"In as much as we have been hit by the pandemic in 2020, the mining sector has been resolutely going through all the challenges and there is still substantial potential for the industry to grow. At Alfreg, we are ready to help companies get well settled in the country."
Could you remind our audience of Alfreg's expertise in Ghana?
Alfreg is a business advisory and support service consultancy. We provide consultancy services in tax, accounting, HR, company secretarial, investor and business license registration, as well as immigration support services. Alfreg's clients are predominantly foreign companies who are setting up in Ghana. When a new mining company comes to Ghana, we help them get their business license registration both at the Registrar General and with the Minerals Commission, which is the formal regulator for the mining industry. For our clients’ expatriate employees, we provide immigration support services. This includes helping them submit applications for work and residence permits. We also assist the companies to hire local employees with adequate skills. Then, we guide our mining clients through the tax system so that they comply with the law.
How has Alfreg been impacted by the pandemic?
Coming into 2020 we had great expectations from the mining industry, and we were looking forward to expansion; however, Covid-19 hit the country around March, and our borders were closed for a couple of months. Because our business revolves around foreign companies and expatriates traveling to Ghana, we were affected when travel came to a halt. The government offered some relief to the mining sector, for instance by providing chartered flights, which reduced the impact on the industry. Now that air travel has resumed, business is gradually picking up. Despite the challenges, we thankfully did not have to let anyone go and none of our employees caught the virus. The pandemic necessitated some changes in how we operate. Some of the measures we put in place included inculcating working from home as part of our work. We also used the downtime to focus on internal restructuring. We’ve been back in the office since May, but we have put in place measures to ensure our employees and clients are safe.
What have been the most recent regulatory changes affecting companies willing to register in Ghana?
There have been modifications in the act that regulates company registration: Initially, a company that wanted to incorporate in Ghana needed to present the nature of the business they were into. The new law allows companies to transcend different sectors without issue. A new update causing challenges is the requirement for incorporating companies to show evidence of an address in Ghana. Other changes in the new law is that the company secretary and its directors are held more responsible and even liable for the company's activity. The GIPC (the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre) also implemented new modalities to ensure the capital requirement of US$500,000 is actually made, asking for more evidence of this investment.
How does the law regulate the balance between local talent and imported talent?
In other sectors such as oil, there is a clear emphasis on having a local partner even before registering with the Petroleum Commission. The Minerals Commission, on the other hand, only has a quota for the maximum number of expats that can be brought into the country, instructing that they need to demonstrate vast experience and in-depth expertise, conditions without which an expat will not be granted permission. The longer a company stays in Ghana, the expat quota decreases. This is to encourage the transfer of knowledge to local employees for high-skilled jobs. By employing more locals, companies also reduce their expenses, because bringing foreign workers and covering their travel costs, including holidays, is expensive. As the Ghanaian mining industry grows, I believe we will get to a point when there will be a balanced proportion between locals and expats. I believe the Minerals Commission will eventually emulate what the petroleum industry is doing, and require greater participation of locals before allowing a company to set up in the country.
What are Alfreg's priorities moving forward and what is your final message to our audience?
We are looking at Burkina Faso as a new frontier for business growth, because many of our clients are moving into that region, requesting our support. Alfreg is assessing the possibility of opening another office in Burkina Faso to study the business and the regulatory environment there.
In as much as we have been hit by the pandemic in 2020, the mining sector has been resolutely going through all the challenges and there is still substantial potential for the industry to grow. At Alfreg, we are ready to help companies get well settled in the country.