The resources are available and the people are flexible. That flexibility can be used as a win-win for both parties, and that is critical for business.

Ato VAN-ESS Chairman SEKONDI-TAKORADI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY

Partnered development in Ghana

August 20, 2018

Ato Van-Ess, the chairman of the Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, talks to TOGY about advocating for local content in oil and gas, the continued interest in Ghana’s oil industry and the benefits that arise from working with chambers of commerce abroad. The Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (STCCI) promotes commercial and industrial interests of all companies in western Ghana.

• On the business climate: “The resources are available and the people are flexible. That flexibility can be used as a win-win for both parties, and that is critical for business.”

• On growth: “We really want Ghana to develop. That kind of development will not come on a silver platter. You will not get it for free and you will not get it cheap; you have to work for it.”

• On investment: “No matter the price of oil, there will still be organisations interested in it. We feel it here, and not just through the news we hear. We have companies physically bringing in investors to talk to us and find out what is going on in the market.”

Most TOGY interviews are published exclusively on our business intelligence platform TOGYiN, but you can find an abridged version of our interview with Ato Van-Ess below.

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Is there a renewed focus in Ghana’s oil industry now that the oil price has risen?

No matter the price of oil, there will still be organisations interested in it. We feel it here, and not just through the news we hear. We have companies physically bringing in investors to talk to us and find out what is going on in the market. That is why we have strengthened our research department, to be able to provide our members with information on what is happening in the region with regards to investment and development. We really feel it every day, and we talk about it and see it.
Also, because of our close partnerships with Modec, Tullow Oil and GNPC, we get more information about what is happening in the field. We help our members get their acts together so they can participate in the oil and gas industry. If we cannot do that, what is the point?

What would you say to encourage someone to come to Ghana?
The resources are available and the people are flexible. That flexibility can be used as a win-win for both parties, and that is critical for business. Most importantly, we have ethical people in Ghana. Africa is not looking too good in terms of corruption issues, but Ghana is relatively better, even much better, than some countries. We are struggling to correct wrongs, especially when it comes to corruption, so when you hear stories about corruption in Ghana, it is not that the situation is that bad. It is because we are attempting to solve the problem. It is only when we attempt to solve the problem that people will hear about it in the first place.

What do Ghanaians need to understand about their market?
We really want Ghana to develop. That kind of development will not come on a silver platter. You will not get it for free and you will not get it cheap; you have to work for it. Nobody owes us anything. We are responsible for our own destiny and development. The earlier we get our acts together and do things ourselves, the better. We can do it, but we have to tell ourselves that it is not going to be easy. We need the support of our foreign partners. If we listen carefully and do not take shortcuts, we will get there.

What oil and gas issues do you lobby and campaign for?
The key thing we advocate for is local content participation in the oil and gas industry. We generally advocate for a better business climate. We work with government entities and the Regional Co-ordinating Council because we want to be seen as partners in development.
We serve the general business community. For example, if we do any advocacy activity, it is for the business community. We have a two-pronged approach where we are looking at development and moving alongside the private sector. We are not just concerned with doing business. We are concerned with the development of our communities as well. That is why we have partners from both the development and business world.
We do traditional chamber activities of advocacy, matchmaking, trade missions and shows, all of that. We also have a project side in addition to the administrative side. The project side takes care of three key pillars. The first is a credit union. We realised that access to finance and capital for business, especially SMEs, is a huge challenge. We set up a credit union, the Western Chamber Cooperative Credit Union. We have two branches, one in Takoradi and another in Elubo.
Our second pillar is alternative dispute resolution, which has to do with mediation. The purpose is to settle commercial conflicts or disputes in business. We worked with the Ghana Judicial Service and did our training with them. We also did advanced training with the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, who sent experts to come and train us in mediation.

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