The Executive Director of the Centre for Economic Policy Analysis (CEPA), Dr Joe Abbey, says Ghana needs to seriously strengthen the capacity of local enterprises to make them competitive internally and globally.
He said for the next five years, which marked the period before the country begins the process of collapsing tariffs on European imports, the country needed to practically overcome all challenges confronting its private sector to enable it to rub shoulders with its foreign counterparts.
Dr Abbey gave the advice at the European Forum at the National Theatre in Accra on the sides of the German-European 2008 (GEREU 2008), an exhibition which is making it possible for German and European Union business interests in the country that are also interested in doing business in West Africa the chance to showcase their products.
The exhibition which covers a broad segment of industries, such as agriculture and food processing; building and construction; industrial and production machinery; mining and energy as well as automobiles, will also enable the exhibitors to establish business contacts so as to expand trade between Ghana and its traditional trading partner, the EU.
Dr Abbey said Ghana, which signed a new trading agreement with the European Union (EU) known as the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA), could only be overwhelmed by EU imports if the country slacked in making its local private sector competitive.
Under the reciprocal free trade agreement initialled in December 2007 between Ghana and the EU, Ghana will remove tariffs on 80 per cent of EU imports in phases within 15 years, the first five years of which shall see no tariff removal.
The EU is required from January 1, this year to reciprocally remove tariffs on all of Ghana's exports, including bananas and processed cocoa, which hitherto attracted tariffs and quotas.
“What are we doing to promote a competitive and profitable private sector?”
Dr Abbey quizzed, and stated that for the next 13 years or so Ghana had the obligation to resource and develop its private sector.
The Director of CEPA said choosing the EPAs was a preferred option to the enhanced Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+), saying Ghana did not even qualify to do so because at the time of signing it had only ratified 25 out of the 27 regulations required to be eligible to apply for it.
The President of the Ghanaian-German Economic Association (GGEA), Mr Stephen Antwi, called for further economic management and policies to drive interest rates down and improve access to credit.
Mr Antwi, also a management consultant, said improving access to finance in the country had become more necessary because of the squeeze in the credit markets of some major world economic players.
“Our infrastructure is also very poor. Travelling across West Africa, especially by air, is a nightmare and these must be resolved quickly,” Mr Antwi said.
The GGEA President urged the ECOWAS region to act concertedly and fix its infrastructure problems regarding travelling and the movement of goods and people so as to attract larger investments.
“When we fix these problems, bigger companies will locate here and take advantage of our relatively cheaper labour to manufacture and re-export to the European market” he added.