The Ghana Free Zones Board, has reechoed its determination and plans put in place to help create local magnates in the country to enable them to compete with their foreign counterparts.

The Board believes that, if Ghana will be able to build a stronger economy, then there is the need to build the financial muscles of local entrepreneurs to enable them to create more businesses.

The Free Zones programme in Ghana offers you a conducive business environment to produce at minimum cost for export.

The Executive Secretary of GFZB, Michael Okyere Baafi, in an interview said, “I believe that we should not always look for foreigners to come and take control of foreign businesses in Ghana. When foreigners come to open businesses in Ghana, we should be able to have local people whose capacity would have been built, their financial muscles have become big so they can take over big businesses; that is the kind of arrangement want to build.

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“We want to produce local billionaires – people who have the capacity to acquire big investments. It appears Ghanaians don’t have the capacity to engage in big businesses. When we are building a nation we should be able to have people who have the financial muscles to take up big ventures, and that is what Nigeria is doing and that is why they are doing so well with their economy.

“Most of the private people there have fat muscles and that is what we want to produce in Ghana. We want the local investors to benefit from the Free Zones and grow their businesses.”

The total value of exports generated under the Ghana Free Zones Programme last year stood at US$2.3 billion.

This formed part of export revenue generated between 1996 and December 2016 which recorded $30.9 billion.

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Mr Okyere-Baafi, speaking at the launch of a week-long celebration themed: ‘Promoting Export Oriented-Investment for National Development’ to promote investment opportunities in the export-oriented business sector for local investors in Accra, last week, said the Free Zones Regulations have given the Board the flexibility to licence export-oriented companies located outside the declared and designated areas.

For such entities, he said his outfit was taking opportunity to facilitate the implementation of government’s policy on the ‘One District, One Factory’ policy.

The celebration, billed for the last week of August every year, is targeted at encouraging Ghanaian business executives and entrepreneurs who have surplus funds to invest in the export sector.

Data from GFZB shows that out of 201 licensed Free Zones companies, only 56 companies were wholly owned while 63 were joint-ventures, representing 28 and 31 percent respectively while 82 companies, representing 41 percent, were foreign owned.

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Mr Baafi said GFZB has had various interactions with members of the Association of Ghana Industries to highlight the investment opportunities in the Free Zones programme and encourage them to utilize the opportunity by investing in the GFZ programme.

Other objectives are to increase foreign exchange earnings, provision of business opportunities for local and foreign investors to undertake joint ventures, enhancement of technical and management skills of Ghanaians and promotion of technology transfer.

He applauded the investors for believing in Ghana’s Free Zones programme.

He said he was expecting an increase in employment at the Tema Export Processing Zone and all the single factory zones.

Events lined up for the week celebration include a media briefing on the activities of GFZB, breakfast meeting with business owners, tour of the Free Zones enclave, staff durbar and a corporate health walk at the Peduase Mountains on Saturday.

-Adnan Adams Mohammed