The Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Edward Effah has lamented, Ghanaian businesses appear content to be local champions with little interest in becoming big global players.
Expressing disappointment in Ghana’s place on the African stage, he referred to a publication showing that Ghanaian businesses were insignificant.
He said apart from the banking sector where Ecobank and Fidelity Bank are ranked 131st and 171st respectively, Ghanaian businesses in non-bank sectors are not a force in Africa.
“When you look at other sectors, pharmaceutical, logistics and transportation, poultry and agribusiness, there is no Ghanaian company in Africa in the top 200 companies and firms,” he said at a forum for CEOs held at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra.
The Forum was another attempt to form a group of private sector players, businessmen and CEOs who will seek to influence government and public policy.
Delivering the keynote address, Edward Effah who founded Fidelity Group in October 1998 summed up his experience of doing business in Ghana as “interesting and challenging”.
But, he said, he has observed that a lot of businesses in Ghana have an unhealthy suspicion of each other and tend to shy away from collaborations.
“We are largely small in scale…a lot of companies have Board of directors [who are] husband and wife daughter…we are not really building large corporates” he said.
In a say-it-as-it-is speech, Edward Effah warned that “if we don’t collaborate, we do so at our peril”.
He expressed a desire to see Ghanaian business community united enough to call the shots.
He envied private sector players in other African countries where business groups are strong enough to shape government policies that affect the private sector.
“When Alhaji Dangote talks, the president [of Nigeria] listens” he expressed surprise at the power of private sector and envied its strong voice in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa.
In a further example in South Africa, he said big businesses helped to determine the way forward after Jacob Zuma controversially sacked his Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.
Businesses reacted badly to the news of the sacking as the country’s currency, the rand, went down a record low against the dollar. Stocks also slid and bonds tumbled.
“It was the heads of institutions, banks, industry and banks who sat with the president and said you must do this”, Effah said and observed that “we don’t have that sort of voice in Ghana”.
The banker with more than 20 years experience suggested that the reason why Ghana is not competitive on the global stage is because the country could be suffering from delusions of grandeur.
The Chartered Accountant said, “we think very highly of ourselves because we have done very well when it comes to democracy…but when it comes to the private sector we are weak”.
He wants the private sector to ‘wake up’ to a stark reality and begin to think global.
He expressed a yearning to see a formidable union of private sector players and catalogued attempts to form such a group which ended in failure.
A group, Enterprise Network formed by the co-founder of Databank Ken Ofori Atta and another attempt by the co-founder of UT Bank Kofi Amoabeng all failed to achieve its intended objective.
He hopes that the latest attempt will not suffer a familiar fate.