Ghana: Ghanaian Women Can Make a Difference in the Economy
sabella Gyau Orhin
The Managing Director of Akuaba Limited, manufacturers of furniture, toys and educational equipments Dr. Akua Adu-sei Hebstein has called on the government and all well meaning Ghanaians to persuade female traders to sell or distribute locally manufactured goods.
She said the current situation where almost all female traders are into the distribution and sale of foreign products is not good for the economic growth of the country.
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Dr. Hebstein was speaking at a one-day meeting in Accra organised by the Gender Unit of Third World Network, and Abantu for Development, both non-for profit advocacy organisations on Service Liberalisation of the World Trade Organisation and its impact on Ghanaian traders,.
"Local traders should get to know local manufacturers, that area yields so much profit," she said, adding "if you have a market for me, you will probably not need that loan from the bank."
She also said Ghanaian women are very good distributors and traders who can help boost local industry by marketing their products. She explained further that after the collapse of the Ghana Food Distribution Corporation (GFDC) Ghanaian women took over the distribution of foods across the country at no expense whatsoever to the government.
"We run to China and many other places buying goods and looking for profit when we can make the same profit here by selling locally manufactured goods", she said.
She also placed the demise of local industries at the doorstep of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which she said brought a lot of problems to local industries through competition. Dr. Hebstein said this is contrary to what happened in Asia where Ghanaian traders do business today.
"Asian countries did not develop on pure market basis," she said, adding, "there were controls, they were assisted, it was not a growth that was not controlled."
According to her a developing country like Ghana needs to put in place measures to protect its local industries as Asia did in the past.
Supporting Dr, Hebstein, a Journalist from The Point newspaper Leonard Akunor said some of the foreign products sold by Ghanaian female traders, especially at Makola market area in Accra are expired and harmful to the health of their unsuspecting patrons.
Dr. Hebstein's call comes at a time when Ghana is feverishly dialoguing with one of its major trading partners, the European Union over the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which will introduce more competition and has the potential of affecting local industries.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Kwadwo Baah Wiredu at a recent meeting on the EPAs in Accra said trade relations between African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU should be flexible to take account of the economic, social and environmental constraints of the ACP countries and their capacity to adapt to the new trading environment. He also said the EPAs should be implemented at country level to identify the cost and mitigating factors.
In a speech read on his behalf at a Conference on Private Sector Development, Regional Integration and EPAs between West Africa and the EU, The Minister said the major concerns of Ghana over the EPAs in the short term is the expected loss of revenue accruing from customs and excise duties and support of development efforts including support to the private sector as a result of the abolition of customs barriers among member states.
"Another major concern is the establishment of the free trade areas between us and our partners to end the non-reciprocal trade regime currently in place and its impact in the short term on our domestic firms," the Minister said.
He explained that given the lower competitive advantage of firms in the sub-region, it would lead to the folding up of most firms.
Baah-Wiredu therefore suggested the harmonization of customs policies to reduce the effect of revenue losses resulting from the removal of customs barriers.
He said in order to protect Ghana's interest; there is the need to systematically review how Ghana can take advantage of the opportunities available in open economies that can speed up the county's development.
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The Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and Presidents Special Initiative (PSI) on his part said the nation is worried over the EPAs and Ghana's inability to take advantage of market access in EU countries. "This has been our main source of worry and apprehension as we negotiate an EPA with The EU, under which we will also extend preferential treatment to substantial amount of EU exports," he said.
According to him, history has taught the country that unless Ghana's productive processes are radically transformed and its competitive supply capacity enhanced, "there is no way the country can benefit from the asymmetrical reciprocal preferential trade arrangement under the EPA."
The Minister also said the capacity of the private sector to build competitiveness will depend on the extent of flexibilities of the EPA as well as the extent of liberalisation that would be undertaken.