Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dubai confident of transforming Ghana’s cocoa sector

Dubai Chamber Of Commerce, Omar Khan
Director of International Offices of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Omar Khan expressed Dubai’s readiness to play a pivotal role in Ghana’s cocoa sector, using its comparative advantage as a trade hub for Asia and beyond.

The country’s cocoa sector, Mr. Khan said, has enormous potential for both players in Ghana as well as businesses in Dubai that are seeking to invest in the crop, which already accounts for 20% of the country’s total export earnings.

To assess the potential for opportunities between cocoa government agencies and relevant private enterprises, Dubai Chamber held its first Cocoa Roundtable Discussion in Accra in August 2015.

Speaking at the event, which was also attended by private enterprises that operate at various levels in the cocoa value chain Mr. Khan said, this discussion was necessary for Dubai to further understand the operations of this sector.

“The cocoa sector is very complicated with many gaps and challenges, but that means there are various opportunities at different levels, and learning about the challenges can help us to see where we can add value as Dubai. There is a synergy between the two countries as Ghana is very rich in many resources and Dubai is also rich as far as knowledge and infrastructure is concerned, which can provide opportunities to work together. We will try to identify the right interested companies out of our 177, 000 members” he added.

The roundtable discussion was also attended by officials from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Ministry of Trade and Industry as well as the Ghana Free Zones Board, who disclosed some incentives that businesses seeking to take advantage of the cash crop can access.

Incentives from GIPC and the Free Zones Board include tax holidays, duty free imports, among others to entice companies to consider establishing in Ghana. The representative from Cocobod, Ghana’s cocoa regulator, reiterated that much of the cocoa produced in Ghana is exported with little value addition. The need for high capacity processing plants, warehousing facilities, he said, are just some of the opportunities that investors can look at.

Commenting on the available incentives from the state investment promoting agencies, Mr. Khan said, “We will take all the research and information we have gathered here [Ghana] and communicate it to our business community – along with all the different entities and urge them to take advantage of all the different incentives for investing in Ghana.” He further added that once businesses know the ground reality their impression and ideas regarding the sector will change.

According to him, the opportunities for synergies between enterprises from the two countries are vast. “Whether the needs of the companies here relate to automation or warehousing, they would just have to explain to us what they require and we will then search our membership and identify the company that matches these requirements– be it a supplier, consultant, buyer, or a marketing or logistics company.

“I have spoken to a few companies and they are looking for equity investment. For instance, we have the Dubai International Financial Center which has a lot of banks and investment banks, which can be contacted and would be interested,” Mr. Khan remarked.

Not only did the Director of International Offices at the Dubai Chamber speak of his readiness to explore opportunities in the sector, but he added that there will be a special emphasis on assistance to SMEs and young entrepreneurs in the cocoa value chain.

“90% of our members are SMEs so we are looking forward to reaching out to the young companies and the entrepreneurs as well. Although we know there are big players on the local scene, we believe in SMEs as well, as involving them leads to growth and prosperity, since they contribute majorly to the economy.” He also added that H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has emphasized on the importance of building economic links with the African continent because of its proximity, cultural similarities and investment opportunities.

To conclude, Mr. Khan reiterated that this first Cocoa Roundtable Discussion was part of a bigger plan to provide businesses in Dubai exciting investment opportunities in Ghana. The event, he said, was successful in bringing together multiple stakeholders and to find the best solutions and opportunities to overcome any impediments for current and future investors.

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