From 21st-24th October, the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Local Partner of Invest in Africa, held their 4th Local Content Exhibition and Conference.
Invest in Africa were in attendance laden with leaflets, pens, pads and banners to present our new online business directory, the African Partner Pool. With the Accra International Conference Centre teeming with Ghanaian businesses displaying their products and services, the Invest in Africa team set up camp in the middle of the main hall.
One of the major draws of the conference for many people were the seminars and panel discussions that went on throughout the day. The conference was opened by the Chairman of the AGI, Nana Owusu-Afari, and the speakers over the 4 days ranged from key government ministers to heads of industry to owners of Ghanaian SMEs – including Invest in Africa Ghana Manager Sam Brandful.
The theme of the conference – ‘Making Local Content Work’ – certainly captured the mood of both the speakers and the delegates. A recurring idea throughout the event was that actions speak louder than words and we must not merely pay lip service to local content; we must put in place both local content legislation to ensure that knowledge and skills are transferred to the Ghanaian people and the environment to allow these conditions to be met.
Despite the fascinating talks on offer, the most fruitful part of the conference involved chatting to other delegates as well as those who were exhibiting their businesses. Many were effusive over the opportunities and potential within Ghana but the barriers to the growth of local businesses appear wide-ranging.
In particular, the main challenges we unearthed in talking with local business owners centred on the lack of communication between international companies and those that locally supply the products and services they need. This information deficit appears to run both ways: international companies lack a means of both communicating what is needed to work for them and providing valuable feedback for those who fail in tenders while local businesses struggle to market themselves effectively.
This is the very problem that the African Partner Pool is looking to solve: we are working with local businesses in Ghana to raise their profiles and making it easier to identify the operating standards and credentials required by international companies.
We aim to increase the links between international and local businesses and create more opportunities for Ghanaians to access new skills, finance and markets. The trip to the AGI conference has shown that this is critically needed in Ghana and by doing it, Invest in Africa hopes to be truly ‘making local content work’.