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Ghana is now recognised as the gateway to West Africa

I n recent years, Ghana has emerged as a major importer of goods from Dubai. Having established itself as one of the prime business centres in the West African region, Ghana has earned the reputation of being the leading distribution centre of the region. Recent economic reforms and a well-developed infrastructure has helped Ghana emerge as the business centre in West Africa. Automobile spare parts, tyres, batteries, ball bearings, computer hardware, paper products, plastic goods, perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries, stationery items, lubricants, secondhand cars, machinery and raw material are some of the goods that are being exported in increasing quantities to Ghana from Dubai. These goods are being re-exported to nearby markets of Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Chad and Niger.

Until its independence from British colonial rule on 6 March 1957, Ghana was called the "Gold Coast", a name given by early Portuguese explorers who first set foot on the shores of the country in the 15th century. The name aptly described the country's wealth in gold and natural resources. During various periods from the time the Portuguese discovered gold in 1471 to independence in 1957, the monarchs of several European kingdoms, notably Denmark, ghanaEngland, Holland, Prussia and Sweden, sent hordes of explorers and merchants to the country for its abundant wealth, both natural and human. They battled for supremacy and control over the land, and built forts and castles which also served as trading posts. Vestiges of the extent of European colonial presence and concentration of activity in the country are evidenced by the fact that 29 of the 32 European colonial forts and castles dotted along the coast of West Africa are in Ghana.

Ghana's President is the also chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic organisation comprising a thriving market of 250 million people in West Africa. Formed in 1975, ECOWAS allows for the free movement of goods and people across the borders of its 16 member nations. Since its creation, implementation of the ECOWAS protocol on trade has greatly enhanced intra-regional trade as well as Ghana s status as an economic force in the sub-region. Ghana's trading access to other African nations is expected to increase significantly as Africa moves towards implementation of the African Economic Community, established by African heads of state and government in 1991. The AEC will take effect in 2025.

Recent amendments to Ghana's 1985 investment code have opened up a wide range of new business opportunities. The 1994 Ghana Investment Promotion Act guarantees the freedom for non-Ghanaians to establish and run enterprises in potentially lucrative areas such as natural gas; hydropower projects; fruit and vegetable farming; food processing, production of agro-chemicals; pharmaceuticals; and information technology.

Tourism is an especially strong area for new business projects. Key opportunities in this sector include: tourist accommodation, particularly beach resorts; tourist transportation; catering enterprises; eco-tourism projects; night life and leisure; and tourist servicing enterprises. The Government of Ghana estimates that tourism will generate over $300 million annually after year 2000.

Recent divestments have encouraged multinationals, medium- and small-sized foreign companies as well as Ghanaian nationals residing overseas to expand their business interests in Ghana. Coca-Cola has a $19 million investment in a new bottling plant and training facilities, and Heinz recently invested $20 million in a tuna canning operation, through its StarKist subsidiary. American firm, Coleman, has invested $23 million in freshwater fish farming for export.

As other recent investments and new investment plans show - by Caterpillar, Unilever, Guinness, M&W Pump, IBM, Lazare Kaplan, Deloitte & Touche, AT&T, Southwestern Bell, Pryor, McClendon & Counts, Eveready and more - the time has never been better for doing business in Ghana, Africa's new beacon of economic opportunity.


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