Many development experts as well as research institutions and charity organisations within Ghana and abroad, have been propounding that the country is exceptionally rich and well-endowed with numerous and diverse types of natural resources.
They often make such statements based on findings that the country has large deposits of gold right from the coastal regions to the extreme northern savannah ecological zone (NSEZ). Besides gold, there are other precious minerals such as bauxite, manganese, limestone, timber, uranium, hydrocarbons. Other non-precious minerals include clay, granite and other valuable rocks.
Unfortunately, most of these minerals in the NSEZ have remained largely untapped over the years. However, one of the efforts that have been proffered to harness these resources is the hosting of the 20th edition of the Ghana International Trade Fair in Tamale between February 25th and March 7.
Under the theme: “Two Decades in International Trade Fair in Ghana: Exploring Business Opportunities in the SADA Zone of Ghana”, the fair is to be jointly organised by the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and the Ghana Trade Fair Company (GTFC) with sponsorship from UNDP and state-owned agency, EDAIF.
The choice of Tamale for the fair is aimed at harnessing the untapped potentials of the NSEZ. It will therefore highlight the agriculture sector, the mineral deposits, culture, housing and other areas of value in the NSEZ. It will also provide suitable areas for foreign and local partnership as well as stimulate a culture of entrepreneurship and investments in the NSEZ.
Over 500 local and international investors from 30 countries including Europe, Asia and America are expected to participate in the fair. Exhibitors are expected from countries such as Turkey, USA, Egypt, Syria, India, Germany, China, Japan, South Africa, Cape Verde, Nigeria, La Cote D’voire, Togo and a lot more. A visitor population of 25,000 is expected throughout the Fair.
At the launch of the fair in Tamale, acting Chief Executive Officer of SADA Dr. Chares Abugre, said the event would serve as a “positive step in order to bring all parts of Ghana into international focus”, and gave ten reasons why the focus of the fair was on business opportunities in the SADA zone.
The SADA zone according to him was the bigger half of the country, occupying 54.4 percent of the entire geographical area of Ghana, “where little attention has been paid to business development and investment opportunities for generations. This is a waste and holds back development of our country, something that we cannot afford”, he observed.
He said the zone had unparalleled agricultural opportunities with 6 million hectares of suitable land for rain-fed and irrigated farming. “The land may seem unproductive in rain-fed conditions but comes to life when irrigated. When irrigated, up to 60,000 square kilometres of land is suitable for rice, sugar cane, soya and several other grains as well as 10,000 square kilometres suitable for cassava”, he noted.
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Dr, Abugre also noted that, the SADA zone was home to majority of the Volta River Basin, and the Ghana side of the Volta River system produced an impressive annual run-off water of up to 37.8 billion cubic metres. “The area is home to the Black and White Volta watersheds as well as the Oti River basin and such sub-watersheds as the Kulpawn, the Sissili, the Daka, the Nabogo and the Nasia.
“The irrigation potentials are huge– the Bui can irrigate up to 200,000 hectares; Pwalugu, up to 100,000 hectares; the Nasia-Nabogo area, up to 70,000 hectares; the Daka Valley, up to 90,000 hectares; the Kamba, up to 10,000. The Fumbisi Valley watershed by Tono, the Kulpawn and the Sissili has a total irrigable area of more than 240,000 hectares”, he disclosed.
He further reiterated the potential of the Black Volta Basin to provide several hydropower generation plants citing Ntereso, Jambito, Daboya and the Koumbi. “The White Volta Basin has energy potentials in Pwalugu on the Kulpawn and the Sissili Rivers. There is also Juale downstream.
“Besides hydro, the SADA zone has the most productive sun for solar. With increased agricultural production, the abundance of agricultural waste will be a massive source of bio-energy. The vast energy, especially renewable energy potentials in an age of sustainable development, remains to be tapped”, he stated.
Another untapped area Dr. Abugre talked about was the Lake Volta waterway, which according to him, could cut bulk transport distance from the port by up to 500 kilometres. “Everywhere in the world, water transport is the cheapest source of bulk transport – cheaper than rail with bigger upstream and downstream benefits”, he revealed.
He maintained that with an active Volta Lake Transport, one could envisage Bui as a thriving transit port city for the landlocked West African neighbours to the north. He added that, upon the water transport, science and industrial parks could rise, giving a stimulus to Kintampo which could grow into the finance, conferencing and agricultural marketing and processing hub of the SADA zone. “The real estate and construction investment opportunities associated with developing Bui properly are potentially huge”, he said.
The SADA CEO further talked about the Tamale International Airport still under construction, and said it placed the fastest growing city in West Africa in close proximity to the rest of the sub-region and only 5 hours away from Europe and the Middle East. “We can envision Tamale as green, planned, spacious, clean and thriving city– drawing in migrants from the rest of Ghana and all over the world especially when commercial agriculture thrives around it.
Dr. Charles Abugre said the area was primed for proper planning and industrial relocation of firms from Europe and Asia and other parts of Africa where cost of market access disadvantages abided. He urged investors in planned industrial estates, agro-parks and such cluster based initiatives to come and invest.
The Chairperson of the Board of the GTFC, Mrs. Hannah Boateng, said the Fair’s main objective is to “clinch deals with potential businesses and to expand existing ones.”
According to her, it is also to provide opportunity to Ghana’s expanding market and to promote its non-oil export potentials, develop trade and industry, promote made in Ghana goods and services including the agriculture and agro-based industry.
“It will focus on agriculture and food production, building and construction; industrial and production machinery; oil, gas and petro-chemicals; mining and energy, transport and aviation, telecommunication, business equipment; training and education; healthcare and safety; banking and finance; scientific and technological breakthroughs and general consumer goods”.
Mrs. Boateng said a visitor population of 25,000 is expected throughout the Fair. She had no doubt that the Fair would “serve as a catalyst for massive industrialization of the SADA zone. Investment will be the major driver of the economy of the area.”
SADA is a government policy initiative established by an Act of Parliament (Act 805, 2010) and aimed at transforming the NSEZ. SADA’s mandate is to accelerate the socio-economic development of the NSEZ through strategic investment in resource development. It envisions a “Forested North” by 2030, where agricultural production is modernised and oriented towards a larger market.