Michael Okyere Baafi, Executive Director, GFZB
The Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB) says it is inviting investors, both local and foreign, who are interested in exporting at least 70 percent of their products, to come to its offices to pick licences and begin operations.
“We want to shift the paradigm from what the Ghana Free Zones used to be before to an institution that has come to champion the ‘one district, one factory’ policy. We can spearhead it easily and that is what we are doing now. We are trying to talk to opinion and community leaders to see if they can get us lands to set up land banks across the country. This is intended to monitor Free Zones operations across the country so that local and foreign companies could expand and recruit more Ghanaians.
“The essence is that when Ghanaians are recruited, it will trickle down and this will help reduce social vices,” Michael Okyere Baafi, Executive Secretary of GFZB, disclosed this in an interview with some senior editors on Monday in Accra.
Hunting for FDIs
He stated that the mandate of his outfit is to rake in investments and make more money for the country.
“What’s special about us is that we don’t rely on the government so we can employ a thousand people and pay them, and we will not take money from the government to pay anyone.”
So far, GFZB has 244 companies with 198 active ones and 46 inactive ones.
He said even though GFZB was expected to attract a lot of foreign direct investments, for 2016 no single investment was secured.
“Most people have also taken the Free Zones Board for granted, as a stealing point where they can take advantage of government so they would be able to import a lot of things but not pay duties. We are going to expose all those companies. We will make sure that we bring them out for people to see what they are doing.
“People even want to import luxury cars under the pretext of using them for their company’s operations and I have had occasion to stop about six since I took over. I have not confronted them yet but I am working meticulously to get things right and to make sure that whatever they have stolen would be rightly determined and exacted.”
“It’s about the exemptions. A chocolate company, for example, said it was bringing Range Rovers for operations. So any luxurious car that comes except in the case of Samatex, where we found upon visiting them that the kind of cars that they were using were not good so it made sense to allow them to bring in 4X4.
“Also, the problem has been with exemptions because through that people are stealing, also through declaration of profits and results. They are not telling us the truth about what they are doing and most people are using their licences to operate different businesses far from what they took them for. We want to pluck all such loopholes and leakages to bring sanity into the system.”
Mr Baafi said “customs officials are supposed to be chasing culprits and their owners who practised such vices, but they are conniving with the Free Zones Company or even the Free Zones officers. So we are meeting the Commissioner General soon and we would not come back to him to disclose our findings but we would be going to report everything to the President.”
Mr Baafi, a seasoned marketer, who took office about two months ago, said he was bent on transforming the board into a world-class institution.
By Samuel Boadi