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24.09.2002 Business & Finance

Ghana targets Nigeria's salt market

By BBC Online
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Ghana's finance minister has called for foreign firms to exploit the West African nation's natural resources, especially its salt reserves.

"We need companies to invest in our salt mines so that we can produce the critical mass that will allow Nigeria to import from us," Kwamena Bartels, Minister for Private Sector Development, told BBC News Online.

Nigeria buys $1.5bn-worth of salt a year, in order to feed both domestic demand and its oil industry.

This salt is now primarily imported from Australia and Brazil, while Ghana's salt reserves remain largely untapped.

Mr Bartels says an investment of up to $150m would be enough to start producing enough salt to start winning trade contracts with Nigeria.

Seeking poverty solutions

The emphasis on salt comes as part of a wider drive to increase foreign direct investment into Ghana.

"I am disappointed with our growth rate of about 4%," Ghana's finance minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo said.

"We cannot reduce poverty by growing at these rates," he told the Commonwealth Business Council.

"Now is the time for Ghana to receive its fair share of foreign investment, and we must concentrate on the private sector."

Amongst other industries, Ghana is also hoping to attract more investment for its cocoa, magnesium, gold and timber industries in particular.

True democracy

Political stability is the key factor in ensuring that the funds now start flowing into Ghana, Mr Osafo-Maafo told BBC News Online.

Mr Osafo-Maafo admits that Ghana has suffered turbulence during its 44 years of independence, but believes a new era has begun.

"A democratically-elected government has just handed power over to another democratically-elected government," he said.

"That to me is the beginning of stability in Ghana."

And Mr Osafo-Maafo was keen to stress that Ghana - as arguably the most developed and most stable country in West Africa - is the region's hotspot for future investment.

"If you had money to invest, would you chose Nigeria or Ghana?"

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