As the economic development community is stuck at home, fDi is reaching out to professionals on the FDI-frontline who are facing the biggest global challenge in recent memory, if not of our lifetimes.
Ghana has been relatively unscathed thus far, having registered 24 coronavirus cases and just one death (at time of publication). Nonetheless life has already changed and precautions have been taken, as Yofi Grant, chief executive of GIPC, Ghana’s agency for the promotion and facilitation of investment, tells Alex Irwin-Hunt.
Q. How have your day-to-day activities changed due to the coronavirus?
Life is not as usual due to the precautions we are taking. At the executive level, our president froze all public sector and executive travel about two weeks ago. We’ve had to suspend a lot of foreign engagements and missions to reduce the contact across borders and engage in social distancing. A lot of meetings that would have been done we’ve had to reschedule or postpone them indefinitely until the situation improves. On the back of that, we saw a drastic reduction in the number of visits to GIPC.
A number of our staff came back from training in the UK and elsewhere, and they are currently serving 14 days of self-quarantine. Additionally, we’ve instituted health checks and sanitary conditions in our offices - almost all the floors and some of the busy offices have sanitiser stations by the doors. GIPC will definitely be affected. We are maintaining skeleton staff in the office and parents have been asked to work from home. We are doing our bit and I believe that’s a similar situation you’d be seeing across west Africa.
Q. How have you changed your strategies at GIPC?
We are engaging in a massive exercise of retention through publicity campaigns for the investors that are here. We have been doing video clips of them which we will show on TV, put online and on social media sites. This is so people see what they are doing, but also to motivate them and keep them aware that Ghana still remains a very attractive place to invest. We are increasing our after care a lot and we are working progressively towards our reforms. We are also using this period to do a bit of institutional restructuring to make sure we are more effective and more efficient.
Q. What precautions have been taken at GIPC?
At GIPC we have people working from home, and I have people reporting to me about meetings they’re doing online and documentation they are working with. Our board meetings are with sanitised conditions with people sitting as far apart as possible and all having hand sanitiser. The government is monitoring the numbers, looking at the speed at which infections are coming and whether there are any human-to-human and community spread infections. As the statistics change, the dynamics change. We hope that it doesn't get to the point where there's a total lockdown. The Ministry of Finance is also raising a $100m fund to support health-related issues coming out of the coronavirus scourge. I must commend President Akufo-Addo because he was probably one of the first in Africa to clearly come up with an agenda of how to contain the virus.
Q. Any final comment on how GIPC is dealing with the crisis?
We are keeping our heads cool and not panicking. We are doing all that is necessary to ensure that people are safe. The priority right now is to ensure the spread of the disease is as limited as possible and save lives. We will persevere and look to ensure that coronavirus doesn’t dislocate the plans that we have had over the past few months.
Yofi Grant is the CEO of Ghana’s Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC)
If you work in economic development or site selection and you want to share your experience in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, get in touch at fDi@ft.com.