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Business News of Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Source: Single African Market, Contributor

Free Zone Authority ready to drive Ghana's AFCFTA agenda - CEO

Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA), Dr. Mike Aaron Ocquaye Jnr. says Ghana’s Free Zone Authority is repositioned to take full advantage of the single continental market to boost investments to its enclaves.

To achieve this, he said, the authority remains ready to host and empower foreign companies that may want to set up businesses in the country to operate and produce under the scheme for exports.

In an interview with Single African Market, he said one of the major activities of the Free Zones Authority is to run the economic zones in this country which allows it to provide managerial and logistics support to companies that are not free zones but still operate under the authority because they’ve come are in their industrialization space.

“We are not only looking at taking advantage of free zones but we also want to attract companies to come and produce in Ghana. Whatever kind of business—be its steel, car assembling, cocoa processing, etc.—the Ghana Free Zones Authority is ready to accommodate them in our industrial zones".

We help these businesses in terms of management, land acquisition and all the various things that they will need to produce,” he said.

According to Dr. Ocquaye Jnr, the African Continental Free Trade Area opens the door for the realization of this dream because it already synergizes the African conversation.

“The AfCFTA is now allowing all economic zones of the continents to know each other. This is what Africa is trying to achieve; to talk and act more together and eventually, the over 1.3billion population of Africa will all be able to succeed moving together in the right direction,” he added.

The GFZA boss said they will be monitoring applications of businesses seeking to operate within Free Zones enclaves to ensure that the regime is not abused under the AfCFTA.

He said: “No business will apply to Free Zones for AfCFTA benefits but only for benefits that are prescribed under the Free Zones regime. Once you apply for free zones benefits, we’ll check our criteria and monitor if your business meets those requirements.”

He also raised concern about the seeming conundrum regarding why businesses operating in specialized economic zones cannot benefit from the AfCFTA.

“The grey area is simple; there is a bit of confusion about why the SEZs cannot benefit from AfCFTA and that remains a conundrum; we have made submissions and they are highly considering it.

We want to say that there are certain disparities in terms of taxes and we want to look at that. We want Africa to know that apart from hosting the AfCFTA Secretariat, we also want to be seen as the hub for production,” he stressed.

SEZs are specialized zones that have been set aside for industrialization with tailored incentives for businesses that operate under the zone and produce for exports.

Dr. Ocquaye Jnr said the GFZA has already acquired lands in Kumasi to start the Greater Kumasi Industrial Park project which is in tandem with the Boankra Inland Port which will be holding inland containers that will be coming from the Tema Port towards the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

“This is a very competitive area that sister port countries like Cote d’Ivoire are doing a lot of work to capture that market. So, the earlier Ghana settles its oars and starts to get a very constant role on this matter, the better it will be for all of us,” he advised.