The Business Year

HE Ekwow Spio-Garbrah

UAE, DUBAI - Diplomacy

Understanding Each Other

Minister of Trade & Industry, Ghana


HE Ekwow Spio-Garbrah was appointed Minister of Trade and Industry of Ghana on October 9th, 2014. Previously he was Ghana’s Minister of Communication, Minister of Education, and was concurrently Minister responsible for Mines and Energy under the government of President Jerry John Rawlings. Earlier, he served as Ghana’s Ambassador to the USA and Mexico from June 1994 to June 1997, during the Bill Clinton administration.

"We can learn from Dubai about growing vertically."

What approach are you undertaking to increase the investment flow between Ghana and Dubai?

We have been attending a number of conventions, conferences, and forums in Dubai. At the Dubai International Convention Center both public and private Ghanaian institutions attended to promote our country and make Ghana better understood for investors in the Middle East and in Dubai in particular. This is all part of the process through which improved trade and investment ties could take place. Secondly, Dubai Chamber itself looked all over Africa and decided that Ghana was the ideal location to open an office. The office has encouraged regular visits from Dubai officials to look into where both countries can work together. We have also established a full consulate general that replaces the former honorary consul, with Ghanaian foreign service officers now stationed here to facilitate visa applications and any other information that companies in Dubai require about Ghana. That is also an important step in strengthening diplomatic, political, and business relations between companies from Dubai and Ghana. We ourselves at the Ministry of Trade and Industry have been negotiating for more than nine months with a very well known Dubai developer, which has been considering a billion-dollar investment in a major area of Accra to develop a mixed-use complex involving convention and conference centers, hotels, entertainment, and more. Negotiations have not gone as well as I would have expected by now, but if they decide not to do it, there are many other big Dubai developers whom we are open to working with on this project.

What role can Ghana play in ensuring food security for Dubai?

Ghana, like most African countries, has a lot of arable land that is either underutilized or completely unutilized. When you fly over European countries, you get a sense of just how organized their agricultural production is. There are very clearly defined boundaries between different properties, and also between the land that is being cultivated, the land that is being harvested, the land that lies fallow, and so on. Most African countries do not have that kind of organization and demarcation. Therefore, a lot more could be done to improve our agricultural sector and processes of production in that respect. The Middle East is unfortunately not the most fertile region, whereas Ghana has produce in abundance. East Africa is much closer to Dubai, so they probably supply much of the produce that they consume in the UAE, but with Emirates flying everyday to Ghana and back, it could use cargo planes to export back to the UAE and Dubai fruits and vegetables that are needed in every family and person’s diet there. There is huge potential for cooperation and trade in the agricultural sector, and also in the light manufacturing and assembly industry, whether it is based on technology from this area, or SE Asia, or Europe. Dubai businessmen can act as financiers, put in the equity for those projects, and play a middleman role to bring in Indian, Chinese, North European, and other investors to do business in Africa, which Dubai would also benefit from. There is also potential for the mineral sector, whereby oil and gas downstream industries are waiting in all of Africa, and in Ghana as well, with fertilizer plants, urea and ammonia plants, plastics plants, and so on. All of these are areas where Dubai companies can invest in Ghana and allow us to produce goods and services that are needed throughout Africa and the Middle East.

What area has the biggest potential for cooperation between Ghana and Dubai in the coming years?

Property development is the biggest area for partnership at the moment. Dubai is world famous for their iconic buildings, high-class structures, state-of-the-art architecture, and designs. In Africa, our structures have grown out rather than up. That means our infrastructure resources are very far stretched over a huge area, be it water, electricity, sewage, or roads. We can learn from Dubai about growing vertically, rather than growing out horizontally. Besides the major convention and conference center project I mentioned, we are also hoping other Dubai developers will come and help us build middle- and low-class conventional real estate, shopping malls, and so on, for the large and ever increasing population of consumers in Ghana.

What opportunities exist in knowledge and cultural exchange between both nations?

Dubai has diversified its reputation from hard business, logistics, airlines, shipping, and so on to also entertainment and sports. Ghana is also a very accomplished sporting country, so there is a lot we can do with Dubai for sports and cultural and educational exchanges. Ghana has one of the highest per capital levels of education. It is no coincidence that Kofi Annan, the only ever Sub-Saharan African General Secretary of the UN, was from Ghana. We have many people like that with reputable backgrounds and experience. There are many opportunities for exchange education, and we are encouraging Dubai companies to set up schools and universities here. There is also potential in medical tourism. There are people in West Africa who may not be able to fly out to Dubai to get treated, but if a Dubai healthcare company decided to set up a medical center, that could cater to many people throughout this region. So there is a lot of potential for increased trade and relations between our two nations.

What sort of advantages and ease does Ghana offer investors in terms of regulations?

Most investors want an easy place they can invest in, which means they want to be able get their visas easily and get their companies registered smoothly and rapidly, and they want to get their licenses as soon as possible. They want clear rules, transparency, consistency, security, and safety. Most importantly, they want to be able to employ reliable, hard-working, productive, dependable people. Ghana has this. Ghana is also a place you can relax, have fun, and enjoy yourself. Ghanaians work hard but they also know how to enjoy life. So Ghana is well placed for investors. We have good schools and hospitals for expats and their children, all internationally recognized and certified. We also have all the technologies and interconnectivity that enables you to transfer funds easily and conduct your finances throughout the country and worldwide and without too much paperwork.



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