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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 08:31 GMT
Ghana's trade gains from conflict
By Sarah Simpson
reporting from Ghana

Dock workers in Ghana
Dock workers in Ghana are benefiting from the crisis
The crisis in Ivory Coast has meant a rapid diversion of trade to neighbouring countries like Ghana who are struggling to meet the increased demand.

For the region's land-locked French speaking countries, Ivory Coast was always the natural hub for regional trade.

Ivory Coast was and remains the largest French speaking economy in the region with the best infrastructure and the biggest port.

But Ivory Coast's first ever coup d'etat in December 1999 marked the beginning of a period of instability never before known in the country.

The attempted coup d'etat that followed in September 2002 has left the country divided. Ivory Coast's continuing crisis has lead many traders to look for other options.

Ghana's port gains

When the crisis in Ivory Coast broke in September 2002, Ghana's main port at Tema was inundated with diverted ships looking for somewhere to offload their wares.

Rice is sent to neighbouring Mali
Rice is sent to neighbouring Mali
One year on, business at Tema port is still booming, and what's more, the number of ships using Tema is continuing to rise.

Jacob K Adorkor, the Operations Manager of Tema port, says that more goods are coming through Tema each month, especially transit goods.

These, says Mr Adorkor, are more often than not trade that would formerly have gone through neighbouring Ivory Coast for consumption or sale in the landlocked countries to the north - Burkina Faso, Mali or Niger.

The containers are typically packed with rice, sugar, flour and cooking oil.

Manufactured goods are also imported, especially vehicles and machinery.

Investment boost

Tema is just one of several ports in the region to have benefited from Ivory Coast's misfortune.

Ports in Togo and Senegal are also recording increased economic activity.

Japanese money has been promised for a programme to develop and extend Tema port.

The multi-million dollar project will reclaim land to construct three new container terminals, along with six new berths.

However, the project is not due to begin until 2005, and even when completed, Tema will remain a junior brother to the Abidjan port in neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Abidjan has berthing space for 70 ships, whereas Tema, even after the development will only have berths for 17 ships.

If Ghana wants to seriously compete with Ivory Coast, then capacity needs to be increased much further.

But will it last?

Henry Lartey, a Ghanaian businessman who exports organic papaya and pineapple to Europe, says Tema still falls way behind Abidjan port when it comes to cost and efficiency and that its boom time could be short lived.

Truck journeys can be dangerous - and expensive
Truck journeys can be dangerous - and expensive
Most importantly for him, as an exporter of a perishable product, is the timescale involved.

Tema can only offer him a 16-day arrival guarantee, but his pineapples need to be in Europe's supermarkets no less than 12 days after being packed and ready to go.

Henry hopes that one day soon, things may change at Tema, but he's not too hopeful.

Instead he's decided to bite the bullet and export his goods by airfreight.

It's expensive, but it's the only way to get his fruits to supermarket while they're fresh.

Transport problems

There are problems for importers too.

Much of the new trade at Tema is heading north to Ghana's landlocked neighbours.

But the roads are not of the same standard in Ghana as in neighbouring Ivory Coast.

As for the rail network, that's practically non-existent.

This means delays for importers on the road.

The port gets congested too, as goods have to wait for lorries to return from the long trip north to collect their next load.

The government wants to develop the rail network to enable the smooth transit of goods so that Ghana can become the new trade hub for West Africa.

But after nearly 50 years of non-investment, it could take some time for Ghana Railways to meet the needed capacity.

Truck drivers' tale

Meanwhile, Mohammed , a truck driver who has ploughed the roads between Burkina Faso and Tema port for more years than he cares to remember, says the problems in Ivory Coast outweigh the benefits.

As he is stopped at a police barrier in northern Ghana, he explains quietly in French, that the "costs on the road" in Ghana are a fraction of those in Ivory Coast - meaning the fees accumulated in bribes and unofficial payments.

In Ivory Coast it typically costs US$400 in such transactions to get a single lorry load through the country.

According to Mohammed, "the police have always been greedy in Ivory Coast, but these days with the crisis, things are even worse".

Potholes or no potholes, he'll stick with Ghana.


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