The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Free Zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi, has revealed that some free zone companies have been negatively impacted by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, as a result, the Ministry of Trade and Industry will introduce a more sustainable package to that can be harnessed by industries in the Free Zones enclave of Ghana to cushion them in their businesses in this period of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Because of the lockdown situation we had in the country, most of the companies that operate within the free zones enclave were asked to stop producing and manufacturing.”
He explained that the companies who operate in the Free Zones enclave are mostly multi-nationals whose capital base are quite huge and therefore requires immense commitment from government in order to support them with stimulus packages.
“Businesses under the free zones are not small businesses but capital intensive. Therefore, they may not need monies 200, 000 to cushion them in business. They may need something huge. I’ve been told that the Ministry is trying to come out with a new package to cater for that.”
He added that the Free Zones Authority has also become more flexible in some of its administrative conventions to protect the survival of Free Zone companies during the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Head of the Free Zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi, revealed that his outfit is close to meeting its 5-year plan of building up a free zones sector that is the best in Africa where many investors including automobile companies will establish in as well as providing the infrastructural support needed to facilitate its establishment.
“We expect the free zones to be one of the best in Africa if not the best like Tanger Med. We are very close. We want to have a free zones enclave where we have automobile companies established. And where we have a good transportation system that caters for these things that the companies would produce so we can have very free means of exporting them,”
Speaking as a co-panelist on Eye on Port on the State of Ghana’s Export and Free Zone Sectors Amid COVID-19 Beleaguered Global Economy the Free Zones Boss said current measures being undertaken by his outfit are geared towards multiplying the state’s revenue from this sector with a minimum expectation of 4 Billion dollars gained in exports.
“We are trying to get to a stage, in the next five years, where we would be able to do minimum 4 billion dollars in export.”
Mr. Baafi disclosed that in the light of achieving this goal, it collaborates with the Tanger Med Free Zone to learn and emulate their successes chalked operating a similar economic model.
“We have a very good MOU in place, to have staff of our company to take internships every year and they also give us technical support. They also refer investors to us.”
Indigenous Participation in Free Zones
The CEO of the Ghana Free Zones Authority emphasized that he has been championing the drive for more indigenous companies to establish in the free zones and called for Ghanaians who can meet the requirements to establish within the free zone enclaves.
“We have realized that most of the free zones doing well are multinational companies so we have decided to encourage local investors to do business in the free zones. And we are also encouraging the local companies in the free zones to do more as we are giving them some advantages over their competitors,” he said.
He added, “you have to be ready to export at least 70% of your produce outside the country. You have to be incorporated in Ghana, you have to be very strong in terms of your finances, you have to get a good location for business and get an environmental certificate from EPA.”
The Free Zones Boss said to encourage youth participation in the free zones, young entrepreneurs worldwide are being groomed to develop the needed know-how to thrive in the free zone business, and this is being done in Ghana.
“We want young entrepreneurs to bring life into the concept. We are setting up incubation units to groom young free zones entrepreneurs,” the Freeze Zones boss revealed.