Free Zones Authority to build 3 industrial cities

BY: Kester Aburam Korankye
From left: Ahmed Bennis, Secretary General of AEZO; Mr Michael Okyere Baafi, a Deputy Minister of Trade; Mr Michael Oquaye Jnr, CEO, Ghana Free Zones, and Ms Atsuko Toda, Director, Agricultural Finance & Rural Infrastructure Devt. of AfDB
From left: Ahmed Bennis, Secretary General of AEZO; Mr Michael Okyere Baafi, a Deputy Minister of Trade; Mr Michael Oquaye Jnr, CEO, Ghana Free Zones, and Ms Atsuko Toda, Director, Agricultural Finance & Rural Infrastructure Devt. of AfDB

The Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry are in the process of developing three separate industrial cities in the country to boost the government’s industrialisation agenda.

Known as the Special Economic Zones Project, the industrial cities are being developed in the Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions to serve as additional industrial hubs that could facilitate the processing of natural resources into value-added goods for the export market.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GFZA, Mr Michael Oquaye Jnr, made this known at the sixth annual meeting of the Africa Economic Zones Organisation (AEZO) in Accra last Friday.

The meeting, held in person and virtually via the Zoom platform, was on the theme: ‘Connecting African Special Economic Zones to Global Value Chains in the era of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)’.

It brought together leaders of the economic zones agencies of member states to deliberate on how to utilise the benefits of the biggest trading bloc in the world for rapid economic development in Africa.

Economic zones

Mr Oquaye said already an environmental and social impact assessment had been initiated on the land secured for the projects under the Ghana Economic Transformation agenda, while the Ministry of Trade and Industry was developing a policy framework and regulatory institutional mechanisms for special economic zones.

The policy was expected to position the private sector to take advantage of special economic zones within the expanded regional market under AfCFTA, as well as other market integration frameworks, he said.

“It is our hope that when the policy is developed by 2022, it will help guide our quest for a successful special economic zone in the country,” he said.

Gains

Touching on the accrued benefits to companies that operated under the Ghana Free Zones, Mr Oquaye said for the first half of this year, Free Zones enterprises generated export revenue of $1.097 billion, with capital investments amounting to $173.84 million.

He said beyond the financial investments in the economy which were instrumental in propelling development, 30,189 jobs were created through the investments, mainly concentrated in the manufacturing sector.

“It is refreshing to report that the GFZA remains the anchor for Ghana's Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones and continues to achieve positive results,” the CEO said.

Industrialisation

The Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who was the guest of honour at the event, said the special economic zones were the catalyst for the realisation of the industrialisation agenda of Africa, as envisioned in the implementation of the AfCFTA.

Therefore, he said, it was critical for member states of the AfCFTA to advocate the right policy frameworks to promote special economic zones development in their respective countries.

“The connection among special economic zones, AfCFTA and the global value chains are important in harnessing the benefits under AfCFTA,” he said.

Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the meeting was taking place at an opportune time to deliberate on the critical thematic areas of special economic zones and AfCFTA to identify how companies operating in those zones could leverage the operationalisation of AfCFTA to boost industrialisation.

He explained that most African countries were using special economic zones or Export Processing Zones (EPZs) as tools for economic development.

“For the past 25 years, Ghana has reaped the benefits of implementing an EPZ programme through the attraction of significant foreign direct investments, job creation, value addition to our natural resources and exports,” he said.

To help increase the gains from special economic zones, Mr Oppong Nkrumah encouraged other African countries to learn from the rich experiences of China, whose dedicated attention to special economic zones development had led to over 60 per cent of its exports being produced through such initiatives.

Ultimately, that had made China a significant player in the global value chain of many products, he said.