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AMCHAM commended for contribution to economy; Celebrates 30 years of existence

BY: Charles Benoni Okine
Madam Sullivan (left) with Mr Charles Benoni Okine, Deputy Editor of the Graphic Business during the interview
Madam Sullivan (left) with Mr Charles Benoni Okine, Deputy Editor of the Graphic Business during the interview

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The American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana (AMCHAM) has received commendation for the good work it is doing for its members and for the economy.

In an interview, as part of a special supplement to commemorate the 30th anniversary of AMCHAM, the US. Ambassador to Ghana, Madam Stephanie S. Sullivan, said, “Ayekoo and keep up the good work!”

Referring to the membership of AMCHAM, she reminded members that they should not join just to receive benefits but to participate.

Being an AMCHAM member is a great way of providing real and valuable business-focused issues and solutions to the attention of the Government of Ghana’s policy makers in a non-partisan way, to advocate for positive changes that are good for business and in turn, drive economic growth.

30-year milestone

On how she could describe the milestone of AMCHAM over the past 30 years, Madam Sullivan said, “Just like how a seed does not sprout into a tree overnight, AMCHAM has been growing steadily through the years.”

She made reference to 1997 when she first arrived in Ghana and referenced some of the milestones of AMCHAM, indicating that although she had not been working on economic issues at that time, there had been a few things she could recall about AMCHAM.

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She mentioned a name change of AMCHAM and a closer relationship that began with the US embassy as some of the milestones she could recall.

“So to come back and find the strength (the mighty oak) that the AMCHAM has turned into now, with over 120 US companies as members, a very vocal and responsible voice of business, working in communication with the Government of Ghana on suggestions and policies and helping improve the business climate, I think that the American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana is a real force multiplier.

And we look forward to its continued growth, and continuing to support both the chamber and the Government of Ghana in efforts to improve the business climate even further,” she said.

Next 30-year milestone

On where she expected AMCHAM to be in the next 30 years, Madam Sullivan expressed the hope that there would be continued dialogue between the chamber and policy makers because, according to her, AMCHAM members are the practitioners who live with the consequences of whatever policy frameworks may be in place.

Madam Sullivan said sometimes, once a bill was passed, policy makers moved on to the next thing and they expected these things to be self-executing, but noted that there had to be a lot of follow-ups to make sure that the implementation took place.

“That’s where organisations like the AMCHAM can provide that very important and useful feedback to the policy makers,” she noted.

American vision for Africa

In sharing some perspectives on America’s vision for Ghana and the continent of Africa as a whole, Madam Sullivan made reference to the Better Utilisation of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act and its creation of a new US Development Finance Corporation with an expanded budget of $60 billion.

According to her, the BUILD Act is starting to manifest itself in different policy documents, mentioning for instance “Prosper Africa” that was announced last year December and elaborated on in Mozambique in mid-June at the US-Africa Business Summit organised by the US Corporate Council on Africa where US Agency for International Development’s Administrator, Mark Green, spoke about “Prosper Africa”.

Madam Sullivan explained that “Prosper Africa” was not a programme per se, but an approach almost like the way ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ was not a step-by-step approach but a framework for approaching these issues.

Prosper Africa

“Prosper Africa” is a US Government initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

This whole-of-government approach unlocks opportunities to do business in Africa, benefiting companies, investors and workers both in Africa and the United States.

It is premised on a response to questions from companies over the years seeking the US government to make it easier to access its trade and investment support services.

As a result, “Prosper Africa” provides a one-stop shop that makes the full range of those services available to US and African businesses and investors.

According to records, through “Prosper Africa”, the US government is helping unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans and the people of African nations like never before, ultimately advancing American and African prosperity and security, supporting jobs and demonstrating the superior value of transparent markets and private enterprise for driving growth.

American investments/AGOA

Asked about American investments in other sectors of the economy aside from oil and gas, Madam Sullivan said, “The US is very present in the agriculture sector”, stating that the US company Cargill “is a huge multinational company in the cocoa sector and we also have a lot going on in the apparel sector”.

She referenced the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which she said was still alive and which had also been extended for a 10-year period through 2025.

According to her, AGOA is a very beneficial Trade Promotion Act in the US that authorises the import of over 6,000 products from Africa to the US at preferential tariffs.

“And this is a way to reduce those barriers to trade and to help build up the productive sector in different African countries,” she added.

She pointed to progress made in the apparel industry from 2014-2018, explaining that within that four-year period, imports to the US from Ghana went from $3 million to $14 million.

“When you look at that, that is more than fourfold increase in a four-year period,” she said.

Export-Import Bank

When speaking about how the US government efforts in Ghana aligned with the Government of Ghana’s ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ objective, Ambassador Sullivan talked about the recent partnership launched in April 2019 between the U.S. Export-Import Bank (EXIM) and Ghana EXIM. This new partnership guarantees loans totalling up to $300 million to finance US exports to Ghana - enabling qualified small and medium-sized enterprises identified by Ghana EXIM to purchase US goods and services “to go from good to great”.

This initiative supports the Government of Ghana’s goals to increase industrialisation, create jobs and diversify the economy and creates an opportunity for Ghanaian businesses to access world-class US technology and equipment to drive their industrial expansion plans forward.

Good wishes

Madam Sullivan wished AMCHAM a very happy 30th anniversary and urged AMCHAM to live long and prosper.

“You have a lot to continue to contribute, particularly towards helping Ghana get beyond aid and also really expanding that enterprise-driven development,” she added.