Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) exhibiting at the ongoing Central Regional Trade, Tourism and Investment Fair, have called for support to enable them to participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Fair is on the theme: “Promoting Trade, Tourism and Investment in the Central Region – Challenges, Prospects and Solutions.”
The AfCFTA provides the opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area, with the potential to unite 1.3 billion people, in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc in ushering in a new era of development.
According to the SMEs, the support should focus on innovative trade policies, trade infrastructure, improved capacity, trade information and facilitation, and market access for growth and expansion.
They argue that lack of access to credit, cost of credit, lack of managerial skills, lack of equipment, lack of technological know-how and regulatory issues were affecting the growth of SMEs.
Mrs Yvonne Taaba Kwofie, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Egal Foods Company Limited, said SMEs played critical developmental roles in nation-building, accounting for more than half of full-time employment in the country.
She said SMEs needed a more proactive policy environment to re-invest for faster growth and expansion.
For her, Government, together with local and international partners must work together to ensure that the growth potential of SMEs was nurtured and transitioned into value-driven ones to ensure sustainability.
She advised players in the SMEs sector to create more value by adopting innovative ways to deal with operational leakages, manage and mitigate risk exposures to balance sheet leverage, industry and product cycles, as well as weaknesses in business models.
Madam Mercy Mensah, the CEO of Mersakyi Company in Agona-Swedru, said no business could survive the new normal without digitalization, adding that digital solutions were key to making it work.
“There is the need for businesses to digitalize their operations to be able to lead economic recovery efforts; provide access to knowledge, technologies, and expertise in the field of digitalization and process innovation.
“For some of us, we are optimistic that the support for SMEs will increase their efficiency and competitiveness even as Ghana commences the AfCFTA,” Madam Mensah noted.
Mr Reindolf Yeboah, CEO of CoconutGari Processing Company Limited, said the economy could not thrive without a healthy and resilient private sector, stressing that when the private sector flourished, it boosted job creation and generated wealth that could be spent and reinvested locally.
“If the government cares about the socio-economic well-being of its citizens, it must actively engage in supporting the private sector through creating an enabling environment for trade and investment,” Mr Yeboah said.
Other managers of SMEs urged the government to aggressively pursue programmes and policies to improve the competitive edge of local industries, and yield positive results and positive investor response.
Some of the programmes and policies such as the industrial revitalisation programme, One District One Factory, and the development of strategic plans could anchor industries towards creating new growth paths, they added.