Agri-food Enterprise Programme to help MSMEs catalyse food innovations

Agri-food Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Ghana are to unlock the full potential of their businesses and catalyze food innovations with the introduction of the Agri-food Enterprise Programme.

The Programme will focus on innovation using indigenous African ingredients and allows entrepreneurs to develop and launch sustainable agri-businesses, scale up, and access local, regional, and national markets.

The Programme was launched by Africa Skills Hub (ASH) with the support of the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance.

Mr Daniel Antwi, the Executive Director of Africa Skills Hub (ASH), speaking at the launch of the Programme, said was a commitment to driving positive change in Ghana’s agri-food industry.

He said Ghana’s agri-food industry was a vital part of the country’s economy due to its job creation and contributionto the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

However, in Ghana, MSMEs operating in the agri-food sector face significant challenges that hinder their growth, competitiveness and contribution to the economy.

These challenges include limited business management skills, weak market linkages, limited access to finance, little networking, collaboration opportunities and a host of others.

He said the Programme was linked to the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aimed to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition.

‘We believe that this Programme will help MSMEs in the agri-food sector in Ghana with the requisite knowledge, skills, support services, and networking opportunities they need to strengthen their capabilities, enhance their market competitiveness, and contribute to the growth and sustainability of the sector,’ he added.

He said the Programme would impact every agri-food MSME and focus on two phases, the incubation phase and the acceleration phase.

Miss Cynthia Debrah, Head of Programmes at ASH, said the Incubation phase would provide intense training, mentorship, and networking opportunities to early-stage Agri-food MSMEs whilst the Acceleration phase will support matured Agri-food MSMEs through mentorship, access to market, funds, and networking opportunities.

She commended the 20 Agri-food MSMEs, the first Cohorts, who qualified for this Programme, saying embracing innovation and adaptability would take them into a brighter and more sustainable future.

Mr Kofi Nkansah, the Chief Executive Officer of NEIP, commended the Management of ASH for their efforts on nurturing young entrepreneurs and also taking advantage of all government initiatives to run its accelerator and incubator Programmes.

He said the government was collaborating with the private sector to help build an entrepreneurial nation.

The CEO said the NEIP was providing grants to Hubs like ASH to upgrade its infrastructure, equip themselves and also run more accelerator and incubator Programmes to help start-ups.

Mr Nkansah said the government would continue to provide additional support through the Hubs to grow and develop start-ups.

Mrs Priscilla Asante, the Founder of Rosswood Company Limited, said through Programmes like the Agri-food Enterprise Programme, start-ups could network and collaborate to grow.

She said access to market was one of the major challenges entrepreneurs face and it was important, hence the need to network to promote their businesses.

She urged start-ups to register with all the regulatory bodies to enable other businesses collaborate with them.

Mrs Asante called on start-ups to always take advantage of opportunities in their networks.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Ghana Hotels Association petitions PURC on reversal of tariff adjustments

The Executives of the Ghana Hotels Association (GHA) has presented a petition to the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) to enforce its directive to the Ghana Water Company to reverse the tariff adjustment for the months of February to May 2023.

Dr. Edward Ackah-Nyamike Jnr, President of the Association, presenting the petition, said these had created huge debts for its members over the months.

He said its members instead of receiving 8.3 per cent upward adjustment in water tariff announced by the Commission, which took effect on February 1, 2023, they rather received an increment of 16.7 per cent, representing GH? 30 per cubic meter of water.

This, he, said continued until May 2023, even after series of petitions and responses to and from the PURC and a directive issued to Ghana Water Company April 2023 to revert all non-residential customers misclassified as ‘other commercial’ back to ‘non-residential consumer category.’

He said customers in the ‘Non-Residential’ and ‘Other Commercial’ categories with disputed bills should not be disconnected until the completion of the investigations, but customers shall pay a reasonable amount on account to avoid disconnection.

‘We are obviously unhappy and expect the PURC to act on its directive to the Ghana Water Company to reserve these bills which has created huge debts for our members,’ he added.

He said as an Association, they were very much aware of the numerous efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and its Agencies to make Ghana a destination of choice in global tourism, however, with the huge negative impact of the country’s economic downturn on hotel businesses, the last thing they expected were actions and inactions of public agencies that seek to deepen their woes.

He said the actions and inactions of the Ministry of Roads and Highways in making travels on some of the highways a nightmare for tourists, both domestic and international, the Board of GTA in the administration of the Tourism Development Fund that has denied Tourism Trade Associations the needed financial support to be effective partners in the Public Private Sector collaboration mix.

‘The actions and inactions of the Tourism Ministry and GTA in underutilizing the public private partnership forum, as provided in the Tourism Act 817, to address industry challenges,’ he said.

Dr Ackah-Nyamike Jnr said the Association was also at a loss as to why the one per cent COVID-19 Health Recovery Levy was still in the Ghana Revenue Authority’s tax bucket, adding to the long list of tax obligations and increasing their operational cost.

On the issue of the new property rate payment regime, he said in as much as the Association was not against the payment of property rates, they were equally unhappy with the astronomical increases in the rates that property owners, including hoteliers, must pay in the new regime.

He said in an economy where businesses were struggling to survive, the astronomical increases in property rates with no reference to the old existing rates was very worrying and troubling.

‘A well thought out incremental increase in the property rate will have demonstrated empathy to the plight of the struggling business community, including hotels,’ he said.

He, therefore, called on the government to take a second look at this ‘faceless’ property rate regime that had the potential to contribute to the crippling of businesses.

He urged the Tourism and Roads Ministers to give a special attention to strategic roads and other similar ones in all parts of the country that linked Ghana to other countries, saying the state of some strategic road passages must never be compromised.

The President of the Association also called on the Board of the GTA to revisit the proposal for a portion of the one percent tourism development fund to be allocated to functional Tourism Trade Associations every year to support the administration of the Associations.

‘We also call on the Board to revert to the old practice where the stakeholders were updated regularly on the inflows and outflows of the fund and for the Ministry and the GTA to work towards getting the most out of the PPPF,’ he added.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Ghana records GHS49.5m losses through cyber fraud in first half of 2023

Ghana recorded GHS49.5 million direct financial losses through cyber fraud activities between January and June, this year.

The figure constituted only a fraction of cases reported to state agencies while financial losses of unreported cases could exceed the amount reported so far.

Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, the Director-General, Cyber Security Authority, announced this at the media launch of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in Accra on Sunday.

October was declared a ‘National Cybersecurity Awareness Month’ on the theme: ‘Promoting a Culture of Digital Safety’.

It is aimed at creating public awareness and conscientising Ghanaians and organisations on opportunities and threats of the cyberspace and ensuring a meaningful utilisation of the online resources for a safer environment.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako said although Ghana had made a lot of progress in creating public awareness on cybersecurity issues but there was the need to intensify awareness creation amongst the youth.

He said the Authority received 41,285 contacts between October 2019 and July 2023 of complaints from the public on cybercrime and other related activities.

Of the figure, 41 per cent was online fraud including shopping fraud, romance fraud, online blackmail and identity fraud.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako therefore called for collective and individual responsibility in protecting oneself against digital fraud.

He urged the public to contact the Authority’s toll free line 292 to report any issue concerning online fraud for prompt action.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako also called for institutional harmonisation and integration of the work of state agencies collating statistics on arrests, prosecutions and convictions of persons involved in cyber fraud.

The CSA Boss observed that global digitalisation trends had changed the way businesses conducted business.

Therefore, the the government was creating opportunities, and enabling interventions for economic growth.

Recent Statistics indicate that more than 62% (4.95 billion) of the world’s population have access to the internet.

In Ghana, internet penetration has increased exponentially from 2.31 million in 2012 to 17 million users in 2022 representing 53% of the population.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako said cybersecurity awareness was a global initiative aimed at raising awareness about cybersecurity and promoting best practices for online safety.

Ghana started the National Cybersecurity Awareness in 2017 with the establishment of the National Cyber Security Week which subsequently evolved into a month-long event under the auspices of the then National Cyber Security Secretariat.

According to the Groupe Special Mobile Association (GSMA) Mobile Connectivity Index (MCI) 2023 report, Ghana is ranked 4th in Africa with a score of 51.4% depicting significant progress in connectivity over the past five years.

In the same report, Ghana had a score of 86.69% in Online Security (a key dimension of the index) consistent with the country’s score on the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI).

Ghana’s internet penetration rate i.e., internet users in 2023 stands at 23.05 million representing 68.2% of the total population. Out of this, 6.6 million (19.5%) are active social media users contributing to the country’s 13th rank on the list of countries that spend considerable time on the internet.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako noted that Ghana’s effort at ensuring a culture of digital safety was borne out of the country’s cyberculture and societal dimension derived from the cybersecurity Capacity Maturity Model (CMM) assessment commissioned by the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation in January 2018.

The assessment was conducted by the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC) of the University of Oxford in collaboration with the World Bank.

Key among the critical issues captured by the assessment included the lack of cybersecurity consciousness and awareness among the Ghanaian public.

Also captured were inadequate security measures for government e-services with knowledge gaps in fundamental cybersecurity concepts.

Following these shortfalls, the CSA was seeking to leverage the NCSAM 2023 to address the concerns raised in the assessment hence the theme, ‘Promoting a Culture of Digital Safety’.

This year’s theme highlights the importance of cultivating a collective mindset and behaviour that values and promotes responsible online practices, cybersecurity awareness, and the protection of personal information.

‘We expect the media launch to set in motion a month-long national cybersecurity awareness creation that will assemble public and private sector players, cybersecurity professionals, the academia, and representatives from civil society organisations, in preparation for the NCSAM as we seek to encourage every Ghanaian to stay digitally alert,’ Dr Antwi-Boasiako added.

He called for collaborative efforts to harmonise the processes of public procurement in the public service to secure a judicious, economic, and efficient use of state resources and provide a streamlined mechanism for guaranteeing that cybersecurity service providers, establishments and professionals in the country execute their duties in accordance with approved international standards.

Data from October 2019 – July 2023) showed top reported incidents in online fraud 45% (Online Shopping Fraud, Job Recruitment Fraud, Advance Fee Fraud, Romance Scam, Investment Fraud among others.). Online Blackmail (13%), unathorised Access 10% (Account Takeover, Phishing, etc), cyber bullying 9% (Fake Loan Apps)

Online Impersonation/Identity theft (8%)

The high numbers (37,559 (91%) for the direct advisories can be attributed to the fact that the Point of Contact(PoC) portal has provided citizens with an avenue where they are able to fact check information, they come across online and perform due diligence before taking certain actions/decisions online.

Therefore, citizens from diverse backgrounds who are about to make various commitments online, including financial commitments to buy a product/patronise a paid service/ do an invest ranging from as low as GHS 50 to thousands of Cedis, providing personal identifiable information that could be used to perform identity theft/impersonations, visiting/downloading malicious websites and contents that could disrupt business operations, reach the Cyber Security Authority through the PoC and are given the needed guidance to prevent becoming potential victims of cybercrime.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Leaked Tape Probe: Committee could invite Dr Dampare – Chairman

Mr Samuel Atta Akyea, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee probing the alleged plot to remove from office the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Dr George Akuffo Dampare, says the Committee could invite Dr Dampare to respond to certain questions and concerns raised by the witnesses.

Addresing the media in Parliament, Mr Atta Akyea explained that the possible invitation of the IGP was to enable the developing and stretching out evidence.

‘This is because of the fact that what we should place before the plenary should not be shoddy and one-sided,’ he said.

‘If the presence of the individual will give the relevance to the fact-finding exercise, we will do that.’

Mr Atta Akyea, however, did not give the date the committee would invite the IGP.

He told the media that if it became imperative that the Committee opted for an in-camera hearing to obtain security-sensitive information from Commissioner of Police (COP) George Alex Mensah, a witness, that would be done.

‘…We will because the man has a lot to say, but it would be improper to say so on air,’ he said.

Appearing before the Committee for the second time on Friday, COP Mensah, a former Director-General in-charge of Technical, Ghana Police Service, alleged that the IGP was responsible for the tape recording.

According to COP Mensah, his intelligence suggested that what was used to tape his conversation with Mr Daniel Bugri Naabu, a former Northern Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was done by Dr Dampare.

‘He sent some people to do it, and after which he went for the tape. So, the tape, from my intelligence, is with the IGP and he caused it to be leaked,’ he said.

‘If this committee wants the tape, the right person is the IGP ‘.

This was revealed after Mr Atta Akyea had asked COP Mensah if he had the complete tape on grounds, particularly, when he kept telling the committee that the tape in its possession was not complete.

Mr Atta Akyea also asked the witness if he had the proof to back what his intelligence told him, or it was hearsay.

Responding COP Mensah said: ‘This is not just something I believe it to be true, but Mr Chairman, I would not want to say it here, but I can tell the committee in camera but not here.’

Mr Naabu also the Paramount Chief of Namong in the North East Region in the Mamprugu Kingdom, during his public hearing, cited three police officers as engaging in the conversation.

They are COP George Alex Mensah, Superintendent George L. Asare and Superintendent Emmanuel Eric Gyebi.

On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, an audio recording, allegedly involving a police commissioner and a politician discussing a plot to remove IGP Dampare from office leaked.

Consequently, the Minority Caucus in Parliament called for a probe into the leaked tap, based on Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, the Speaker of Parliament, on July 25, constituted a seven-member bi-partisan Committee to probe it.

The Committee, which has up to September 10, 2023 to report back to the House, is made up of three members each from the Majority and Minority sides of Parliament, and a technical person.

It is chaired by Mr Samuel Atta Akyea, an NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Abuakwa South, with Mr James Agalga, a National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Builsa North as the Vice-Chairman.

It has Mr Patrick Yaw Boamah, NPP MP for Okaikwei Central; Madam Ophelia Mensah, NPP MP for Mfantseman; Mr Eric Opoku, NDC MP for Asunafo South, and Mr Peter Lanchene Tuobu, NDC MP for Wa West as members.

Dr Isaac Lartey Annang, a lawyer and a human rights activist, is the technical person asssisting the committee.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Oti registers 7,238 candidates for WASSCE

A total of 7,238 candidates are writing the 2023 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in the Oti Region.

The figure involved 4,020 males and 3,218 females from 25 schools, including 15 senior high schools and 10 senior high technical schools.

The 7,238 candidates represent 897 increases over the 2022 figure of 6,341 candidates for the region.

One visually impaired and one hearing impaired candidates are among the 7,238 sitting for the examination.

Mr Maxwell Bodza, the Oti Regional Examination Officer, disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency in an interview on Monday.

The Kadjebi-Asato Senior High School presents the highest number of 1,145 candidates, while Biakoye Community SHS presented the least of 43 candidates.

Mr Bodza said 22 supervisors, 24 assistant supervisors and 385 invigilators would superintend over the examination in the region at 22 exam centres.

He said the examination papers were housed in eight depots; six in Oti Region and two in the Volta Region.

The Oti Regional Directorate of the GES wished the candidates the best in the WASSCE and called on all supervisors, invigilators and the candidates to shun any malpractice.

The 2023 WASSCE, which started on July 31, with Basketry Three (Project Work) would end on September 26, with Woodwork Three (Practical).

Source: Ghana News Agency

Sandema hospital appeals for replacement of leaking roof

The Sandema Hospital in the Builsa North Municipality of the Upper East Region has appealed to the Government to re-roof the facility as most of its units leak when it rains.

Apart from the Newborn Care Unit (NBCU), theatre and the emergency ward, the rest of the wards, including the pharmacy unit, laboratory, dressing rooms and the Medical Superintendent’s office leak.

Portions of the hospital’s 21-bed capacity maternity ward, which was full, with some patients on the floor, was the most affected following a downpour on Saturday night which lasted for about nine hours.

If not for the swift intervention of midwives on duty, who used buckets to consistently collect the rainwater from the leaking roof, the entire ward would have flooded and brought healthcare delivery at the unit to a standstill.

Dr Emmanuel Opoku, the Medical Superintendent of the Hospital who had on many occasions appealed through the GNA in the Municipality for support to renovate the facility, said no help had so far been offered.

‘Everywhere leaks; the Medical Superintendent’s office leaks, children’s ward, maternity and all the wards leak. So we wish it could be re-roofed,’ he said.

He noted that it was capital intensive to re-roof the facility, and management could not afford the cost.

The children’s ward, male medical and female wards, pharmacy unit, dressing rooms and nurses’ station at the Out-Patient Department (OPD) and the laboratory, leaked when the Ghana News Agency visited.

The waiting area for patients at the pharmacy unit was not spared.

Staff on duty in the affected units had to pull away beds and equipment from areas where the rainwater dropped, to prevent mattresses from getting wet and any damage to medical equipment.

Apart from the leakages, the GNA observed that there were broken louvre blades, faulty doors, exposed electrical cables, visible cracks on walls, and broken tiles on the floor.

A client, who had delivered at the maternity ward, and pleaded anonymity, expressed concern about the state of leakage at the ward, and appealed to authorities to, fix the problem.

‘How can a maternity ward be leaking like this; it is unbelievably bad and not comfortable and safe laying here with these newborn babies in this raining season. I cannot wait to be discharged,’ the woman of about 28years, said.

Relatives of some patients at the OPD and the female ward equally expressed similar concerns about the deplorable state of the hospital and called for immediate solution to the problem.

Even though stakeholders at different fora in the Municipality had over the years appealed for support to renovate the 93 years old hospital to befit its status as a referral centre for the Municipality and beyond, there has not been any response.

Source: Ghana News Agency