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General News of Friday, 7 September 2007

Source: GNA

Kufuor launches Ghana's landmark offshore banking

Accra, Sept. 7, GNA - Ghana on Friday celebrated a historic landmark in its banking industry with the launch by President John Agyekum Kufuor of In-Country Offshore Banking Services in Accra. The facility, a joint venture of Ghana and the Barclays Bank, is the first of its kind to be established in West Africa and is seen as an important step towards the realization of the Government's vision of making the country a major financial hub of the Sub-Region. It would provide banking services to non-resident customers by creating a portfolio of assets and liabilities and other investment products.

This way the country is expected to gain through more foreign exchange inflows, job creation and skills transfer in international banking.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament and Government delegations from Nigeria, Togo, C=F4te d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso attended the ceremony.

President Kufuor said the Government was fully aware of the numerous challenges and difficulties inherent in the operation of the facility and gave the assurance that the necessary safeguards had been put in place to stave off abuses.

Legal and administrative measures, he said, had been enacted to provide the needed checks and balances within the economy in particular and society in general.

"These measures should promote best practices in service delivery. More importantly, they should affirm the good faith and determination of the entire society to make Ghana a safe, secure and peaceful environment for investment."

President Kufuor, through whose initiative the offshore banking had become a reality, said the nation already was acknowledged as investor-friendly and asked that the "Project" should exploit this positive image in securing the confidence of foreign and domestic customers.

It must help to transform the financial system for accelerated socio-economic development.

"It is gratifying that the results of the years of hard work on the macro-economy and the commitment to good governance are yielding fruits. The economy is stable, inflation and interest rates are declining while the Cedi maintains its value against major trading currencies." The Government, he said, would continue to provide the leadership and create opportunities to enable as many Ghanaians as possible to set up private businesses, generate employment and create wealth. President Kufuor commended Barclays Bank for the introduction of innovative products, which coincided with Government's policy of expanding the private sector through the development of micro, small- and medium-scale local enterprises.

Among these are the "Aba Pa", which requires only four Ghana cedis to open a savings account; Vehicle and Assets Finance for businesses to procure equipment and vehicles and partnering "Susu" collectors to provide seed capital and other micro-banking products to customers. Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance, said the offshore banking was coming with the advantage of funds mobilization for investment and access to credit.

He said last year, 658 billion dollars was transferred from developing countries to the developed countries, noting that if about half of this had been lodged in such a facility in Africa, the pace of development of the Continent would have been tremendously enhanced.

Mr Frits Seegers, Chief Executive Officer, Global Retail and Commercial Banking, Barclays PLC, said Ghana was on course to becoming a world class, off-shore destination and pledged the Bank's support. "With this launch, together we are opening huge opportunities for Ghana's future. This initiative will project Ghana into prominence in the financial solutions arena."

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