President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has launched a $10-million Ghana Tourism Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Grant for players in the hospitality and creative arts sector to enhance and expand their businesses.
The grant, which is a government of Ghana initiative supported by the World Bank, will assist 1,500 SMEs operating in the sector to modernise and improve tourist sites, restaurants, tour operations, event organisation and related businesses to become attractive and competitive.
Explaining the rationale behind the grant, President Akufo-Addo said it would be in three categories — COVID-19 relief support, SME support and site upgrade.
“These are intended to help transform the tourism sector to stimulate economic growth and create jobs,” he said.
He said in 2021, the government, through the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, disbursed the Ghana cedi equivalent of $10 million to some 1,400 SMEs.
The President noted that the new grant would target 60 per cent of the women in the tourism and creative arts sector because majority of operators in the sector were female.
He commended the World Bank for supporting the initiative through the Ghana Tourism Development Project, adding: “We continue to value the partnership of the World Bank in our development journey.”
He explained that some 10,000 operators in the tourism value chain were being trained by the Ghana Tourism Authority under the Ghana Cares Obaatanpa Programme to improve their skills set in customer service delivery, which was vital to the growth of the sector.
President Akufo-Addo noted that the government would stick to its responsibility of creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
He added, however, that it was incumbent on the private sector to ensure that its businesses were properly structured and governed in accordance with the principles of good corporate governance.
“This is because good corporate governance is key to transforming corporate organisations in frontier and emerging economies, and policies that seek to plug gaps in weak corporate governance structures are essential to create robust economies,” he said.
He said although the country had companies that had thrived as a result of good corporate governance, poor corporate governance had been cited as a major factor that had led to the collapse of many businesses.
As Ghanaian businesses competed globally to attract foreign investment partnerships, the President said, they must be guided by the fact that investors were prepared to pay a premium for shares in well-governed companies.
The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, noted that tourism was key in the transformative agenda of the Akufo-Addo administration.
In that regard, he said, the government would continue to work assiduously to ensure that the sector was provided with the right policies and support to turn things around.
In doing so, he said the sector would contribute more to the development of the country through increased foreign exchange earnings, employment and wealth creation.
The World Bank Country Director, Pierre Frank Laporte, noted that the tourism development project had been one of the most impressive projects in terms of performance over the past year.
That, he explained, was mainly due to the “dynamism and commitment of Dr Awal”.
“I must say that in the years I have been at the World Bank, I don't believe having seen a project in so much trouble and turned around in the short space of one year and now disbursing this amount,” he said.
Mr Laporte indicated that the project was restructured in June this year to make room for another SME grant to the tune of $10 million, and that it was the expectation of the bank that some significant public tourist sites would be developed to complement the injection of funds that had been made so far.