Interview: Gan Kim Yong

What factors have made Ghana an enticing investment destination for Singapore-based businesses?

GAN KIM YONG: Ghana is often seen as a home base for companies from Singapore that are looking to expand into West Africa. For one, the use of English as an official language has made doing business in Ghana much more convenient. Ghana is politically stable and has established institutions to ensure good governance, offering certainty to companies operating in the country. It also has one of Africa’s most competitive business environments. The government of Ghana has committed to implementing policies that improve investor confidence and lower the cost of doing business, including privatisation, foreign ownership, and the improvement of physical and financial infrastructure, thereby creating key opportunities for companies from Singapore.

In what ways does the government of Singapore promote private investment in Ghana?

GAN: With its strategic geographic position, stable political environment and strong regional ties, Ghana has been a key entry point for Singapore-based companies to venture into West Africa. Enterprise Singapore, a statutory board under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, has set up three overseas centres in Africa – one of which is in Accra – to provide business advisory, market information and business matching services to Singapore-based companies venturing into Africa. Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation periodically organise business missions and market workshops to familiarise such companies with markets in Africa, including Ghana.

We are working with our counterparts in Ghana to facilitate trade and investment. In line with these efforts, a double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) between the two countries came into effect in January 2020. The DTAA helps companies avoid double taxation, thereby making doing business in Ghana more attractive to companies in Singapore and vice versa.

Which economic sectors offer Singapore-based companies the most investment potential?

GAN: Companies from Singapore are established in a variety of sectors in Ghana and are present along the entire agri-business value chain, including the processing and export of cocoa, cashew, tomato paste and other products. Segments like hospitality, urban solutions and the green economy have shown considerable growth potential. In particular, demand for infrastructure has attracted hospitality providers.

Ghana’s position as a regional leader in the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and in carbon markets has created a suitable environment for partnerships in the green economy. For example, GenZero, a company from Singapore, announced an investment of $20m-30m to restore 100,000 ha of degraded land in the Kwahu region of Ghana. This endeavour is expected to remove 25m tonnes of CO emissions over a 30-year period.

How can countries in Africa improve their attractiveness for foreign direct investment?

GAN: Investors value a pro-business environment, which includes transparent laws and regulations, good infrastructure, free trade agreements that enhance market access, investment protection and logistics connectivity. The African Continental Free Trade Area will enhance the competitiveness of markets in the region. As the continent achieves greater economic integration, it is critical that African countries continue to connect with other trading partners to strengthen their role in global value chains. Foreign firms can tap into plenty of opportunities in Africa, and the reverse is also true. For instance, links between Africa and South-east Asia allow the large, young, fast-growing, urbanising and digitalising regions to leverage opportunities in the other. This way, African countries will play an important role in global supply chains and build the continent’s attractiveness for foreign investment.