'Prioritise local businesses to develop a Ghanaian-owned economy' - Siaw Agyepong
Local businesses with the requisite expertise should be given priority in government procurement deals, Joseph Siaw Agyepong, Executive Chairman of the Jospong Group of Companies, has said.
“Policy makers need to take a bold decision that we want to build our economy with our own Ghanaians. The requirement should be that get a technical partner who is more knowledgeable and skilful.
Business should be given to the local people and then make them employ the technical expertise to join them. There is no difficulty in giving a business to a local and asking them to hire a competent person to work with,” he said.
He was speaking at the second plenary session of the two-day Ghana Economic Forum, organised by the B&FT, in Accra under the theme ‘Improvement of the business environment through regulatory reforms: removing bottlenecks in the current business environment’.
He added that: “If you are benchmarking me against a foreigner and going for a procurement project and you want ten or five years’ experience, I won’t get it, but if you believe in local businesses and give me the contract, I will go and hire the one with the ten years’ experience to be my partner. So, we need each other but we have to give support to local businesses,” he said.
With government seeking to develop local businesses to become multinationals and support job creation, Mr. Agyepong noted that the government has put in some brilliant policies that will develop the economy.
“What we have to do as businesses is to be proactive and see how to work together. With government instituting policies and projects to promote a Ghanaian-owned entrepreneurship environment to strive and move forward, what we [businesses] have to do is to look at our deficiency and rectify them,” he said.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo recently announced that government has setup a US$100million package to fund the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP), an initiative aimed at supporting young entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
President Akufo-Akufo said his major priority is to address the issue of unemployment in the country. In outlining four main challenges to be solved by the NEIP, the president stated that “the overall objective of this plan is to stimulate private sector growth to accelerate job creation and to provide entrepreneurial Ghanaian youth with a critical alternative to salaried appointment”.
He added that the objective is also “to raise money from private sources and public organization to the tune of 100 million US dollars to fund this programme”. He explained that the NEIP will provide tax incentives for startups and entrepreneurs to commence and expand their operations.
Accessing financing from banks is easy
In a show of support to banks that have come under increasing pressure to reduce interest rates and lend to companies, Mr. Agyepong noted that accessing financing from banks in the country is easy as long as one has all the documentations right.
“First of all, the banks have their system and way of doing business, so when you go to a bank to look for money the bank gives you the list of whatever you have to bring for the funds to be given to you.
Then once you follow it up, the bank is able to give you money. The banks are there to lend money. Without lending, they also cannot do business. The bank’s duty is to lend money and protect money.
It is not difficult to get funds from banks because once you understand the system and how they lend money, and you are able to provide the requisite documentation, you will get it,” he noted.
Young business leaders should think big, but start small
Mr. Agyepong, urged start-ups to think big but start small and with progress they can easily access credit.
“Most young entrepreneurs want to start big and that is when you have these challenges. But if you start small you can access grants from development institutions. Developing a strategy is what they need.
When I started, I was agent. I will go to places like schools, look for stationery like books, pencils, pens, to supply. When my clients needed printing services, I get the contract and go and see a printer, I didn’t own a printing press.
The young ones should see where they want to start and how they want to start. Accessing funds from banks is very easy because I started from somewhere and built up. I did not get up and went to the bank for a loan. Developing a strategy makes you get the funds,” he added.