Many travellers load their luggage with everything from ‘kobi’ (salted dried tilapia), yam, kontomire, Golden tree chocolate and others so they can enjoy their favourite Ghanaian meals even whilst outside the country.
Although these products have been available outside the country in the past, their availability in commercial quantities now has been boosted by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), an agency mandated to facilitate the development and promotion of Ghanaian exports.
With export becoming a major pillar to the economic growth of most developed countries, emerging countries, who although were late comers to international trade, have capitalised and become beneficiaries of trade liberalisation schemes.
With Ghana’s burgeoning middle-class status, export marketing activities as a way of promoting its non traditional export (NTEs) have become a major contributor to economic growth.
Generating growth through trade has been a central pillar in the policy strategy of many Western economies.
Export oriented economies such as Brazil and India have developed competitive export industries and have been rewarded with impressive economic growth.
For example, during the 2008/9 financial crisis, international trade played a crucial role in strengthening the global economic recovery of many countries that plunged into recession.
Although the GEPA, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and Federation of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE) amongst several other agencies, are making strides, the unavailability of export promotion legislations and strategy continue to hamper their activities.
In spite of Ghana’s subscription to regional and multilateral agreements, as well as bilateral agreements with sister nations in the sub-region, the non existence of its own policy document on export promotion strategy continue to cripple gains in the sector.
Funding for promotion and export activities, capacity of staff to be creative in the area of market promotion, low capacity of production output and bureaucracy in the funding systems continue to pose challenges to the authority’s gains.
Reliability of market across sub-regional markets has also remained threats in spite of liberalisation schemes that guarantee accessibility for member states.
As a means of breaking down some of those barriers, the GEPA in 2012 participated in seven international trade fairs in Germany, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Lome international fairs.
It also organised solo exhibitions in Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia as parts of its market strategies to create market opportunities for the country’s NTEs.
In its quest not to lump all commodities from different industries for promotions and marketing, the GEPA and its stakeholder bodies have devised modalities to identify specific commodities each year for its market promotion activities.
Its contact promotion programme to identify the specific need of a particular market has been struggling due to the unavailability of funds to conduct post-market surveillance activities.
In spite of all these challenges, the authority was able to hit $1.387 billion by the first half out of its targeted $2.446 billion for 2012.
NTEs growth outlook for 2012 stood at 31.15 per cent as against 27.3 per cent attain in 2011.
The figures represent the sector’s performance of the country’s total export trade in the area of trade in traditional export commodities such as gold, timber, cocoa, crude oil, ore, diamond, etc.
According to the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Stephen Normeshie, the authority is aiming to achieve some 35.24 per cent as part of its 2013 outlook strategy.
Of the over 400 different NTEs which were categorised in agriculture, plastics and aluminium products, processed and semi processed foods, handicrafts; textile and garments are on high demand in Sierra Leone, Togo and Liberia which have become virtual markets for Ghanaian products.
The GEPA’s participation in the 81st Izmir International Trade fair (IZFAS) in Turkey in September 2012 further provided a vast opportunity for the authority to diversify trade to the Middle East and Asia.
The country’s participation at the fair which attracted patrons from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Mr Normeshie said was necessitated by the Ghana Joint Economic Commission Meeting in held October 2011 between Ghana and Turkey, which sought to increase trade volumes to $1 billion by 2015 between the two countries.
He said that owing to the fact that current trade volumes weighed heavily in favour of Turkey, the GEPA had scale up its activities to court government’s support in the area of funding rebates for small and medium scale enterprises to ensure the country met the required target agreed in the 201 5 target agreed in the joint economic agreement.
While the GEPA is gearing up to mainstream service export in education and medical tourism into its NTEs portfolio, officials say that the success of the IZFAS, particularly in the marketability of agricultural products, informed its decision to conduct market study research in Russia and Ukraine in 2013.
The new addition to its market route for 2013 is to widen the size of the market for the country’s NTEs and enlarge the scope for large-scale production of manufacturing firms in the sector.
While the GEPA looks forward to integrating service export to its portfolio, the need for export promotion instruments would remain a key factor since it is a substantial factor to economic success.
Export promotion legislation further provides leverage for exporters, given the critical role they play in the area of employment and as drivers of innovation.
The creation of trade promotion policies as an institutional framework further provides fertile grounds for trade to flourish, hence the need for government to take a critical look at its funding for the export sector.