Reviving moribund indigenous industries in Volta Region

BY: Mary Anane-Amponsah,
A portion of the distressed  Akuley sho
A portion of the distressed Akuley sho

Lackof industries in the Volta Region was one of the topical issues for consideration during the 2016 election as people believed successive governments had not done much for the region.

The issue appears to be dear to the citizens because apart from the various government agencies, municipal and district assemblies that operated in the regional capital, Ho, there were no clear-cut opportunities for employment for the citizenry.

It therefore became an issue on the various media platforms on what could be done to attract investors into the region to utilise the human resource and natural resources such as forestry, quarry, cocoa, fishing, aquaculture, farming especially grains and yams, salt mining to accelerate the development of the region.
 
Now the attention has been shifted a little to the revival of moribund indigenous industries in the region and there is a loud voice for the government to do something about these industries.

Generally in Ghana, local industries over the years have suffered setbacks that have led to the collapse of many of these industries.
 
For most moribund indigenous industries all that is required is recapitalisation and creating a market for the products as the structures and most of the equipment are already in place.
 
The Volta situation

In the Volta Region, such cases of distressed companies exist. Some of the ailing industries included the Sokode Biscuit Factory,  the Akuley Shoe Factory, the Gad Furniture Company, Volta Star Textiles Ghana Limited (VSTGL) and Sokpekofe Milk Factory.

Surprisingly with the exception of VSTGL, which is capital intensive, most of these ‘dead’ factories actually do not need very huge capital to be back on their feet. 

According to the Chairman for the Eastern and Volta regions of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Mr Dela Gadzanku, with a support of $ I million, about four factories would become operational in the region and create employment for the teeming youth even across the country as well as boost the economy of the country.

Industrialisation is said to be the soul of every country which desires to grow economically.

This is because it is through industries that revenues are generated to strengthen the economy and the issue of unemployment is effectively tackled.

So if the industry sector is not doing well, it is a pointer as to how the economy is faring. A country that effectively tackles this sector has the greater prospect of meeting the needs and aspirations of its people.

It is therefore not surprising that Ghanaians have bought into the one-district, one-factory policy in anticipation of bringing the needed economic revolution in the country.
While waiting for new factories to be established, it would be very welcoming if the government paid a little attention to some of these defunct but viable relevant industries in the region.
 
The factories

A situation with the Akuley Shoe Factory at Kpando leaves much to be desired. The company, which was one of the biggest shoe factories in the country, started operation in Tema in the 70’s but later relocated to Kpando in 1991.
 
But since 2008, it has become defunct due to financial challenges. The main problem has to do with getting money to buy raw materials to begin production.

The 80-year-old factory owner, Mr John Kwabena Akuley, explained that an amount of GH¢200,000 could be enough to bring the factory back to life as all they needed to buy was raw materials.

The shoemaking machines including those for cutting, folding, spraying, branding, sewing, finishing and polishing were going waste while unemployment and poverty were key issues in the area.

“We have vast land, machinery and labour to make this factory work again.”

The only factory in Kpando manufactures shoes, sandals, sports and laptop bags. 

In the early 90s, the factory created jobs for the youth in the area. However, since it became defunct, most of the workers have become unemployed. 

Mr Akuley, who was hearing the stimulus package of the government which is aimed at reviving ailing local industries for the first time, said if such support was received, Kpando would come back to life as one of the economic towns in the region.
 
Amount needed

A similar misfortune had greeted the Gad Furniture Limited in Ho, the only existing company at the Light Industrial Area in Ho, earmarked for small-scale manufacturing industry in the regional capital.

The Gad Furniture Company, a subsidiary of Environmental Development Group International (EDG), a group of consultants and infrastructure engineers, deals in all forms of furniture but currently operating below capacity since 2012.
 
The problem with underutilisation has to do with not getting patronage for their wares due to the effects of imported furniture.

The once vibrant company which could employ about 150 workers now has only five workers due to low patronage and also money to invest in the business.

The Executive Chairman, Environmental Development Group International (EDG), Mr Theophilus Gadzanku, said although the company produced high-quality furniture because of the high cost, people rather prefer to buy the imported stuff.

“The company could produce 500 high international quality standard doors in a day but was currently producing just a few,” he said.

Strategically located with ultramodern machinery including dust extractors and sawdust silos, the company could provide institutional furniture for the assemblies, offices and schools at moderate cost.

With a financial support of $500,000, the company could expand and produce at full capacity and export as it used to do some three decades ago.

Another company which is calling for help and would be of immense support to the youth of Sokode is the Sokode Biscuit Factory.

The once vibrant indigenous biscuit factory in the 1960s folded up 12 years ago due to importation of foreign biscuits. However, the manager of the factory, Mr Dickson McBillions, was optimistic that the factory stood the chance to do well if an amount of GH¢200,000 was injected into its operation to expand it.
 
Call for privatization

The textile company and the Sokpekofe Milk Factory have been the pride of the people of Juapong.

The VSTGL Company is still struggling to meet production cost as it can only produce 600,000 yards of fabric instead of two million yards of fabric a month.

There have been calls from chiefs of Juapong including the President of the Dofor Traditional Area, Togbe Adela Titriku Anaze XI, and opinion leaders for the factory to be privatised. This view has been supported by some workers of the factory. 

While the company tries to get private investors, it is still in the process of securing a stimulus package to relieve it of its financial stress and revive operations.

The Sokpekofe Milk Factory is currently closed down but cattle rearers have appealed to government to open the factory.