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We must build our own industry giants

BY: Daily Graphic

One of the major concerns of some   Ghanaians is the fact that the major players in the economy are foreigners, a development which does not bode well for the nation.

The Daily Graphic is equally worried about this development and we believe that now is the time for the government to set out deliberate policies and interventions that will increase indigenous ownership of the economy.

COVID-19 has painfully taught us all that as a nation, we must look inwards to meet our developmental needs. We have learnt that we need to build our local capacity in every sphere of national life.

We think that the time is ripe for a national strategy on economic empowerment to strengthen local businesses and entrepreneurs to operate successful enterprises that will play significant roles in national development.

This is because the current structure of the economy where almost every critical sector is largely controlled by foreign entities is risky for the long-term sustenance of the economy.

It is sad that from the banking sector through extractive and telecommunications to hospitality, virtually no Ghanaian individual or institution has a substantial ownership of any of the key firms in these sectors of the economy.

In fact, the need to champion such policies is even more urgent now with the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) because the initiative headquartered in Ghana can only retain public support if indigenous entrepreneurs benefit from the sacrifice of sovereignty and import barriers that the initiative entails.

The sad reality is that Ghanaians do not own the economy and it is evident in the performance of our local currency against the major foreign currencies.

This is evident when the foreign investors in the country decide to repatriate their profits and capital gains from the country to their respective countries.

While we expect the government’s One-district, One-factory (1D1F) policy to assist in addressing some of these imbalances, such interventions would achieve little without strategic funding mechanisms to support local enterprises.

Another issue of concern is the granting of tax waivers and exemptions to foreign investors to set up businesses in the country without similar incentives in the form of grants or start-up capital for local entrepreneurs.

The practice is a disservice to indigenous entrepreneurship as it extricates indigenes from fair competition in their own country.

It is important to state that while foreign investments are good, they need to be balanced against the need to develop domestic capacity and entrepreneurship to help create the needed balance to serve as a cushion against vulnerabilities and capital flights.

In fact, the best ambassadors for our local economy will be strong local entrepreneurs with viable businesses who could seek partnerships with strategic foreign investors for growth capital and foreign expertise in the form of skills transfer programmes to benefit our economy.

In various sectors of the economy, unfortunately, the lack of strong local players is a disincentive to meaningful foreign investment because investors typically seek local partners who have some scale and experience in the markets they seek to invest in.

The truth is, successful local entrepreneurs offer the most attractive testimonial to foreign investors.

In seeking a solution, we urge the government to put in place strategic measures, protectionist policies and incentives for local entrepreneurs to increase indigenous ownership of the economy similar to what pertains in South Africa and Nigeria.

And such policies must be nationalistic and not partisan to help create intergenerational entrepreneurs and investors who can contribute meaningfully to economic development.