Mukesh Thakwani, CEO of B5 Plus Limited – West Africa’s largest steel manufacturing company, is urging government to impose a ban, with immediate effect, on cheap imported finish metal fabrication products that are already being produced in the country to protect the local steel industry.
The ban, in his opinion, would not only serve as protection for local steelmakers but also ensure a level playing field, strengthen the domestic currency, create more jobs, as well as make the ‘Made in Ghana’ dream come true.
He said his outfit is currently operating below capacity, running between 40% to 50%, lost some customers and cannot expand further because of cheap imports. He was speaking to the media during a factory tour last week, organised by the Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFIC).
“The biggest challenge here is that goods which we are able to produce are being allowed from different countries into the country. The finished product price is cheaper than the raw material, which is not possible. We are requesting government to put an immediate ban on imported metal fabrication products which are already produced here.
“Already, water and electricity tariffs and other things are expensive, and if we do not try to protect ourselves then we will not be able to survive. Today, we are running our fabrication only to a capacity of 40% to 50% and have lost most clients because there are a lot of cheap imports coming in. We need to add value locally to become more competitive instead of allowing foreign items to enter the market,” he said.
The tour seeks to highlight B5 Plus’ impact on the economy, challenges and the way forward, and involved the GITFIC, Association of Ghana Industry (AGI) and the media. There were visits to both factories at Kpone and Prampram. The facility is under government’s One District, One Factory (1D1F) flagship programme, and is the largest facility in the country and West Africa.
He revealed that most of the imported products are undervalued, smuggled, and improperly declared at the ports and land borders, making them cheaper and locals less competitive.
“Steel that is coming into the country is underdeclaredg at the borders and ports, and this should be stopped immediately so local industries can survive. Importers bringing the goods try to undervalue and smuggle them by reducing their real cost, and that is why they are able to be more competitive than goods produced in Africa. We only request that there should be fair-play competition and fair declaration of the values so we will never have these challenges,” he added.
Tsonam Cleanse Akpeloo, Greater Accra Regional Chairman-Association of Ghana Industry (AGI), appealed for government to consider the power issue very seriously.
“The cost of power is still very high, and if we have to do business and be competitive with other people in other parts of Africa then we are not competitive enough; because if you go to Ethiopia, the cost of power is 6 cents per kilowatt hour, but in Ghana it’s around 17 cents and more sometimes.
“And we are saying this is not good enough for industries, so government must as a matter of necessity reduce the cost of power. These days there have been intermittent cuts of power, which is also not good for industries. We need a regular uninterrupted flow of power to industries so that they can flourish,” he said.
He congratulated B5 Plus Group for their good work and hoped that the challenges will soon be resolved.
Chief Executive Officer of GITFIC, Selassi Koffi Ackom, said the company visit forms part of its strategy in enhancing relationships with the private sector while fostering economic growth and also harnessing the African Continental Free Trade Area’s (AfCFTA) full potential.