The Ghanaian government through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, has commissioned the largest steel factory in West Africa under its One District, One Factory (1D1F) initiative.
The US$80 million steel and iron manufacturing operation is owned by B5 Plus Ltd, an Indian steel manufacturing giant.
Speaking at the opening of the factory at Larkpelu Village in the Ningo-Prampram District of the Greater Accra Region, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, said the factory is a significant investment and development in Ghana.
“There can be no better testimony to what we are seeking to achieve with 1D1F than what we seeing here today,” he said, adding that one of the new strategic industries the government is developing is in iron and steel.
Ghana has large deposits of iron ore and manganese. These elements combined produce steel; hence the need to develop an industry around them.
“The government is determined to diversify the economy away from gold and cocoa,” Mr Kyerematen said.
In addition, the Minister said that the factory is important because it has export potential as well as the capacity to generate foreign exchange. He stressed, “We need to be talking about export development because it is only when you earn foreign exchange that you can support your foreign currency.”
He also remarked that the government’s focus in moving Ghana beyond aid is to attract both local and foreign private capital to support the country’s development agenda.
To this end, he said, it has offered incentives to local and foreign investors alike under the 1D1F initiative.
“1D1F companies enjoy five years’ tax holiday, duty-free from bringing in machinery and equipment, exempted from local taxes and levies, and exempted from paying duties on raw materials for production,” he said.
At the local level, the Trade and Industry Minister urged the various metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to support companies under the initiative, as a matter of policy, in extending infrastructure such as roads, electricity and water to the project sites.
He commended the factory management for directly and indirectly creating employment, noting: “The most critical challenge confronting us as a country is to create job opportunities, particularly for our youth.”
The chairman of B5 Plus Ltd, Mike Mukesh Thakwani, said his company has the biggest distribution network of any commercial operator in the country, with 11 branches and more than 1,000 distribution networks.
He said the company is occupying 400 acres. Phase one of the project sits on a 100-acre piece of land.
He revealed that about 1,200 workers are already engaged daily on site, adding that when fully functional the company will provide up to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Mr Thakwani said the factory currently can produce 30,000 tonnes of prefabrication material a month; however, this can be doubled at once with the new infrastructure to 60,000 tonnes.
He believes the factory will be able to save the country $100m in foreign exchange and earn more foreign exchange by exporting the goods to neighbouring countries.
To this end, Mr Thakwani pleaded with the government to put an immediate ban on importation of any form of fabrication material and stop substandard goods from getting on to the market.
“We are able to produce quality material at a competitive rate and supply to the whole of West Africa,” he said.
Mr Thakwani commended his workers for their commitment and support towards the company’s vision.