Ghana Trade Fair Company LTD: Trade Sector and Industrialization in Ghana by Agnes Adu

Dr. Agnes Adu, shares her assessment of the trade sector in Ghana and explains what is the role of Ghana Trade Fair Company LTD, the major trade promotion agency of the country. Wholly owned by the government of Ghana, its mission is to become the preferred International Trade Fair Center in the sub-region and to promote beneficial trade between the country and its global trading partners.

Interview with Dr. Agnes Adu, Managing Director of Ghana Trade Fair Company LTD.

Dr. Agnes Adu, Managing Director of Ghana Trade Fair Company LTD

What is your assessment of the trade sector in Ghana? What are the major trends? Are people promoting themselves outside?

For West Africa, and specifically for Ghana, trade is key. This sector is what drives the economy. Trade is what drives every economy. What is new with this particular government is that industrialization is its focus. This government wants to turn Ghana from where we are now into a totally industrialized nation. One of the programs that the new administration has instituted is a program called “One District One Factory.” There are about 216 districts across Ghana. The government wants to identify a potential in each district and then build a factory or some kind of production around that potential. So, if it is cocoa, yam, tomato, agriculture or other industries, it will build a factory around that for the purposes of consuming within our country. This is so we are less dependent on foreign goods and also for exports so we increase revenue for the country, GDP, etc. No country can avoid trade. That is what Ghana Trade Fair Company LTD. is here to promote. Once we have turned this country into a fully industrialized nation, how do we then connect it to our global partners? Trade Fair does this through international trade shows, exhibitions, local trade shows, and grand sales. All these things together make the whole trade industry move along.

How successful have you been up to now?

Ghana has suffered some ups and downs in the trade industry in general. For the better part of the last ten years, the economy was on the decline. After the 2016 election, a new government came in with fresh ideas to try to energize the whole trade industry, with industrialization as its focus. But also, this government has really become a private sector driven government. So, the whole aim of the government, and even this company, is to attract foreign investors to come into the country. That energy has revived the trade industry as a whole. Now, it is on an upward swing and we see that in general it is starting to look up.

What is your role regarding these policies?

We have exhibition pavilions that can hold hundreds of exhibitors in one setting. We have smaller venues, too, if someone wants to hold a meeting of just 20 investors. We have anywhere from that kind of facility to a facility that holds in excess of 10,000 people.

Ghana Trade Fair Company LTD’s role, our basic mandate, is that we promote trade and industry. We are the major trade promotion agency for the country. The company is wholly owned by the government so we are mandated to support not just the government, the private sector, but really support what this government is doing in the industrialization agenda that the President and this government has. We are the vehicle through which the government is going to promote that. For example, you are a small tomato farmer and we have identified that your tomato is the best. Now, you turn it into tomato juice, but what do you do with it? Or how do we help that small production farm somewhere in the hinterlands? How do we find a global partner that is actually going to come partner with that individual or that company entity and take it to the next level? That is what Trade Fair does. And we do this through a number of things such as trade shows, international trade fairs, and grand sales. We always provide that comprehensive platform where we bring sellers and buyers together. We bring investors and businesses together. What is new, especially since I have taken this seat, is that we are about to undertake a major transformation on the site itself since our facilities have gone down to some extent. The entire site will be built into a modern convention center and exhibition pavilions that will better attract multinational companies to come down and seek their partnership. That is the goal of this company.

In Western Africa, what is the competitive advantage for an international company to come here, to trade here, to put its industry here, to invest? Why should they come here?

This government is private sector driven. This government believes that it is through the private sector that we can actually industrialize this country. This government does not think the government should be owning businesses, so it is going to create a conducive environment for foreign investors to be able to come into the country. That in itself is an attractive thing. Ghana is also quite stable. If you look around the world or across Africa, there are not many countries who can boast that they have never been to war with their neighbor. There is no chaos to hinder your business. And so, it is quite an attractive country to come and do business. It sets itself apart from its neighbors for so many reasons: the people are vibrant, the weather, Ghana is stable, environmentally friendly, and has a private sector driven government that will promote investors to come in or help investors get settled and move the economy forward.

Do you have any specific actions to go towards the international? You organize the trade fairs here, but do you go outside yourself in specific areas or all over the world to meet with the people?

For example, we just returned from China. We formed partnerships when we were there, both government and private sector. Trade shows, over the last few years, have not been very brisk, but our trade shows are not just local. Sometimes, we participate in foreign trade shows. There is an African International Trade Show coming up in December. There was one in India that we participated in. We organize local companies and local businesses and then take them to the international trade shows to see what is happening in the world and gain experience so that when they come back, they will be able to better use it in their own businesses.

What do you offer here for anyone that wants to hold a conference or event?

We are a full-circle event or convention center. We have exhibition pavilions that can hold hundreds of exhibitors in one setting. We have smaller venues, too, if someone wants to hold a meeting of just 20 investors. We have anywhere from that kind of facility to a facility that holds in excess of 10,000 people. We hold all kinds of events here, from concerts to international shows to grand sales to kids’ programs. It is an all-encompassing, fully mixed-use convention center. Our next goal as a company is to rebuild the facility itself. The structures were built in the 1960s so some of them need to be refurbished and we are going to expand the space and land that we have and actually build proper mixed-use convention facilities here within the next three to five years or so.

What are the major challenges that Ghana has to face for developing its trade?

The major challenge for this company, and really for the country as a whole, has been trying to raise the financing for some of these projects. This government’s focus is to attract foreign investors. We have not been as good at doing that, but for this government, with the incentives that it is looking at for the sectors that it wants to expand, the challenge has been really finding the right funding partners. Trade Fair has been lucky in the sense that it is a project that has been overdue. Over the years, we have generated quite a bit of interest in who comes in and partners with us. So, we are going to take advantage of some of those things. We have a long list of developers and investors that are interested in helping us rebuild the actual center. Then, we have a couple of international partners that will manage the facilities in hopes of attracting more international conventions into the country. We have engaged some convention companies, some from Spain, some from the US, and we want to form that partnership with them so that the West African hub for that particular company will be the Trade Fair Center. Part of our thinking in drawing up the master plan for the new site includes what we want to do with our international partners, as well.

You have started the year with your function which is essential as well as exciting and challenging. In two to three years’ time, in the medium term, what is your vision for the company? What would you like to have achieved?

The company as I inherited it was in bad shape. The medium-term goal is to restructure the company itself, get it out of the red, get it into the green financially. So, my focus the first year or two has been how to generate revenue, how to decrease our expenditure, how to attract better exhibitions to come here. All those things we have worked on for the past year and we will continue to focus on them next year, as well. All the while, we are remodeling to actually improve those bottom lines once we have a modern facility here.


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