Ghana, like so many other African nations, has the potential to be a strong economic performer. It has a young and energetic workforce and abundant natural resources. What it has lacked has been a relatively easy path to start and grow a business. Small and medium-sized businesses had limited capacity to develop access to larger markets.
AMEX International, Inc. (AMEX), under a six-year $6.9 million contract with USAID, proposed a new approach to encouraging small and medium-sized businesses. Under what the firm calls a “push-pull” concept, AMEX experts identified “lead” firms with the greatest potential for increasing economic growth. AMEX provided technical assistance to these lead firms to improve productivity, reduce costs, and, in effect, “push” them into competitive international markets. The lead firms, in turn, were encouraged through their linkages to related microenterprises to “pull” these smaller businesses into the production-marketing chain.
The Trade and Investment Reform Program (TIRP) built on the success of the earlier Trade and Investment Program, which was also designed to address the constraints limiting private sector investments. TIRP, like its predecessor, focused on increasing private sector access to finance, management capacity in production and marketing, the use of improved technologies, and access to market information and capacity to market selected domestic and non-traditional export products.
AMEX experts worked with more than 80 companies in the agriculture, value-added wood products, and garments/textiles/handicrafts industries. More than 1,800 firm operators were trained in the application of standards for exported goods, contributing to increased export earnings of $63.31 million in the agriculture sector, $14.74 million in the value-added wood sector, and $13.56 million in the garments/textiles/handicrafts sector.
The export of pineapples in particular expanded under TIRP. AMEX experts were able to tap into the firm’s extensive network of sea freight operators and increase Ghanaian producers’ export options, which had previously been limited to air freight. As a result, export volumes increased from 10,000 metric tons in 1994 to 50,000 metric tons by 2003.
“This project proves that economic independence and prosperity can easily come in an environment such as Ghana’s,” said AMEX President Mori Diané, “If the people are taught properly to understand the parameters of the market and how to deliver to these markets.”
By the end of the project, food growers and manufacturers of wood and textile projects had dramatically increased their exports, establishing solid positions in European and North American markets, with about 20 importers from the EU doing business in Ghana. Many of these business connections and associations are still thriving and are integrated into global value chains, 20 years after the project ended.
Along with the praise of Ghanaian partners, AMEX earned USAID recognition with this program. “[AMEX] has establish numerous and important working relationships with major partners in Ghana’s public and private sectors. [It] rates high in terms of visibility in the local business community, and interest of local businesses to obtain the services of [AMEX] run high. [AMEX] has formed a very effective partnership with other USAID implementing partners, which has facilitated greater impact and resulted in more value-added assistance to Ghanaian businesses engaged in non-traditional exports. Many of these efforts show significant results.”