Episode 2 - A two-way Investment Stream
Roberta: Welcome everyone to this latest edition of Insights Ghana which is a series of webinars to through which I, Roberta Lepre from Weave Consulting together with my colleague Nadia Pace, Business Strategist, bring to you inspirations and ideas from leading figures within the business community and today, we are very excited to welcome with us, Mr. Yofi Grant. Welcome Mr. Grant.
Mr. Grant is the CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre. And we also have with us today Mr. Kurt Farrugia. Welcome Mr. Farrugia, the CEO of Malta Enterprise. We also have with us our resident guest, Mr. Chris Busuttil-Delbridge from Evolve Limited, who will be sharing with us his own experience his own innovative ideas. So welcome, everyone.
Maybe we can start with you, Mr. Grant. Can you tell us a little bit about the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre and the work that you do?
Yofi: Okay, thank you very much. The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre is the government's let's say Investment Promotion Arm. Our job mainly is to facilitate, promote and attract foreign direct investment into the Ghana economy in partnership or alone, but with a partnership with the local economy. My office is under the Presidency. So it's part of Office of the President. And one of our jobs is also to promote Ghana to sell brand Ghana, firstly, and then to also sell the investment opportunities that exist for Ghana.
And as you know, Ghana is a resource rich country. I've always described Ghana with the three O's. The first “O” is opportunity. It's a land of opportunity, resource rich, we have gold, we have diamonds, we have timber, we have oil and gas, we have bauxite, we have aluminium, we have manganese, we have lithium, and we also have some ornamental minerals.
And then we also have a lot of land for farming and agriculture. But recently, more recently, because of our education policies, we also ensuring that in the middle, in the middle term, the lowest education of the average Ghanaian will be high school education to prepare a kid of well-schooled well-heeled young people who can actually move the economy in transition. So we believe that we are very well you know, positioned as the land of opportunity. And of course, we are in the middle of the world, Ghana's only country, a latitude 00. So, in terms of logistics, we are centrally placed, and therefore facilitates trade, and supply chain business across the continent, with other continents.
But we also have summer all year round is wrong, we don't have any winters. And so it's a good place to hang out. It's warm, and the people are extremely friendly. And we speak English, although all our neighbours are French, and the sea. So you either learn to swim or you like to speak French.
Roberta: Sounds wonderful.
Yofi: Then sorry, the second “O” is openness, we are very open so we engage, which is one of the issues that we are actually doing right now that we are engaging with you too, so we can have mutual benefit out of our relationship.
And the third “O”, is we are very optimistic. Pre-COVID, Ghana, the Ghana economy was one of the fastest growing in the world with an average of about 7% over the past few years. And so we are very clear that with the right policies and a lot of thinking we can actually transform this nation into one of the leading growth economies in the world. And so we have the three O's opportunity, openness and optimism.
Roberta: Fantastic. Mr. Farrugia, maybe you can tell us a little bit about the work of Malta Enterprise and maybe what you are focusing on at this point in time.
Kurt: Malta Enterprise is the economic development agency of the country. It's also the Investment promotion arm of the government of Malta. And for the past few months, we've taken the role of business support during the time of the pandemic. So, for the past few months, we have been also administering all, most of the business support schemes that the government has launched throughout the COVID period, and they're still they're still being, they're still in place as we speak. So basically, a lot of reengineering went into changing the way we work as a Malta Enterprise.
However, our main or main work or core business is attracting investments to Malta, just like Yofi’s, Investment Promotion Agency in Ghana. So that is more or less what we do as, as Malta Enterprise. What is very interesting listening to Yofi speak, and we have this the opportunity to discuss this when a delegation This is delegation from Malta was in Ghana, early in March, even before COVID hit was the amount of similarities that we have.
First of all, we have an ongoing discussion, who is at the centre of the world between Ghana and Malta, because we both think that we're at the centre of the Earth. But we can co-live together. Definitely Ghana's at the centre of Africa, it's a very important geographical, and strategic location, just as Malta is in the Mediterranean region. It's part of the European Union. It's close to the Middle East. And we have extremely good connections both by air and by sea.
What is also very interesting between in terms of similarities between Malta than Ghana is that we both speak English as one of our main languages. And this, of course, binds us together. And it does provide basis for our two countries to build on such similarities. One, maybe historical fact that while Malta became a nation, and independent nation in 1964, Ghana became an independent nation in 1957. So as two countries and Europe and in terms of past were also very similar, and we're more or less the same age.
So I think, and from the experience, the very, very positive experience that this delegation had, when we were in Ghana, I think there's a lot of opportunities we can look at together, and we can nourish a very important relationship. And I'm sure that we'll have occasion during the course of this, this webinar.
Nadia: Is there speaking about opportunities, Mr. Farrugia. What are the opportunities that have been explored already or we started exploring between the two countries? Is there a particular sector in particular, which were focusing more than others?
Kurt: Interests? Interestingly, there is no one specific area where Maltese businesses were looking at, in fact, and the business delegation we had, we had businesses in the textile industry, we had in the bio science and, and life sciences, we had businesses from logistics from logistics aspect. So in reality, there are so many opportunities and Ghana, and I'm here doing a bit of Yofi’s work. So, so, so many opportunities that I don't think that businesses should be restricting, or we should be restricting the opportunities for Maltese businesses in Ghana.
However, in terms of opportunities, between Malta and Ghana to work together of course Ghana as a gateway for European business to the rest of Africa, just as much as Malta is the gateway for African and Ghanaian business into Europe. So I think there are natural ties and in reality, we did strike a very, very good chord, when we met, when we were in Ghana, and also when the Ghanaians came to Malta. So I think we can form a natural alliance to explore the opportunities that both countries can give to each other.
Yofi: Just to add to what Kurt just said, I mean, apart from our industry, even in the social economy and other bits of the social infrastructure, we did find very interesting commonalities and opportunities for Maltese business people.
For example, in education, for example, where the there is an effort to build a bridge between Malta and Ghana. Ghana can supply the human capital or the manpower, to train. Especially in, in transport, trained to work in Malta, or Maltese train them in Ghana, for the market.
There was also the bit about nurses, also the bit about deep sea divers for the oil and gas industry and so it's broad, I mean, I can say that the opportunities are here.
Ghana may be starting from a lower base and so the cost of entry is probably much lower than in many other places. But the opportunities are enormous, and the returns are phenomenal. And so for me, it's a very attractive proposition. But the proposition is just not for me, it's a strategic one. Because like Kurt said, I mean, Malta should be like the gateway for Ghana, and then rest of Africa into Europe, whereas Ghana would open the gateway for Malta, into the African continent. And we believe that the African continent represents a huge opportunity, especially with the advent of the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which is going to be headquartered in Ghana. The driving seat on the policy side, and then on the development side. And so we believe that this must be a marriage made in heaven, with mutual opportunities on both sides for us. And I'm very delighted that I can speak to Maltese business people to engage.
But we were also working very hard to actually build an average, from Malta to Ghana, which, under normal circumstances, you take not more than six hours, maybe four and a half hours.
Kurt: Yeah, four and a half hours.
Yofi: But for me to get to Malta right now means I have to travel to Rome, and come down. Yes, we could have direct flights, which could facilitate the movements and open up more, more supply chain opportunities between the two countries. So I'm very excited about this proposition. And I'll go beyond just saying business and say it’s one of the strategic alliance.
Kurt: That is that is exactly one of the one of the sides of the making business with Ghana, and vice versa, we do not have an air link. And I think that is crucial, in order to extend the opportunities that that we can have with Ghana. And that is something that we've been working on for the past months. Of course, COVID was not good news for the aviation industry. But what I can say is that work didn't stop. And the meeting which the Economy Minister had in Ghana, in Accra with his counterpart, and with the aviation ministry, etc., I think that they were very fruitful. There are things that we started discussing, and they're still on the table. So I think that an air link between Malta and Ghana would go a long way into strengthening relationships between the two countries and between Europe and Africa.
Chris: Undoubtedly, great. I can really confirm this is my, my life. This is what I've been experiencing for the last three years. I mean, I joined the first trade mission that Malta Enterprises organized and Trade Malta to Ghana.
I joined even the second one in the meantime, I was there, many, many times inconvenient, 24 hours going and 24 hours coming. But that didn't deter me, because I found much more than what actually Yofi was saying, if I may, we often said you can find bauxite, aluminium and so on, I would list some other things. I found heart. I found courage, vision and the good organization.
In some places, the Standards Authority, for example, are extremely well organized world class, I would say. And we're working on a number of projects there. And we have been supported by Malta Enterprise to grow from a very small beginning to the medium size that we may be at the moment. And we have helped in return all the FDI that small enterprises has brought to Malta especially in the technological sector, to find the right services here to find the right base to be stronger. And we did really well for ourselves here, thank God.
We did a number of projects around the world, but now we zoomed in on Sub Saharan Africa, mostly being Ghana, because as you said, it is the fastest growing one of the fastest growing economies. English speaking, very friendly, visionary, courageous land of opportunity. And I can tell you, as Kurt said, it has many commonalities. Many. It felt like work at home. So I've made friends.
And I just venture to say that in all of West Africa, there is still today, not one pharmaceutical laboratory that is, according to up to the EU, GMP standards. But the first one is being done in Ghana. And this small Maltese company, a company I represent here before, is actually doing it. So of all the competition from the UK, from Germany, from India, it was this Maltese company that had the heart that wanted it badly enough that pursued it with enough enthusiasm that found enough commonalities and the right price performance ratio, to deliver this golden opportunity for us and for them. So I love this country, and Malta and Ghana have so much to gain from the strategic partnership that was mentioned here.
Nadia: What a success story, Chris. In fact, even yourself. I know that you've been working quite a lot to foster strategic alliances. And even during Covid itself, actually, this idea came up through one of our conversations of how we are going to engage with the Ghanaians with different companies yet again, inspires Maltese businesses, not to let the pandemic or covid, even though we cannot be at the moment, physically in the country, perhaps in a few months, we'll be able to do so. But we can still engage with other platforms through the means. And this is definitely a success story.
Chris: I must say we found extremely good support as well from our High Commissioner and his access, who works very hard for Ghana. And for Malta.
Yofi: I was actually going to, I was actually going to make note of that, that you have a very dynamic and business aggressive, High Commissioner who has actually warmed himself into Ghana, we, we think is more Ghanaian than Maltese now. And we love him here. We do love him here. But he's been very good at creating bridges and links and connections between Malta and Ghana. And we are very proud to have him as the first of the High Commissioners in Ghana. And I think in Africa, if I may be right.
Kurt: I, I confirm his animism and he can open doors he can knock on doors. So yes, I concur with what you're saying both you. And Chris,
Yofi: Perhaps is also noteworthy to say that was it last year? I was it? It was I think it was last year, when we attended the Malta-Africa conference, which I debated, we actually did agree that in 2020, we will host the first one in Africa in Ghana. Unfortunately, COVID came in the way until we couldn't do it. But we are very keen and excited to do it. The President is excited about it. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is also very excited about it. And we'll keep that on the cards. As soon as we have some relief or leeway, we probably should engage and put that back on the table.
Kurt: What I found very interesting, and it's something that we can develop together is the start-up community in Ghana. There is a there are a lot of, First of all, the level of education in Ghana is very, very good. And the entrepreneurial spirit is also extremely advanced. So what we did, we signed as an enterprise an agreement with Impact Accra, which is a small, small and [unintelligible] and there is quite a medium incubation centre and business accelerator. And I believe that there are a lot of synergies and a lot of opportunities for Ghanaian start-ups in Europe. And I believe that we can also contribute by introducing Africa, Ghana, to our start-ups in Malta. So success stories such as Chris, are something we can be using as a testimonial for young entrepreneurs. Even not so young entrepreneurs who would want to venture into internationalization their product. And this offer will go definitely to the start-ups in Ghana. We've met very good business, business ideas that are growing in Ghana. And I'm sure that there's a lot of their own opportunities for the in Europe and Malta can be a very, very comfortable place where they can have, have an office here and internationalize their product and find support business support from Malta Enterprise through our various schemes.
Chirs: If I may, and this is perfect what you're saying because it ties exactly with what I'm about to say now. In this case, as I mentioned about the pharmaceutical, which is a high tech solution. Everyone understands it needs to be maintained. So how can we from Malta maintain this? This is no type of business that we shouldn't be making. There's enough cowboys out there, you know, to sell something and forget it. Without that type of relation. It's not the type of business relationship you want to foster.
So we're investing both there. And here, what are we doing? So there's a first of all, we're using technology, like augmented reality to support people on the ground. But also there is an exchange program, where Ghanaian people handpicked by ourselves and the customer together are coming to spend a number of months with us here as an internship and working with our people and skills transfer and everything. And we are going to spend a number of months over there to help them. And then there will be some regular visits from our site, but the day to day will be handled definitely by Ghanaian nationals, because that's the way the business community needs to operate. And it has to be a win-win.
And COVID game exactly at the right time when we're going to start talking actually set up our own operation there. But it will happen and is only postponed a bit. But the relationship was kept warm. And all the contacts were in touch, business friendly, WhatsApp, messenger, no problem at all. Replies come in immediately emails, it's like, and for us it was just like dealing with any other customer.
Roberta: I just wanted to ask because everybody is extremely positive, which is fantastic. Because then the past few weeks have not been the best. I wanted to ask, engage. To what extent would you say that the pandemic has affected the prospect both in Ghana and the Malta? I think just put on hold? We're looking at things to go ahead soon.
Yofi: Well, I'll say something that yes, definitely, we've kept the engagement going. And of course, I mean, even as we speak, we are still not sure how this pandemic is going to pan out. But we are still speaking. And I'm sure there are many other people listening and who will listen to this and would, you know, engage on the back of that. But you know, the interesting thing, though, about the opportunities that exist here is that post-COVID, they are still going to be there, and probably even going to be even bigger opportunity.
As the world sort of retools and reboots, resources are going to be needed. There is now a clear consciousness about how we grow our food, and many people would like it organic. That is one of the things that Ghana presents credibly. And so, yes, COVID has come to put a little blot in aggression to grow our economies. But it's not going to be there forever. And yes, when it started, there were lockdowns, borders were closed, and airports were closed. So a lot of supply chain disruptions globally, our ports and airports and harbours were closed. And by the way, I'm Ghana just open its newly refurbished seaport, which will be the largest in Africa, with a traffic payload of 3.7 million teams. So that in itself tells you that we are serious about the engagement and opening up the continent through Ghana, we have an aggressive policy called the one district one factory, which means that we are going to ensure the setup of one industrial facility to enterprise in each of the 260 districts that we have.
And that is also a great opportunity for us and Maltese business people. Beyond that we also have what we call planting for food and jobs, which is another aggressive agri-development plan, which, for the first time in a number of years, resulted in Ghana having a food surplus, we're actually now expecting maize, exporting maize, which we had imported for 10 years for the past 10 years. We now we were net exporter, the same with plantings and other foodstuffs that we have.
So we are creating that enabling, you know, shall I say foundation to enable us all take advantage of. I think, even with COVID, COVID has highlighted the need to work together despite the fact that pre-COVID there was a lot of political disruption which meant that countries are looking more inward and we refer to the United States, Brexit and, and all that. But COVID has come to tell us that yes, even though there are many countries that are not looking inward, the world you need to work together to ensure its survival going forward without doubt. And the Africa part of the equation will be a very important construct of it.
By 2050, Africa, will be one quarter of the world's population. And the demographic of that population mean that more than 60% of it will be less than 35 years old. That is one, a market waiting to happen a consumption market we need to happen and two, a supply source of the labour required for the world to be sustained. And therefore, that is why education has been very important for us in Ghana. And so the opportunities are going to be there. And apart from that Africa has 60% of the world's remaining arable land left and left for cultivation. And therefore Africa could potentially go for look, look at feeding the world.
But beyond that Africa has over 30% of the world's minerals, resources. So whether it's oil and gas with as goal, whether it's lithium, whether it's cobalt, palladium, you know, you all have it in Africa. Now, the world is not going to stop and says we don't need these resources anymore. On the contrary, the world is going to now require more of those resources to retool to ensure that we have sustainable growth in our economies. And so the African equation will become extremely important going forward. And Ghana offers that opportunity into entry on the continent with very attractive investment, climates and frameworks. And for us, we will work together with Malta to ensure that we have a strategic alliance that enables Malta to also open up the Ghana and Africa market for Europe.
Kurt: Yes, of course, as Investment Promotion, by nature means traveling, that is something that we had to do to rethink. However, we kept in touch with most of our clients, we kept in touch with most of our leads. We've organized virtual delegations, we've organized meetings on a regular basis. So the same people who are showing interest before COVID, they are still very much interested. And I can say very confidently that as soon as the travel ban was lifted, we had a good number of these leads, flying over to Malta. I have at least another four coming over next week. We have regular delegations throughout July. So I'd say that the interest is still there. Of course, there are the very clear challenges that COVID brought about which are basically slow down and international slowdown and disruption of supply chains, as you're saying.
So all in all, I think that if you have a good business proposition for businesses to set up, then it's much easier to read ignite that business interest into companies wanting to invest, buy through foreign direct investment. So yes, I'd say that, of course, it's very challenging, I cannot say that everything is good and rosy, because all of us know that the economy has suffered and that people are losing jobs, even though we still have among the, like, smallest increases in the European Union when it comes to unemployment. But of course, we need to kick-start that engine back into motion as soon as possible.
Nadia: How interesting. So there's a lot of opportunities to be explored, I believe. Both started off pre-pandemic, but even more so now. And the number of strategic alliances I think, like what Mr. Grant mentioned, even the infrastructure enables more these companies to explore the African market. Like in Ghana as a base.
Kurt: I can also say that from our visit and in Ghana, as Chris kept in touch with his Ghanaian counterparts, what he's doing and what these companies are doing business in Ghana, there are also businesses who are looking to Malta from a logistics point of view. We kept that interest alive. And I'm sure that at the first opportunity, the leads that we have from Ghana, they will be traveling to Malta to see for themselves and hopefully we'd have more than a an investment in Malta and, you know, new synergies are built and basically what you've been talking throughout this short webinar, we'll see which the concrete results coming out of our visit and the Ghanaian’s in Malta.
Nadia: We also wish you luck, Chris, with your endeavours. I'm pretty sure that this is a continuation for you, from this point onwards. And even in terms of product and service availability, we explored even new ideas now. So COVID, not just a deterrent, but was also an opportunity for you. And we thank you very much. Both Mr. Grant, Mr. Farrugia, for being with us today, and for their contribution.
Yofi: But can I can I say one thing before we go? That I think with Ghana, you have a clear win. And for many reasons, which are some of which I stated before. But I think for us that one of the key factors that makes Ghana an ideal location for Maltese business people, is our political stability. And Ghana is known to be politically stable, but also a very peaceful place. And Christopher, both Christopher and Kurt both said that there is lot, there's a lot of heart here, there's curiosity. And there's happiness, there's a lot of happiness here.
Ghana, he both historically and culturally, has always offered an opportunity to the outside world and that is why originally it was called the Gold Coast. And so I want to assure the Maltese business people will see is, this is a safe, happy place. This is a place you can also call home. And we look very much forward to seeing things go back to normal and then travels that happen and get our engagements going. But even before then, we are still talking and we assure each other that we will open the bridges and the doors for our mutual benefit.
Roberta: Maybe one quick last question to both of you. On this note, if anybody's interested in finding out more, how do they go about finding the information both for Malta and for Ghana, perhaps is something practical.
Yofi: For us, we just reconstructing our website to make it more interactive and more engaging. But the GIPC would be the real door into Ghana. And we work very hard with the High Commissioner Jean Claude, to keep that gate open and the door open. So I believe that any requests can go through the embassy or can come directly to us a GIPC. For engagement, you can find us online. And I'm always available to answer any questions, especially if it's coming from Kurt or Christopher.
Roberta: Thank you.
Kurt: I confirm what you're saying on the hospitality and on Ghana being a very, very peaceful, safe and happy place. So from the few days I've spent there, I could see home I could feel safe, I could feel a place where you can eat well, where you can enjoy yourself as well. That is something that that is very important. It is also the case for Malta in the political stability as part of our selling proposition. Of course, the beauty of the small island. And also it's a very good place to call home and to live. If any Ghanaian and businesses are watching this, they can, of course, find us online on the Malta Enterprise website. And of course, we've got a very active Ambassador, High Commissioner, in Ghana. And of course, any clients that you would like to send over will definitely be all yours.
Chris: I mean, why do you need to choose right? I mean, as a business. I think that it should be embedded in your business plan, that you should be servicing both regions through Malta and Ghana.
That is definitely our plan and what we're doing and I'm finding support from both countries. So I think both Malta Enterprise as well as GIPC and His Excellency our ambassador for all the support. It's very pro-business on all sides.
Kurt: You’re the next Ambassador!
Nadia: Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone.
Yofi: And have a safe and happy day.