We will cut down on im­por­ta­tion

The Africa Report - - COUNTRY FOCUS -

The backer of a new free zone out­side of the city of Tako­radi talks to The Africa Re­port about the im­por­tance of the lo­cal pri­vate sec­tor

The CEO of Wonda World E s t a t e s, Na n a Kwa me Be­di­ako, has joined forces with Uk-based prop­erty de­vel­oper and hote­lier Azad Cola to create a new free zone, de­signed to ser­vice the emerg­ing Ghana­ian en­ergy sec­tor. Known as Petro­nia City, the planned de­vel­op­ment in­cludes a se­ries of in­dus­trial, com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial pro­jects lo­cated 8km from the port of Tako­radi in western Ghana. Wonda World Es­tates has been de­vel­op­ing apart­ment pro­jects in Ac­cra.

TAR : Why did you de­cide to part­ner with Azad Cola? NANA KWAME BE­DI­AKO: We de­cided to come to­gether and build an in­dus­trial plat­form which is go­ing to be­come the last word in African in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment, some­thing that was sup­posed to be done in Africa maybe 100 years ago. We want to bring in plants to man­u­fac­ture steel. Based on that, we will cut down on im­por­ta­tion. We are in­ter­ested in pro­duc­ing glass, and all other man­u­fac­tured goods that are be­ing im­ported into Africa, which are stalling Africa’s growth. Much of this is down to in­ef­fi­ciency – you have to wait for eight weeks for things to ar­rive in Africa, be­fore they move from bonded ware­houses into the re­tail mar­kets. We want to do that start­ing in the western part of Ghana, in Tako­radi – which is a very rich area, with over 10 dif­fer­ent re­sources based in this area. We think it is go­ing to be­come the hub of West Africa, and we will be able tap into other coun­tries, like Liberia, which have their own re­sources and can sup­ply raw ma­te­ri­als for the plants that we in­tend to put onto the in­dus­trial plat­form. To do that, we needed to ap­ply for free-zone sta­tus, so that some of these com­pa­nies who will be our part­ners will have tax ex­emp­tions. We were suc­cess­ful with the free-zone ap­pli­ca­tion and land ac­qui­si­tion. We are the first peo­ple in West Africa to have a par­cel over 1,500 acres, that’s 8.9km2. Do you have part­ners for a steel plant? We have a few who have given us a let­ter of in­tent. But we are do­ing it with our choice of part­ners. We be­lieve it is go­ing to be the Asians. We be­lieve the Asians are the best when it comes to hard­ware. They have al­ready sup­plied the world with stan­dard­ised steel. But our in­ter­est is not to go straight to the Chi­nese. Our in­ter­est is to work with the Sin­ga­pore­ans be­cause we are look­ing at their tem­plate of de­vel­op­ment. Does Ghana have the ad­min­is­tra­tive ca­pac­ity to drive an Asian-style de­vel­op­ment model? Sin­ga­pore did use a strong na­tional gov­ern­ment. In Africa, we don’t need to rely on the gov­ern­ment. The pri­vate sec­tor needs to work with the gov­ern­ment. Peo­ple think that the gov­ern­ment can build roads, can build fac­to­ries […]. The gov­ern­ment can’t do it. If they could do it, they would have done it a long time ago. We have cut out the pri­vate sec­tor lo­cally in Africa. We need to build it up. For­eign multi­na­tion­als are not here to de­velop Africa, they are only here to ex­tract or do busi­ness. The only thing you can do with gov­ern­ment is get a li­cence.

“Tako­radi is a very rich area […]. We think it is go­ing to be­come the hub of West Africa”

How will you keep freight costs low for man­u­fac­tur­ers in your zone, given the costs of com­ing through Tako­radi? You know why it’s hard? Be­cause the only source of be­ing able to get any­thing in the coun­try is im­por­ta­tion. All the con­tain­ers leav­ing the countr y to­day are empty, there is noth­ing in them. It even costs the ship­ping lines $320 to bring a con­tainer back empty. There­fore, one of the gov­ern­ment’s main sources of rev­enue out of the port is taxes. But if you are man­u­fac­tur­ing in-coun­try, then you don’t have to im­port any­more, so you avoid the taxes. In­ter­view by Ni­cholas Nor­brook

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