Beneficiaries of the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) have urged Ghanaian Micro and Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to consider clustering as an approach to remaining competitive.
They said cluster development would allow MSMEs to leverage opportunities presented by the single African market through a unified approach to a market source.
Also, the approach, they said would facilitate sharing of tools that would positively impact industrial and economic development through cost-sharing initiatives.
The beneficiaries were panellists who addressed the topic, “Clusters Joint Actions Towards Competitiveness” at the second edition of the WACOMP Ghana International Cluster Conference.
The conference held under the theme, “Ghanaian Clusters, A Driving Force for the Economy”, was organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the European Union (EU) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI).
Clusters are the sectoral and geographical concentration of enterprises and individual producers who manufacture a similar range of goods or services and face similar threats and opportunities.
Its development entails understanding the value chain, identifying advantages and disadvantages, challenges and opportunities and defining a comprehensive and collective strategy that would be analysed continuously to adapt to a changing environment.
Under WACOMP, UNIDO, an implementing agency of the programme established 17 clusters across the country for businesses within the value chain of Cassava, Mango, Pineapple and Cosmetics.
Madam Mabel Akoto Kwuzdo, Chief Executive Officer of Okata Farms and a member of the Northern Volta cluster, said they had problems marketing their produce until the cluster was formed.
Through the formation of cooperatives and associations in a newly created region that mainly specialised in planting and processing Cassava, she said the farmers were able to get together to among other things tackle sanitation issues and establish demonstration farms to test new varieties of cassava with higher yields.
“Initially when we formed these cooperatives, there was nagging among the members but when we put across our ideas about how to bring out cassava products that would meet international standards, that was when people started joining us,” she said.
Mr Asenso Mensah, Managing Director of Plant Pests and Disease Control Management Limited and a Member of the Middle Belt Mango Cluster, said the creation of the cluster had improved the manpower of farmers to control diseases on 18 out of 20 mango farms.
“Indeed, it was so tremendous that our output increased from 1.2 tonnes per acre to five tonnes per acre,” he said.
Mr Stavros Papastavrou, UNIDO Representative in Ghana and Liberia, said the UNIDO -MOTI collaboration on the implementation of WACOMP in Ghana had made Ghana a shining example for other components in the sub-region.
“The next phase of WACOMP will be implemented by the ECOWAS Commission using the same models implemented by the Government of Ghana and UNIDO.
“This is another success we would like to see Ghana working to sustain over the coming years using Cluster methodology,” he said.
WACOMP is a partnership initiative between the ECOWAS) and EU, which has a bearing on regional economic integration and highlights commitment to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and West Africa.
It has an overall objective of strengthening the trade competitiveness of West Africa and enhancing the ECOWAS countries’ integration into the regional and international trading system, including the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
This is to be achieved through an enhanced level of production, value addition, and export capacities of the private sector in line with regional and national industrial, Small and Medium Enterprises support strategies.
WACOMP is funded through a €120 million contribution from the Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) for West Africa (2014 – 2020) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) of the European Union.
In Ghana, the EU is contributing a total of €6.2 million with €150,000 from UNIDO, totalling €6.35 million of donor funds to the programme that seeks to enhance value-addition, engineer low carbon sustainable production and processing with the aim of increasing access to regional and international markets.
WACOMP Ghana, launched in March 2019 and expected to end in January 2024, embraces the vision of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III) and is also aligned with UNIDO’s mandate of fostering Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (ISID).