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‘Holland and Ghana have been doing business for 400 years. It is important to continue it.’

Published on: 26-Mar-2019

Despite the worldwide competition when it comes to doing business with Africa, a Ghanaian business delegation of 30 business people came to The Netherlands in March 2019. Yofi Grant, the charismatic CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Center led the delegation and answered some questions from NABC’s Arne Doornebal.

Why did you come to do business with The Netherlands at a time where many African countries are looking at China?

We see the world is going through a lot of disruption at the moment, and alliances seem to shift quickly. But to us, the world is much larger than China. Ghana has been doing business with The Netherlands since 1593, and therefore they are our eldest business partner. We used to trade a lot with them.

The Dutch were renowned for the slave trade in your country…

Of course part of that business history is uncomfortable and despicable as it substantially was related to the ominous slave trade. But other goods were also significantly traded including gold trinkets, alcohol, etcetera. And we do that up to today. The Netherlands is renowned for agriculture and we see a lot of potential partnerships there. Also, the size of the Ghanaian diaspora here in The Netherlands helps in linking our two countries tightly together.

Amsterdam is the largest port for cacao in the world while not a bean of cacao can grow here. How can Ghana take of this position?

We have to convince the chocolate producers to shift production to Ghana. It may even be more cost-efficient for those companies to produce in Ghana, if you look for example at salaries. As a country we need to add value.

I live next to a chocolate factory in the Zaanstreek. Closing it down and shifting production to Ghana would put half of my village out of work. These companies, as well as politicians in the Netherlands, currently don’t have an incentive to shift production to Africa.

I realize that no businessman in the world would say: I am making good money now, but let me stop it. Ghana and Ivory Coast supply 67% of the World’s Cacao, so technically we should have the power to change things. The total value of the worldwide chocolate industry is 120 billion US Dollar. So do we want to continue selling raw beans, or do we want to go to the higher end of the value chain?

You are one phone call away from the Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo. Why don’t you advise him to stop exporting raw beans as a way to force foreign companies to shift to local production?

Eventually that would be an option, but then the African countries that produce cacao need to work together, especially Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. However I think we are getting there without taking such drastic steps. There is already an amount of chocolate being produced in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Others go into semi-processing. We are expanding the ports as well. Soon you will stop seeing ships full of cacao on their way to the factories in your village in the Zaanstreek.

You spoke with enthusiasm about the rapid growth of the population in Ghana and the rest of Africa. Are you not concerned about the consequences if job growth doesn’t keep up with it?

To me, there is a giant market waiting to happen. I do not see it in a pessimistic view, as some others do. We see a new Ghana emerging, the main thing for us to do is not to focus on lower population growth, but on creating more jobs. But that is exactly what we are doing. The economy is growing at over 8% per year at the moment.

But would your country’s policies more reflect those of Rwanda or Uganda, where the leaders are encouraging people not to have more than 4 children, or that of Tanzania where the president encourages football team-sized families?

Of course a ‘free for all’ policy would eventually not be sustainable. But to me, the main focus is on economic growth. When people get better education, better jobs, fertility rates will drop automatically. Then the children aren’t needed for a social safety net anymore.

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