GEPA: Facilitation, Development and Promotion of Ghanaian Exports by Gifty Klenam

Gifty Klenam presents the activities of GEPA (Ghana Export Promotion Authority), the National Export Trade Support Institution of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) responsible for the facilitation, development and promotion of Ghanaian exports.

Interview with Gifty Klenam, CEO of GEPA (Ghana Export Promotion Authority)

Gifty Klenam, CEO of GEPA (Ghana Export Promotion Authority)

GEPA is striving to achieve the vision of the Ghanaian government which is to develop the country from a consumption economy to a production and export-based economy. What are the steps that GEPA is taking to help to achieve this vision?

The mandate of GEPA is to develop products and then promote those products in terms of market search, mainly for export purposes. GEPA is the institution mandated to implement the export strategy of the government. As our president has said, Ghana must move beyond aid. We still need foreign currency inflows into the country, but it must come in a different form, which we will earn through exports. We cannot export without product. The vision clearly defines that product development is our next major step. Since we took over, we have identified that it is not that the market for our products is not there, the issue is the sustainability of the product after it has entered the international market. Currently, we are concentrating on products that have a high value, in terms of adding value to it. We are trying to develop those products that we are exporting raw to end at a high value. Such products include avocado, cashew, coconut, pineapple, and other horticulture products.

What are the priority areas for the current export strategy for Ghana?

The strategy is to make sure that we sustain every product that we get the market to supply. We have various warehouses in most of the countries where we are going to export our produce. You can come to Ghana and the government as the center to source Ghanaian products. We are developing both the products and the marketing simultaneously.

Is this strategy seeing success?

We have started out well. The constraint has always been the capital to perform this task on a large scale. In our small resources that we have, the vision has been made quite clear to the government, the public, and the entire world. Any investor who wants to support export product development is welcome. We have banks showing interest in developing product because they see it as a wealth creating machine. We are an agricultural economy. We do not expect to go into laptop computer production or a certain level of technology. We must start from the basis of what we know how to do best. We are a predominately agricultural economy and developing that industry is our goal.

Ghana’s non-traditional exports generated up to 2.63 billion last year compared to 2.55 billion in 2015, an increase of 2.3 percent. This represents 23% of Ghana’s total export in 2016. Ghana is to integrate 10 billion dollars from non-traditional export in the next four years. What needs to be done in order to achieve the targets that have been set and to make Ghana an export hub for the sub region? What is GEPA doing in order to strengthen the supply chain?

As the CEO of GEPA, I work with targets. I set targets for myself and I work hard to achieve them or get closer to achieving them. We have set the target and we are working our heart out to make sure we get to where we have promised the people. This year, we want to develop avocado. The constraint is still funding because the government has not appreciated the agency of investing in product development in the initial stages. The product that we want to develop will take about four or five years to mature, so we must start now. We cannot wait. The inflows that come in are not increasing. We are exploring funding, local and foreign investment. After launching the cashew, we have had quite a number of people that are now interested in going into cashew plantation. Any product that we launch has the potential to develop that product and gives the people the enthusiasm for entering into that product. Every region should be able to identify a product that they can go into on a large-scale plantation. That is how we can raise this target that we have set for ourselves.

The national export strategy requires substantial investing in order to ensure production stability in the long term. Are you in search of international support or investments when it comes to finance? Ultimately, what would you like Ghana to become known for in exports?

We must start from the basis of what we know how to do best. We are a predominately agricultural economy and developing that industry is our goal.

We need to build on our strength, and that is agriculture. Recently, I was at Harvard to attend the agrobusiness school program and a gentleman was there that imports moringa from Ghana and Africa to use as an additive in his products. Moringa is a superfood and an additive to superfoods and is very popular now. Moringa has a high nutritional content. It fights against cancer and many other ailments. Many of these natural and organic products from Africa are produced on a large scale and make a big profit, but they are not interested in bringing some of that money into Ghana or Africa to invest into the products that are serving as the raw material. They use the base here in Ghana or Africa as the farmgates, which I completely disagree with. Because we are in need, they buy product at a very cheap price. Now, we are trying to find a way to do our own value addition here as part of the strategy, so that we can earn. Anything that is produced from Africa is seen as organic and if we get the market, we can also compete. How can we add value to the raw material that we are producing here? With coconuts for instance, coconut oil, hash, or the skin as fiber is organic. We export the oil, which is also a superfood, and health conscious people want to eat it. Yet, we export all of this raw. It is bought cheap and given a small value addition, then it is sold back to us at exorbitant prices that we cannot afford. The way they are treating Africa is sad. Any businessman who does not see the source of his raw material as a partner is sad.

Is this not a problem that many countries are trying to change?

We would change it through GEPA. Very soon, if you want to export anything raw, it will cost you more. There will be a levy that must be paid. If there is value addition, then it can be exported without issue.

The government has been saying for years that they want to add value to their exports. How will you do this differently from the previous government?

It must be backed by law. That is something that we are changing with our acts. There has been a team put together which will work on the amendments. When the act is changed, and it is bound by law, anything you export raw will cost money. Cashew will be levied, so that we can encourage our people to add value to it. We do not have the initial startup capital to give to our youth to start a business, unfortunately. So, if you want to come and set up an industry here, you are welcome, but it is important that you add value so that our youth get something to work for.

Why should an investor choose Ghana instead of Côte d’Ivoire or other African countries to invest into this value-added product? How can you distinguish yourself? What are your competitive advantages?

Our competitive advantage is we have signed on to the Agro Market and can export to America. We have signed on to the Economic Partnership Agreement and can export to Europe tariff free. We have the advantage of exporting within the West Africa community. All these advantages deal with market assets. In terms of the environment and the people as a nation, the country is so peaceful. If you walk around at night, you do not have to check if someone is following you or not. We have laws that support our commercial activities. The business environment is very cordial. For us, we believe that we have a prominent advantage to attract good investors to come here.

In three years’ time, if everything turns out well, what would you have achieved?

We will have a new face of Ghana’s territory and we will have given our stakeholders the confidence to believe that they can count on the agency to address the challenges of their export businesses. That it is the only way that we can develop this nation. We will also ensure that the products that we are assessing the market for are products that are able to sustain the supply base. This is key. I have been in the export business myself for the past twenty years and it is very sad when they ask you to bring just two or three tons of a product and after a month it is finished, and you cannot continue. It does not give a good image. A major target and vision is to sustain the supply base of every product that we get the market for and ensure that the quality of the products is high. We want to meet all the standards that are required of us as a country.


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