Ghana: Reaching the land of opportunity

Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon met with Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II during a trade mission to Ghana from March 11-17.  - Photo courtesy Paula Gopee-Scoon's Facebook Page
Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon met with Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II during a trade mission to Ghana from March 11-17. - Photo courtesy Paula Gopee-Scoon's Facebook Page

Trinidad and Tobago and Ghana are moving steadfastly in strengthening their trade and bilateral ties.

This follows a visit by the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, King of the Ashanti kingdom of Ghana, on a trade mission to TT last year. Since then, both countries have sought ways to improve their trade relations.

In light of this, Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon, and the TT Manufacturers Association (TTMA) led a trade mission to Ghana from March 12-17, which resulted in businesses returning with leads and contracts and several stakeholders calling Ghana “the land of opportunity.”

However, getting to Ghana has once again proven to be an issue, as the Caribbean has no direct route to West Africa. But with businesses already making deals and seeking to put plans in place to establish a proper route, TT is showing its determination to reach the land of opportunity.

Land of opportunity

TTMA president Roger Roach said 18 companies from the private sector and nine state agencies, a total of 48 business representatives, responded to the call to go to Ghana and seek business opportunities.

He was speaking at the TTMA’s AGM at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on Tuesday.

“We calculated that among the 27 organisations, over 200 business-to-business meetings took place between TT companies and Ghana counterparts during the trade mission,” he said.

The TTMA also signed a memorandum of understanding with its Ghanaian counterpart, the Association of Ghana Industries, to further the private sector interests and expand trade and investment linkages between the two countries.

Gopee-Scoon met with the Asantehene, Ministers of Trade, Food and Foreign Affairs and several Ghanaian bodies to establish significant trade ties and open the doors to improving trade to Ghana.

In her remarks at the AGM, she pointed out the significant business opportunities that TT has in Ghana – a starting point to enter West Africa and the African continent as a whole.

“Ghana is real in terms of a place of opportunity for us. Ghana is a soft landing in terms of its political stability. Anyone should really see this market as a serious one – a market of more than 30 million people – with a very friendly climate in terms of doing business.”

TT has maintained a positive trade balance with Ghana, doing $15.2 million in exports and $0.6 million in imports from 2018-2022. The trade balance between the two countries increased by 24.7 per cent in 2022, moving from a surplus of $23.6 million in 2018 to $29.5 million in 2022.

Gopee-Scoon said the country has significant gaps that could be filled by TT manufacturers in terms of food processing.

“You could find yourself doing some contract manufacturing or you can probably find inputs from Ghana,” she said. TT can also provide Ghana access to a place for agroprocessing, being well on the trajectory for growth in the non-energy sector.

The statement attributed increased performance in the non-energy sector, at least in part, to the rebound of the real GDP in 2022, and its estimated expansion by 2.1 per cent in 2023.

An IMF mission concluding statement released on March 11 suggested that real GDP is expected to expand by 2.4 per cent this year, supported by growth in the non-energy sector and, by extension, the manufacturing sector.

Roach in his statements also said the TTMA will be 80 per cent complete with its goal of doubling its exports by 2025.

Establishing the routes

Despite a mutual desire to increase trade relations between the two countries, there is one little thing in their way – the Atlantic Ocean.

The distance between TT and Ghana is 6,580 km. Business Day understands through conversations with travel agents that travelling to and from Ghana by plane could take more than 20 hours of flight time.

In an earlier report, travel agents told Business Day it costs people between $15,000 and $25,000 to fly to Ghana. The shortest route would be from TT, New York and then to Ghana. That route takes 11 hours, but it can only be taken if you have a US visa.

Without a visa, one would have to go to the UK – a ten-hour flight – then a five-hour trip to Ghana. People can also take a flight over the African continent to Amsterdam, and then take a direct flight to Ghana.

Ramps Logistics’ vice president of regional initiatives, Rudy Rampersad, said the delegation had to charter a flight that went from Port of Spain to the Netherlands, then from the Netherlands to Ghana. “For us, it was about 20 hours of travel,” he said. “It is not an easy flight at all.” He said for freight, the challenge may be even greater.

As it stands now, containerised cargo, which is cargo usually transported in traditional containers by ships, trucks or trains, could take at best 21-22 days and at worst 45 days from Ghana to TT.

The longer transit lane would go from Ghana to Amsterdam, Jamaica and then TT. The shorter lane would go from Ghana to Savannah, Georgia and then make its way to TT. These transit lanes are longer and more costly.

Rampersad added that the routes are not regular with cargo carriers returning to TT once every three weeks or so. For air freight, companies such as Air France and KLM run from Port of Spain to Amsterdam with a freight hub in Amsterdam and transit lanes to Ghana.

He said while it may be possible for companies in TT to fill the cargo space going into Ghana, someone will have to foot the bill for the transport back, which may not have cargo. “For carriers, both air and ocean, they look for where they get the most revenue from both routes – the incoming and outgoing.”

He added that cargo may be bumped if the freighter has extra baggage, which would take preference.

“There are also options that we’ve explored through Ghana into Amsterdam, Ghana into London, and then use a freighter to Miami and then TT. But those things are also costly because of the distance you have to go,” he said.

Solutions are coming, but it may take time

Rampersad said conversations on establishing a proper link from TT and the Caribbean as a whole, to West Africa are already being held, but overall challenges in freight, such as congestions in the Panama and Egypt canals, posed major challenges for freight globally, slowing these conversations down.

The TTMA along with the Ministry of Trade have been looking at how TT can create a better lane to make transport between the two countries more efficient. Another challenge is the comparable sizes of the two markets.

“Simply by comparing the population people will lean toward the larger market even if the GDP for the buying power is less because you just have more numbers.”

He said some of the discussions that the ministry and the TTMA had surrounded re-routing and establishing transshipment points to minimize time and cost.

Rampersad said they have been looking at the routes through Amsterdam in the first instance as well as diverting routes through London.

“As much as these conversations have started, it will take time to understand issues such as trucking, regulations, customs, boundaries etc,” he said.

Countries such as the US would also have regulations around counterfeit goods, copyright issues or manufacturing issues that TT would have to understand and navigate.

However, despite the limitations in freight companies are already making connections and deals are already being made for transshipment of goods.

Rampersad said companies have already approached him to make arrangements for shipments of goods to Ghana, coming out of conversations and business meetings at the mission.

At a press conference on Ansa McAl Group of Companies’ financial results on Wednesday, CEO Anthony Norman Sabga III also spoke on Carib Brewery’s adventure into Ghana, saying that coming out of the mission, the company is looking at the feasibility of establishing a brewery in Ghana itself.

He said the conversations surrounding entering Ghana are still in the developmental stages.

“Given the distance of Ghana from our region, exporting is not part of the agenda, so much in the same way as we have successfully started producing our brands in other countries such as Greece and Canada, we are very familiar with acquisitions. It would not be export, but it probably would be a licence type of deal and possibly an acquisition, so you may just have to wait and see.”


"Ghana: Reaching the land of opportunity"

More in this section