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American investors won’t come to Ghana: It’s their money, not the President’s

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President Obama
President Obama

President Obama came to Ghana to endorse the country’s good democratic process. In the midst of chaos, needless bloodshed, and tainted elections and accompanying violence in Africa, Ghana stands out on the continent as a good example.

But beyond democratic stability, the country also needs economic stability and growth.

In an editorial, ghanabusinessnews.com looked at the possible ripples of President Obama’s visit and wondered if American investors would come into the country to do business.

The Managing Editor of ghanabusinessnews.com posted the editorial on his blog titled Rightup at www.emmanuelwrites.blogspot.com.

In direct response to the question of whether American investors would come and invest in Ghana because President Obama has endorsed the country, a reader sent an email to the editor.

He began by writing, “Came across your blog After Obama’s Ghana visit, would American investors come?  and wanted to share some thoughts with you. The short answer is no! And that is because it is not the President’s money that will be invested.

The author of the mail, Ramesh Kanthilal, Spokesperson and Director of Operations for AFREECON. AFREECON is the acronym title for Africa’s Economic Emancipation Conference, it is written on the organisation’s website.

Enumerating further reasons why American investors will not come, he said, African countries, Ghana included, are clueless about how to attract capital–the right kind of capital. Not the exploitative capital that has come from Europe for almost six centuries. If Europe is a good source of capital and ideas for African economies, why are African countries not doing better than they are? After all Europeans have been coming since the 1400s.

On Africa’s leadership he wrote: “African countries are lead by people who would rather “pocket” the people’s money, than invest it in efforts to market their economies and their countries.”

On the foreign missions of African countries abroad, he cited the Ghana Embassy in Washington and asked a question: “Have you ever tried to call the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington?”

“You should try it. It is an illuminating experience. The experience has been a very mixed bag for our team and would not inspire us to want to invest in Ghana”, he said.

“African embassies, as a whole”, he said, “do such a poor job of representing their countries in the arena of marketing the opportunities for investment in their countries, that it is a wonder there is any interest at all.”

He remarks that in an organized environment, chaos is not tolerated. “And the way and manner in which we correspond with the outside world at best, denotes a chaotic existence and at worst demonstrates incompetence of the highest order. There is the image of African countries.”

He argued further that no investor would invest his hard earned money in a place where all you read about is bad news.

He goes on to talk about Africa’s failure to educate Americans about the continent. He said, “in the case of Africa all the countries are in the same boat. Most Americans think Africa is one country because their embassies have failed to do anything about the image of the continent’s countries in the almost 40 years that I am personally aware of.”

Adding “history shows that the drumbeat of bad press and perception has been filtering into the minds of US consumers for more than 100 years–in fact, since the advent of mass media.”

He also blamed Africans for not being willing to put any effort to communicate that they would like U.S investors and what kind they would like? “They are waiting for someone to come and “spoon feed” them the answers,” he said.

He had some advise for the media also. “You and your colleagues in the media”, he said , “are responsible for getting out the word and pressuring leaders to make unselfish decisions.”

Commenting on export data used in doing the analysis in the editorial, he said, “you have to not just talk about the poor export performance and low-level of U.S investments, you have to ask why that is the case? Why is it not better, why have African countries–Ghana included–failed so badly where the Asians seem to be doing so well…why has South Korea come from behind African countries to not just overtake African countries, but to now be in the position where they are playing the role of “teachers” of African leaders?”

He is however hopeful that if the media and everyone else including his organization do their bit the trend could be reversed.

They are therefore organizing the AFREECON business conference at the famous Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois from October 19 to 21, 2009.

According to the organizers, AFREECON is about sharing knowledge. Knowledge that will assist African countries to build a better “mouse trap” for attracting Foreign Direct Investments and achieving economic independence; as well as knowledge that will enable U.S. companies and entrepreneurs to make well informed decisions about business opportunities in African countries.

Among some of the speakers are Dr. Ian Giddy, Professor of Finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a former Director of the International Product Group at Drexel Burnham Lambert; Dr. Vijay Mahajan, who currently holds the John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Dambisa Moyo, economist and author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa.

The others are William “Bill” Strickland, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation; Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Malawian historian, literary critic, novelist, short-story writer and blogger at The Zeleza Post; Dr. John Gazvinian,  author of Untapped-The Scramble for Africa’s Oil and Dr. Pompiliu “Pili” Vezariu, Adjunct Fellow at the Center For Strategic & International Studies.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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  1. Just funny how everybody thinks they can extract value out of Africa and yet they point to the “failure” of people who are genuinely trying to help. If AFREECON is truly looking to Emancipate Africa, I challenge them to open the conference to all interested parties for free. I challenge them to publish their ideas on the Internet for free for all who care about the continent to read and take action. How do you plan to “Emancipate” Africa when you are charging $2,000.00 a head for a three day conference in Chicago! I would rather invest my $2000.00 in a micro-finance venture. At least I know I would have made a difference in the lives of a few Africans!

  2. this guy said it. Sometimes am tempted african are headed by idoits and selfish fools. Leaders who just educate themselves to rip their own countires. I once try to call a ghanaina embassy in london. I was ashamed. for 4days, 24/7 there was no response.I enquire from a friend and i was told one answers the phone. They have just left a voice message. They busy doing nothibing. Fools. Think about it. african as a whole can not develop. their leaders mind knows nothing about developing and national warefare.

  3. Mr. Sko: The conference is not for everyone. Here is an example of what it takes to host such an event like what AFREECON is: (1) Venue; (F&B); (3) Organization/Meeting Planner; (4) Publicity/Promotion; (5) Printing/Collateral materials. The budget for the Conference is $1.85 million USD.

    The target attendees are business people and since we expect an average business relationship that emanate from the conference will be in the form of new joint ventures, new supplier/customer relations; business ideas that will lead to multi-million dollar opportunites an investment of 2,000 is relatively speaking, a good return on investment.

    What the Conference hopes to accomplish is bring a clearer awareness to investment issues relevant to AFRICAN countries. 95% Of US Foreign direct investment in Africa is geared towards extractive industries–i.e raw materials like crude oil, copper, etc. Africa’s share of U.S Foreign Direct Investment as a percentage of total U.S Foreign Direct Investment is a whooping 1%.

    While micro-industries are good and can contribute but if anyone suggests that that is how African countries will develop, then I am sorry that there is no discussion to be had because the premise reeks of a level of ignorance that is cancerous and incurable.

    African countries: have to process their own raw materials and stop exporting raw materials but rather should export the raw materials in value added form. It is a matter of survival and not convenience; Need to find a means of employing the 60% of the population that is less than 20 years old and that is by creating thousands of new industries and millions of jobs; Need to re-engage the world and put an end to the isolation and de-coupling of the continent’s countries from what is happening in other parts of the world.

    If you live in Africa and have never lived anywhere else, then I suspect you are expressing the frustration of not achieving to your utmost potential. AFREECON is also geared to discuss how African governments can unleash the tremendous potential inherent in her people for regenerative economic development. Africa will never make it by hoping someone will feel sorry for them and give them things for free. How do you feel about the people running arond purporting to help your country to feed people, educate, clothe and cure her people? Does that make you PROUD? OR DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL INADEQUATE AND INFERIOR?

    Is it not time that Africa stood on it’s own feet?

  4. Michael Bannerman-Hyde

    The truth, they say, hurts. Africans are in so much denial of their ignorance and inadequacies simply because they blame everyone and the American Investors instead of putting in place the foundation to attract enduring investments partnership.

    The secret to American investment profeliation into Ghana is qaulity of the investment product been offered and risk mitigation. We get these two down to an art, then we are on the road to economic transformation. You putyour seeds into a ground that is fertile and is not filled with paraites and worm-infected.

    I have been trying for the past eight months to channel investment dollars into Ghana through my vast network of American investors. Let me remind you, I am a full-bred Ghanaian living in the US with a passion to bringing the Ghanaian entrepreneur at speed with modern investment methods.

    How successful have I been? My partner’s office in Accra is daily filled swamped with those who drive Merces Benzes and the like, but cannot produce decent executive summaries or investor related business plans. These folks are educated. The problem is, they rather spend $10,000 on a weekend treat or for funerals and parties than hire a CPA or Business Consultant to write a decent document for them. Mr. Sko is talking about $2,000 for micro-finance? You know he will never part with amount for anyone close family or not.

    Ghanaians just want the American Investors to pack their suitcases, filled them with Millions of dollars and come and shove it into the hands of the greedy lazy so-called “businessmen.”

    They parade themselves with grandiose ideas, but will never do the basics. So to the likes of Mr/ SKO, I will challenge you to think outside your usual comfort zone and come out with something that makes investment sense and I bet you, you will get someone to look at it.

    I hear that always..the Americans are difficult to deal with. Well guess what? Obama is paid as a chief executive to run a country successfully. There’s a foreign anti corruption practices act that bans U.S businesses or officials from giving bribes or influencing others in their foreign business transactions. Congressman Bill Jefferson of Louisiana was indicted last of week, and some of the Congress people, Enron, and many more are languishing in jail for fraud. No American will give 10% to anyone from his own money just to sink 10% less into his investment dollars. Ghanaians will do that, contractors, tender boards, procurement boards, power commissions, I can continue till tomorrow.

    Simply put, we cannot attract quality investment, apart from Chinese who you cannot sue and the Italians/Europeans who are always dupping and corrupting officials by agreeing to give 10-15% bribes on projects. Every Gov’t including the current one looks out for themselves.

    Confidence and Trust are two key ingredients in building solid business relationship…unfortunately, these are traits that we lack, in most part in Africa, especially Ghana.

    Mr/ SKO if you are ready,the American investors will be ready to come..they love Ghana, but not enough to throw their money into the gutter.

  5. Dr. Frank L. Harper, Jr.

    I am inclined to strongly agree with Mr. Hyde. I am an American that has visited/worked in Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria. Without going into details it has been an almost 10 year journey to get paid for contract work completed. I’ve had to hire attorneys to finally get me in a position where the new government acknowledges their debt to my company. Which by the way had select a bankruptcy strategy to stay afloat. Between the corruption, lack of accountability, and archaic business practices I’ve witnessed and experienced why no one would pour their hard earned money into Africa. I love these countrys and truly believe that American investors would love to invest but Africa must get its act together. Africans must master MARKETING. As my Harvard-educated professor instilled in me MARKETING is (1) Finding The Need; (2) Fullfilling that NEED; (3) Providing a VALUE-ADDED Service and a GUARANTEE!!!

    I would rather vacation in Ghana or Nigeria than go to the Carribean. These countries have so much to offer. I’ve even paid the tution of two students attending the University of Ghana. However, as Mr. Hyde puts it Confidence and Trust are key to building a solid business relationship. The lack of these traits ended my sponsorship and investment. However, I am not done, Ghanians, Benitians, and Nigerians are now starting to realize that they MUST change if they want to attract quality investors.

    I am only of the lucky ones becuase I would not go away until I got my just due. But I am just one in a million!