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21.12.2011 Business & Finance

No Budget To Revive Trade Fair Centre

By Charles Benoni Okine - Daily Graphic
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An Irish company, Pierse-CFC, which was contracted by the Ghana Trade Fair Company Limited (GTFC) to redesign the fair for its reconstruction into a modern international site, has presented its proposed plan in a report to the company.

The plan for the project is a raw artists impression of what the new fair site is expected to look like.

Unfortunately, however, the plan is without a budget, a move which raises questions as to whether the wild dream of the authorities to resuscitate the once vibrant centre can ever be materialised.

The project is also faced with a possible land ownership challenge which has been lingering for many years. Investigations have revealed that there is an outstanding amount of about GH¢30 million yet to be paid to the land owners.

But the authorities are of the view that the next move for the company is to focus on attracting investors who will be willing to take part in the reconstruction of the once vibrant centre.

The new Chief Executive Officer of the GTFC, Mr Erasmus Emmanuel Koney, told the Graphic Business that a consultant was also expected to be hired to advise on how to pay land compensation to the prospective land owners which had been outstanding for more than 49 years.

“The pay back will, however, focus on part payment in cash and the remaining being converted to equity for the people of La, the land owners.

The Centre today

A visit to the centre exposed shocking revelations which was once the icon in the sub-region.

The back of most of the pavilions have been turned into a huge refuse dump where waste of all kinds are dumped and burnt intermittently.

The children’s park area, which offered the kids who thronged the centre with their parents, a place to relax and have fun, is left with the debris of old see-saw and dilapidated play equipment. The green grass around the place has given way to weeds while some of the structures meant for entertainment have been taken over by squatters who have found the place a safe haven.

Some of the roofs of the pavilions can no longer hold water and, therefore, rainwater collects at a slightest drop. Do not be deceived when you see some structures that look like offices. They have been turned into abodes for some staff of the centre. There are serious cracks in most of the structures and a cursory look at the top reveals the weak wooden and metal frames.

A new pavilion under construction which is to be used as an ICT centre has been taken over by a church. At the entrance to the church is a generator used to power the various sound systems used for such activities. This practice is typical of many new churches, which only find such spaces as the starting point for their church activities. Because they come with huge sums of money, they are mostly always able to have their way.

The streets have developed many potholes, destroying the entire beauty of the once planned area.

Views from GNCCI

Members of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) have been the major beneficiaries of the centre as they, in the past exhibited some of their products.

According to the acting Chief Executive Officer of the chamber, Mr Emmanuel Doni, the virtual demise of the centre is a pain to members of the chamber.

“Now they are made to pay more to be able to participate in fairs and exhibitions organised either within the country at places such as the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), the Accra Mall, among others”, he said. To him, this was unfortunate and wondered why such an edifice which served a positive purpose had been left to rot over a long period.

The Trade Fair before

Built some five decades ago, the centre, which is placed under the care of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was meant to be a site to showcase the works of industrialists in the country as part of efforts to promote made-in-Ghana goods.

The centre was also meant to serve as a platform for other countries, mostly those from the sub-region and the African continent as a whole to exhibit their products and services to promote the African Union agenda.

In the time past, the centre hosted many grand exhibitions and the most common ones include the Industrial and Technology (INDUTECH) Fair, Ghana Industry and Furniture Exhibition (GIFEX), Grand Sales and many other mini fairs. These exhibitions became a part of the country’s event calendar.

It was also the venue for other specialised fairs hosted by foreign countries including Turkey, Germany, among many others.

The manufacturing sector used INDUTECH as a platform local industries in the country to showcase their products, be it new or old, to the general public. It was also used as a platform to launch new industrial products or to re-launch old models. GIFEX on the other hand was also used to promote the furniture industry.

Ghana's most popular bazaar dubbed Grand Sales, perhaps the most popular and well-patronised bazaar after the International Fair in the country, was mainly aimed at boosting internal trade and exportable items as it provided a unique forum for economic operators and the consuming public to meet and transact business.

In no small measure, the various exhibitions have assisted many commercial and industrial operators to introduce new products and help create awareness for less-known products and services.

In terms of competition, the exhibitions helped develop the existing domestic markets for a wide range of goods and services. They also introduced competition in the market and above all contributed to the growth of commerce while generating interest in made in Ghana goods.

These fairs have contributed to the growth and expansion of many businesses and boosted the confidence level of many an industrialists and entrepreneurs, something that gave meaning to the value of the Ghanaian innovative prowess.

These fairs played a positive role in the distribution of income in the general economic system as it exposed the participants to various marketing, packaging, and labeling techniques.

Products such as rubber and plastics, wood and furniture, cosmetics and aluminium, leather and footwear, carpets, electronic and domestic electrical goods, textiles, batik, tie-dye and general clothing, food and drinks, books and stationery, hair products, beads, jewelry, body care products and general consumables, all made in Ghana were never short on display.

Renowned industrial giants such as Latex Foam Company, Agorwu Furniture Company, Voltic Ghana Limited, Tropical Cable and Conductors Limited became known to many Ghanaians.GB

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