Win-win solutions in GhanaJune 17, 2020
Daniel S. Kwarkyi, managing director of Danest Engineering Company, talks to The Energy Year about Covid-19 challenges and how the government and foreign investors can provide “win-win” support for local companies. Danest Engineering Company provides weld engineering, welder training and testing and mechanical/metallurgical testing laboratory services for clients in oil and gas, mining, manufacturing and general construction.
How has the industry been affected in Ghana?
Since early March 2020, when the first restrictions were put in place, we have seen our activity in mechanical/metallurgical testing and training of welders going down since construction contractors are no longer working full time, plus they are working from home. We are trying to stay afloat, and wait until these construction companies start working again. For now it is very quiet, and unfortunately some people are losing their jobs.
In Ghana, we have the IOCs, the joint ventures and then the indigenous companies. Then we have the category of local joint ventures comprising local service and contracting companies who team up with international companies.
In our case, we are an indigenous Ghanaian service company. When the JVs and IOCs get a contract, they give some part of it to us. But if these companies don’t have jobs, then how do we? The value chain is now blocked from the top.
This pandemic took every nation by surprise. You have to change every activity that you undertake to make sure that you at least stay safe. Another issue is survival. Our government said that it would distribute an emergency package of some GHC 600 million [USD 103.5 million] for the SME sector. However, the problem is that this might take a long time. Whether we work or not, we need to pay salaries during this period.
Where do you see opportunities in the coming years?
Our laboratory seems to be the only one in the country that is ISO 17025 accredited for performing testing. There are some other laboratories trying to do the same, but they don’t have this standard. My hope is to have a laboratory regime that forces all government construction projects to test the iron rods (rebars) they use based on a specific standard. We have the capacity to do that, and it is a huge potential business. Currently the issue is with the regulation: Constructors can use any material, and it is not tested appropriately.
If it is a government structure, they have to make sure they use material that is tested appropriately, in an accredited laboratory. I am trying to get the Ghana Institution of Engineering and government officials involved and to make sure they understand the importance of this.
What is your message to international investors?
In Ghana, opportunities are always there for people or companies from outside. But in most cases, what I see is that they already have their supply chains, so for them it is not straightforward to partner with anyone. They need to understand that we are a sovereign nation, and whatever they do, they have to let the people benefit from their activities, which includes ensuring the transfer of technology and skills and using in-country services as much as possible.
Many companies that come here still use their own laboratories at home for testing, but they should assist this country as they can find more and more resources here to do the work. We have very good people here to manage most of these things, so this is a win-win situation. On the other hand, the regulatory authorities must build capacity to ensure compliance of contractors to governing regulatory requirements.