The Chairman of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Professor Ivan Addae-Mensah, has called on the government to reactivate the Bonsa Tyre Company (BTC) at Bonsa in the Wassa West District of the Western Region.
“That factory needs to come back to life. Let us for once do the right thing at the right time, and not wait until all those new machines also rot away before we go for another loan to rehabilitate them, or before they even become obsolete.
“After spending over $40 million on the rehabilitation project, and with the vast expanse of rubber plantation available, it boggles my mind that the factory is still lying idle,” he lamented.
Professor Addae-Mensah was giving a lecture at the weekend, on “The Strategic Importance of the Western Region in the Economic Development of Post Independence Ghana” at the Takoradi Polytechnic Auditorium Complex as part of activities marking the 50th Independence Anniversary celebration in the Western Region.
He said since June 2000, the factory had kept a caretaker staff of about 33, including engineers and mechanics, whose number had now reduced to less than 10, just to keep an eye on the equipment until someone came forward to buy the factory.
He pointed out that the economic and social benefits envisaged if the factory was revived would include the direct generation of 600 jobs, requiring high calibre technicians, engineers, chemists, mechanics and labourers.
He explained that the industry would be a stabilising force in the area just as it was during the 1960s and 1970s when it was the only factory in the Tarkwa area which kept that locality alive when the mines were dying.
In addition, he noted that the Ghana Rubber Estates could expand its current acreage, and so would out-growers, not only in the Western Region, but also in other regions, thus creating more jobs, while more tyre dealers would get into business.
Giving the background of the factory, Professor Addae-Mensah said in 1961, the then government of Ghana, under President Kwame Nkrumah invited a Czech firm to build a tyre manufacturing company in Ghana.
To support the factory, he said, a huge rubber plantation was established, while out-growers were also encouraged to go into small plantation production.
He said the construction of the factory began in 1963 as a joint venture with Czechoslovakia. He said competent high level and middle level staff were trained both in Ghana and Czechoslovakia and employed at the factory.
Professor Addae-Mensah explained that in 1966, after the overthrow of Dr Nkrumah, the project changed hands when Firestone of Akron acquired 60 per cent shares, while the Ghana government retained 40 per cent, and that the company was re-registered as Firestone Ghana Limited.
He said the company produced heavy duty, light duty, car and tractor tyres and other related pneumatic tyre products such as inner tubes.
“From 1969 to 1977, the company was able to produce up to 90 per cent of installed capacity,” he said, adding that “from an initial production of 24,000 units of tyres of different specifications, output reached 310,000 units by 1977.
Professor Addae-Mensah said in 1990, the government signed an agreement with the African Development Bank (AFDB) for a loan of $30.7 million to rehabilitate the plant, at a cost of $46.53 million.
He explained that the AFDB loan was for the procurement of offshore machinery and equipment, while the Ghana government's matching fund was to be $10.4 million.
Story by Kwame Asiedu Marfo