed the need for a redevelopment plan to modify the focus of the Centre to turn it into a vibrant "Expo City" to serve as a hub for the hosting of multiple specialized fairs and other commercial events.
He said the Directors were envisaging a facility with a conference centre, exhibition halls, hotel complex, food courts, shopping malls, banks and recreational facilities.
Mr Mbeah-Amoako said with the support of the Ministry of Trade, Industry Private Sector and PSI Ministry, discussions were going on with offshore investors.