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08.02.2005 General News

Conference on agribusiness for West Africa opens

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Accra, Feb. 8, GNA - The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a leading private sector promoter of trade and investment between the United States and Africa, on Tuesday organised a conference on agribusiness for West African businessmen during which Mr Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry, urged exporters to the US to expand the supply base of their products to sustain their ventures.

Speaking on the opportunities offered to the sub-region under the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), Mr Kyerematen said although exports to the US in the past few years had increased, the local businesses needed to work harder in order to achieve growth. He said the AGOA facility, which would last till 2015, posed a major challenge to exporters to expand their supply base to remain competitive.

The exporters also needed to adhere to the sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules and regulations associated with food and cut flowers exports to the US.

The Minister said out of the 83 million dollars worth of goods exported by Ghana in 2003, 49 per cent were AGOA products. Ghana is noticeably becoming an exporter of apparel and clothing to the US. The nation increased its exports of 270,000 dollars worth of items in that category in 2002 to 4.2 million dollars in 2003.

Exports of Agri-products in 2002 amounted to 3.3 million dollars but increased to 21.7 million dollars in 2003, while some few other companies are receiving orders based on ability to supply and also to meet other US requirements for exporting products to that country. The agricultural sector accounts for over 30 per cent of the national revenue and to Mr Kyerematen Ghana could invest in other areas such as the processing of maize, sorghum, cassava and cocoa to create jobs, generate wealth and reduce poverty.

He said however, that Ghana, like any other country in the sub region must begin to increase cross border trade and join forces in order to expand their production platform.

This, he said, was necessary because no country could build a large market in the US on its own.

Mr Kyerematen noted that it was important for the AGOA eligible countries in the sub region to access information and position themselves to be able to enter into business partnership with American companies seeking to invest in the region.

"While we seek to explore the largest market of the world, we must also seek to maximise the opportunities available to us and this will not happen by chance."

The conference which opened in Accra on Tuesday is expected to facilitate agribusiness between the US and West Africa. Participants from Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria among other countries are taking part in the conference funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to discuss partnership opportunities and the policies, practices and technologies that impact on the development and expansion of US- West Africa business relations.

The Council has so far raised Africa's investment profile by providing the required information to business people on both continents and generating about 145 million dollars in investments for West Africa. The Council's programme in West Africa is known as the "West Africa International Business Linkages (WAIBL). It has created 3,000 jobs in the region.

Mr Jerry Lanier, Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d' Affaires of the US Embassy, said agribusiness remained one of Ghana's most promising areas for additional trade and investment.

He said USAID had promoted an initiative involving a Ghanaian in the US who was marketing shea butter to friends in Washington as a hobby but did not know how to formalise the business and build linkages. The investor through a WAIBL programme established a shea butter factory in Ghana and has since 2003 recouped his initial investment of 25,000 dollars from the business and was able to sell more than 40,000 dollars worth of shea butter to the US in four months.

Mr Lanier said: "We are proud of WAIBL's work in West Africa, and it is just one of our programmes to support business linkages". He said the USAID was assisting companies and businesses through a variety of specially designed programmes such as the Global Trade and Technology Network to help small and medium sized enterprises to build trade linkages.

Another programme is the Trade and Investment Reform programme also aimed at providing technical assistance to local companies in agriculture and other sectors.

A new programme developed through the West Africa Regional Programme is known as the Market Information Systems and Traders' Organisations in West Africa and is aimed at facilitating trade in agricultural commodities by integrating national and regional market information systems and strengthening trade organisations.

Mr Lanier said these interventions formed part of US trade initiatives in the sub region and urged Ghana to take advantage of them. He noted that Ghanaian businesses had traditionally been oriented towards Europe, particularly in agricultural products, saying, "but opportunities exist for exports to the US - and Ghanaian agribusinesses should exploit them".

The key to success in the US market was to understand the distribution channels, the regulations and the consumers, Mr Lanier said and urged Ghanaian entrepreneurs to make contacts, work with their customers and get information on doing business with the US.

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