Ethio Lease this month became the first foreign-owned company to secure a financial services license in Ethiopia. Simplifying the country’s forbidding bureaucracy would help the country’s leasing market to reach its full potential.
“We will cut down on importation” – Nana Kwame Bediako, Chief executive, Wonda World Estates
The CEO of Wonda World Estates, Nana Kwame Bediako, has joined forces with UK-based property developer and hotelier Azad Cola to create a new free zone, designed to service the emerging Ghanaian energy sector. Known as Petronia City, the planned development includes a series of industrial, commercial and residential projects located 8km from the port of Takoradi in western Ghana. Wonda World Estates has been developing apartment projects in Accra.
TAR: Why did you decide to partner with Azad Cola?
Nana Kwame Bediako: We decided to come together and build an industrial platform which is going to become the last word in African industrial development, something that was supposed to be done in Africa maybe 100 years ago. We want to bring in plants to manufacture steel. Based on that, we will cut down on importation. We are interested in producing glass, and all other manufactured goods that are being imported into Africa, which are stalling Africa’s growth. Much of this is down to inefficiency – you have to wait for eight weeks for things to arrive in Africa, before they move from bonded warehouses into the retail markets. We want to do that starting in the western part of Ghana, in Takoradi – which is a very rich area, with over 10 different resources based in this area.
We think it is going to become the hub of West Africa, and we will be able tap into other countries, like Liberia, which have their own resources and can supply raw materials for the plants that we intend to put onto the industrial platform. To do that, we needed to apply for free-zone status, so that some of these companies who will be our partners will have tax exemptions.
We were successful with the free-zone application and land acquisition. We are the first people in West Africa to have a parcel over 1,500 acres, that’s 8.9km².
“Takoradi is a very rich area […]. We think it is going to become the hub of West Africa”
Do you have partners for a steel plant?
We have a few who have given us a letter of intent. But we are doing it with our choice of partners. We believe it is going to be the Asians. We believe the Asians are the best when it comes to hardware. They have already supplied the world with standardised steel. But our interest is not to go straight to the Chinese. Our interest is to work with the Singaporeans because we are looking at their template of development.
Does Ghana have the administrative capacity to drive an Asian-style development model?
Singapore did use a strong national government. In Africa, we don’t need to rely on the government. The private sector needs to work with the government. People think that the government can build roads, can build factories […]. The government can’t do it. If they could do it, they would have done it a long time ago. We have cut out the private sector locally in Africa. We need to build it up. Foreign multinationals are not here to develop Africa, they are only here to extract or do business. The only thing you can do with government is get a licence.
How will you keep freight costs low for manufacturers in your zone, given the costs of coming through Takoradi?
You know why it’s hard? Because the only source of being able to get anything in the country is importation. All the containers leaving the country today are empty, there is nothing in them. It even costs the shipping lines $320 to bring a container back empty. Therefore, one of the government’s main sources of revenue out of the port is taxes. But if you are manufacturing in-country, then you don’t have to import anymore, so you avoid the taxes.
This article first featured in the November 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine
Interview by Nicholas Norbrook ; Photo: Nana Kwame Bediako, Chief executive, Wonda World Estates – Amsterdam Group Public Relations Inc.