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Free Zones Board moves to attract local businesses

The Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB) yesterday opened its maiden edition of Investment Week celebration to create the platform for local businesses to take advantage of its export-oriented programmes.

The week-long event to be held in August every year will also offer businesses the chance to identify investment opportunities in the country and abroad.

 

More than 200 free zones businesses are expected to participate in the event, which is on the theme: “Promoting Export-Oriented Investment for National Development.”

Opening

Addressing the media on the opening day of the event in Accra, the Executive Secretary of GFZB, Mr Michael Okyere Baafi, said the rationale for the event was to engender interest among Ghanaians with funds to invest in export-oriented businesses.

He said the GFZB would dedicate a week in August every year to the promotion of investment opportunities available under the country’s free zones programme to potential Ghanaian or local investors.

“We want to engage Ghanaian businessmen and women by aggressively marketing the investment opportunities available under the Ghana Free Zones programme locally,” Mr Baafi said.

He noted that the event would be replicated in other regions to ensure that more Ghanaian businesses that had the goal to export at least 70 per cent of its products benefited.

Mr Baafi said the board was poised to demystify its operations as one for foreign companies only.

“The Free Zones Board is not for foreign companies only; local companies which are now our target can also take advantage of the numerous benefits and incentives we provide to grow their businesses and create jobs”, he said.

More local businesses

According to him, out of the 201 licensed free zones companies, 56, representing 28 per cent, were wholly indigenous companies.

Mr Baafi added that 63, representing 31 per cent of the number, were joint ventures between Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, with the remaining 82 companies or 49 per cent owned by foreigners.

“We appreciate all the Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into Ghana, but we have the conviction that many more Ghanaians have the capacity and resources to venture into export-oriented business activities,” he said.

Asked about the board’s role in the government’s policy on one-district, one-factory (1D1F), Mr Baafi said the GFZB was working towards facilitating the operation of companies to be established under 1D1F, with export orientation.

“The Free Zone Regulations give us the flexibility to license export-oriented companies that locate outside the declared and designated Free Zone Areas. We can, therefore, reach out to all the districts,” he said.

Between 1996 and December 2016, exports by free zones companies amounted to $30.9 billion, with last year alone generating $2.3 billion, Mr Baafi added.

Criteria

According to Mr Baafi, once companies were prepared to export a minimum of 70 per cent of their products, they would be allowed to operate with free zones entitlements.

Mr Baafi said the board had acquired huge tracts of land in different parts of the country which it was willing to give to local companies that intended to invest in free zones businesses.

“Land is difficult to come by and, therefore, once we have them, we can allow companies that become part of the enclave to have some to build their warehouses, industries and offices,” he assured.