ITA’s e-Lab Innova Programme – A Timely Boost For Agribusiness Growth In Ghana

Dr. Alessandro GerbinoDr. Alessandro Gerbino

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Agriculture has over the years been the driving force behind Ghana’s economic growth. With the country’s shift in focus from aid to trade to drive its development agenda, a robust agribusiness sector will be pivotal in powering this change and giving an effective meaning to the new mantra of “trade, not aid.” In pursuit of this goal however, the important role of training and capacity building as well as partnership facilitation, cannot be overemphasized.

This is why the Italian Trade Agency’s (ITA) e-Lab Innova programme, a platform to facilitate knowledge transfer and partnership creation between Italian and Ghanaian agribusiness companies, is critical. Italy has been a powerhouse of agribusiness over the years and the country’s rich trove of knowledge in the sector, gained through years of development, is a gold mine for all countries seeking to modernize its agricultural sector for effective economic growth.

Objectives

With the support of the Ghana Export Promotions Authority (GEPA) and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), as well as Italian partners AICS and Macfrut, the first phase of ITA’s e-Lab Innova programme was successfully organized for a number of players in the agribusiness industry in Ghana. Under the leadership of Dr Alessandro Gerbino (the Country Director of ITA) and supported by Emmanuel Decker (the Trade Analyst) e-Lab Innova among other things, sought to help build the technical and managerial skills of Ghanaian agribusiness companies with a view to helping them access the huge European Union markets; foster business partnerships with Italian companies; and improve the Ghanaian value chain and local industry development and employment. E-Lab Innova is also aimed at promoting technology transfer and innovation on the model of Italian agribusiness districts and foster opportunities for technical industrial partnerships with Italian companies.

Focal Areas

The training took participants through a number of key topical areas needed in growing their businesses whilst availing to them importing knowledge resources to help them explore new opportunities. Led by Enrico Turoni, Umberto Trulli and Roberta D’Arcangelo and coordinated by the ITA Accra office, participants were taken through such topics as “Quality Management for International Agricultural Trade,” “International Trends in Fruit and Vegetables,” “Technology for Agri-food Companies and Improving Product Quality” and “Tips to Generating Leads in Sales.” These topics are key in preparing Ghanaian agribusiness companies for growth and they fit perfectly into the overarching goal of creating growth opportunities for agribusiness companies in Ghana and Italy.

Participating Companies

A number of Ghanaian agribusiness companies took part in the training programme. These include Erofrah Fruit Processing Industry, Uningha Ltd., Farmhouse, FFINT Enterprise, Helpstay Africa Foundation and Aduanepa Organic Farmers Association. Others included Anconyelle Farms, Afcott Ghana Ltd., Agrigrowth Africa Association, Goodnews Messenger Ltd., and Goona Services. The rest are Sankofa Int. Organic Farms Ltd., Farm Master Africa Group, 3E Farms and Foods Ltd., Garden of Eden and Filiasan Company Ltd.

Impacts

Lab Innova’s successes and impacts are best appreciated from the perspective of beneficiary Ghanaian agribusiness companies. “My expectation was not only met, but the programme also provided us with key partners and possible business leads that will help all participants and extend to other farmers and related businesses” says Emmanuel Ansah Amprofi of Goona Services.

Madam Araba Adams of Anconyelle Farms speaks of the enormous impact the training programme will have on her business: “Through this programme, our company has gained immense knowledge on efficient production technologies, appropriate packaging, key quality standards and strategies needed to be a major producer and exporter of cashew from Ghana to various European Union countries.” “As a cashew producer, the opportunity to hear the experiences Italian importers gave me a clearer picture on what is required to penetrate the EU market. This exposure has exceeded my expectation of the course” she further adds.

On his part, Eric Kwabena Agyei of 3E Farms and Food underlines some of the key take-outs for his company including “international fruit and vegetable trends and season for each produce” and the “reliable source for agricultural machinery” for his business. He also adds that he has “the insight in information about how to use digital marketing tools to prospect for customers in the European markets” are timely information for his business.

One of the key objectives of the programme, which is creating an opportunity for agribusiness companies in Ghana to identify new markets and opportunities, was realized and is affirmed by Felix Kamassah of Maphlix Trust Ghana: “the event helped me identify new markets for our company’s business.”

Creating Partnerships

In addition to participating Ghanaian agribusiness companies, Italian companies in the agribusiness value chain also took part in the programme to explore opportunities and create partnerships. Maurizio Forigo, the General Manager for Forigo, an agricultural machinery manufacturing company in Italy took time to take participants through the company’s range of products. Other participating Italian companies included Graziani Packaging, a company that specializes in providing fruits, vegetables and industrial packaging solutions; Alimentary Ortofrutticoli ABC, a fruit and vegetable import company with over 90 years history that imports a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including Bananas, Pineapple, Melons, Pears, Mangos, and Papayas among others; and Dream Fruits, an Italian company that focuses on the import and export of fresh fruits to the European Union market.

The Next Phase

With ITA’ e-Lab Innova setting the stage in training and facilitating collaborations between Ghanaian and Italian companies, more partnerships are expected to be formed to boost trading between the two countries. Coming on the heels of e-Lab Innova is Macfrut Digital, the biggest Italian trade show for fruits and vegetables which is scheduled to take place in September this year. This event also presents a huge opportunity for Ghanaian agribusiness companies focusing on fruit and vegetable production and processing.

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