The British High Commissioner to Ghana has urged managers of the economy to meet conditions in the three-year fiscal support programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that progress with the programme will improve falling UK-Ghana bilateral trade figures.
Speaking at a short ceremony to launch the UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce (UKGCC) at his residence in Accra, Mr Jon Benjamin said progress with the IMF programme will attract UK investments in Ghana.
“Indeed that progress is important for investor confidence along with other actions to tackle potential barriers to business such as the regulatory environment, licensing rules, custom procedures, land registration issues and of course the thorny issue of corruption,” he said.
Ghana’s three-year IMF programme with $918 financial support, which started in 2015, stipulates that government pursues fiscal adjustments to check ballooning public spending, improve revenue generation and structural reforms to strengthen public finances.
Bilateral trade figures between Ghana and the UK have dropped. Trade in goods and services between the two countries fell from £1.3 billion pounds in 2013 to £1 billion in 2014 and 2015 figures, due out soon, are projected to be worse.
These notwithstanding, Mr Benjamin said the future is bright, projecting that “overall figures will reach a record high by 2020.”
He said the launch of the UKGCC would herald a new chapter in efforts to improve trade relations between the two countries.
The Chamber, which currently has a membership of 20 companies, will promote, foster, and represent UK business interests in Ghana.
UKGCC will assist UK companies to identify market opportunities and provide them with a first point of call when looking to do business in Ghana. It would also support Ghanaian companies looking to export into the UK or looking for British businesses to partner with.
“We recognize that UK companies have a huge choice as to where to trade and invest worldwide and in doing so, like any other company, they are naturally driven by hard business calculations, not sentiment, so market conditions and sound economic management everywhere, including here in Ghana, are a key consideration for those companies,” Mr Benjamin said.
Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hannah Tetteh, who was also at the UKGCC launch said although the falling trade figures between Ghana and UK is not welcome news, a concerted effort between the two countries to improve the situation will yield results.
“I believe that phase is something that we will get out of very quickly especially once we’ve had an organisation like this [UKGCC] established,” she said.
She urged UKGCC to find ways of putting up a better structure to promote trade in all the possible products that can find their way onto the UK market from Ghana and onto the Ghanaian market from the United Kingdom.
The Chief Executive of UKGCC, Mr Tony Burkson, said he expects a total membership of not less than 70 companies in the coming days, noting that setting up the Chamber presents unique opportunities for both UK and Ghanaian companies.
Meanwhile, The UK is already considering its trade relations with Ghana after Brexit. The country among other things in its relationship with Ghana, is considering free trade agreements, Mr. Benjamin had said.
In a speech delivered at the World Trade Centre Accra Business Breakfast recently, he said said the UK is in essence starting from a blank piece of paper when it comes to trade deals.
On June 23, 2016, Britain held a referendum to decide whether it remained in or exited the EU. Majority voted for exit.
“‘Freed from Brussels’ more bureaucratic tendencies we will be able to tackle any excessive red tape that can choke small businesses. Right now, we are happy to have preliminary scoping discussions for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), but cannot yet get into detail until we are clear on the direction of travel between the UK and EU,” he said.
“In Ghana, as elsewhere, we will consult government, business and other interested groups on what that future might look like. We have been encouraged by the interest already shown in a future bilateral FTA by a range of non-EU countries, including some of the UK’s closest allies,” he said.
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi & Ben Cofie
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