TBY talks to Mawuena Trebarh, CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, on the work it is doing to boost the attractiveness of Ghana to FDI.

The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) was re-established in 2008 to encourage, promote and facilitate investments in all sectors of the economy except mining and petroleum. In which areas of the economy do you see significant opportunities for investment?

The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) is a government agency established under Act 865 2013 to promote, coordinate, and facilitate investment in the Ghanaian economy. Our functions include: investment advisory services; joint venture search; identification of specific projects for investment promotion; the granting of investment incentives and provision of investor support services; the registration of technology transfer agreements; and negotiation of bilateral investment treaties. Investment opportunities abound in the entire value chain of the oil and gas sector in Ghana. Aside from the opportunities in this sector, there is potential in infrastructure services, which focus on expanding existing road, port, rail, and airport facilities. The power sector also presents opportunities. The Centre will be seeking to meet the investment targets articulated by the National Development Plan. With the increase in demand for housing solutions, investors can consider investment in the real estate sector for opportunities in both low-cost and luxury housing. The luxury segment in particular ties in with tourism and hospitality. We are working with the Ministry of Tourism to channel investment into that area. More opportunities exist in agriculture, where we are seeking to significantly increase investment. Our collaboration with the Ghana Free Zones Board and the Ghana Export Promotion Authority will help stimulate this sector. We are also looking to attract investors to collaborate with local businesses in manufacturing, assembly of light electrical parts, and electronic accessories.

What impact is Ghana's short-term and cyclical instability having on investor interest?

Despite Ghana's challenges in 2015 in terms of currency depreciation and interruption of power supply, investors have remained interested in the country and it remains a safe and secure investment destination. In addition to political stability and streamlined investment procedures, Ghana possesses a robust legal and regulatory framework. According to the World Bank's 2015 Doing Business report, Ghana ranks as the best destination in West Africa in terms of the ease of doing business. The country also ranks among the top five in Africa. Despite the short-term cyclical instability, the GIPC recorded appreciable levels of FDI inflows in 2015 after two years of implementing the new investment law, the GIPC Act, 2013 (Act 865). The total number of registered projects was 170, with a total estimated value of $2.68 billion.

Recently there has been a large focus on the role of ECOWAS in building sustainable economic growth models. What is being done to encourage this regional investment flow?

West African countries have enormous potential to strengthen competitiveness and increase trade and investment flows, which can drive growth, reduce poverty, and deliver jobs in the region. The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) for instance is one of the means through which regional investment is being encouraged. It seeks to provide impetus to the process of economic integration and development in the West African sub-region. It is expected to provide easier access to markets in other ECOWAS countries and thereby encourage local manufacturing outfits to compete favourably with cheap imported products. The scheme is also expected to encourage entrepreneurial development through the provision of preferential treatment in specific areas among member states. In addition, extensive progress has been made on freedom of movement, a crucial part of ensuring a sustainable regional market. In 1980, visa requirements or entry permits for community citizens were eliminated to allow free movement of people within the sub region. In effect from July 2016, Ghana will be allowing citizens of AU member states to enter into the country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to 30 days and experience what Ghana has to offer. This measure is expected to stimulate air travel, trade, investment, and tourism in the long run.

The “Made in Ghana" campaign is helping to galvanize local companies and promote them overseas. How can domestic investment be encouraged to support these flagship companies?

The GIPC actively encourages, promotes, and facilitates investment both into and within Ghana, and we work to do this in a number of ways like ensuring awareness of investment and business opportunities. We also celebrate corporate excellence and successful enterprise building through initiatives like the Ghana Club 100 awards. In addition, the GIPC is also facilitating domestic investment through its Call for Projects initiative, which allows domestic investors to submit project profiles for screening and packaging for inclusion in the GIPC's project catalogue. We employ this worldwide as a promotional instrument aimed at various categories of investors that may be interested in establishing partnerships and providing financing.

What is your outlook for 2016?

As part of our strategy for 2016, the GIPC will focus on improving upon its operational efficiency, providing higher level services and rolling out the second phase of our "Think Ghana Make it Happen" campaign with the target of propelling Ghana to become the preferred investment destination in Africa. We are anticipating a steady increase in FDI in the year 2016 over 2015, while keeping in mind that this year is an election year. In such years, it is natural to see a decline in FDI. There may be fewer overall investments but the size of the individual investments should continue to increase. Many will take the form of public-private partnerships or otherwise involve the private sector. The opening of the Dubai and French Chambers of Commerce offices in Accra last year and this year respectively has been very exciting for us and proves there is interest from the Middle East and French business markets in investment opportunities. Ghana's location and infrastructure are advantages and provide opportunities to access the rest of the ECOWAS region. Given the global economic situation we must vie for the limited FDI that is available. We will also be focusing more on leveraging Ghana's strengths and interest in the African continent. Ghana is open for business and there is strong government support for investors as well as a transparent and functional legal framework to ensure the success of every investment.