Ghana seeks to tap the economic potentials of its local jewelry industry to boost wealth and job creation, Nana Akwasi Awuah, the Managing Director of the Precious Minerals Marketing Company said at the ongoing 2021 Gold Statement and Jewelry Exhibition.
Ghana overtook South Africa as the continent’s largest gold producer with 4.8 million ounces in 2018 and increased the production to 5.0 million ounces in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the country, known originally as Gold Coast until independence in 1957, exports almost all of this gold in the raw state, compelling local jewelers to import refined gold at higher costs to produce jewelry.
“When you engage with the jewelers, they point at raw materials as their biggest challenge,” Awuah stated at the opening of the three-day programme Thursday.
Due to this paradox, he said Ghana-made jewelry had become more expensive than imported ones, making the local jewelers lose the price competition to importers.
“Another major challenge facing the local industry is that unfortunately, jewelry made in Ghana is denied access to the international markets due to responsible mining concerns,” he said.
Despite these challenges, Awuah said, when revamped the sector promises to become a major source of employment and wealth creation in the country.
To create a reliable raw material base for local jewelers, he said the government has initiated a retention program in which 30 percent of all the gold produced locally will be retained to start with.
“Ultimately, the government’s aim is to have Ghana retain a larger percentage of the gold produced in-country and refine them. We need to retain and process them right here in Ghana. Both large-scale and small-scale, and use that to feed the local industry,” he stated.
In collaboration with an Indian company, the PMMC is currently building a state-owned gold facility to refine at least 400 kg of the yellow metal daily, and the PMMC MD said with the already existing privately owned refinery, there will be at least 800 kg of gold refined locally per day to feed the local industry.
“The volume of gold leaving the country is so much. In 2018, when we became the premier gold producer in Africa, we exported about 141.1 mt, and we need the capacity to refine all that gold instead of exporting it raw, while our jewelers import refined gold at a higher cost,” he added.
He said “It is time to change the narrative by reversing that trend so that we will refine our gold right here in Ghana.”
“Once you have a refinery in place, that is a critical element in the value chain, and as you refine gold to 99.99 percent purity, the value goes up because the gold price or value is based on its purity, and that brings in higher incomes,” the PMMC MD added.
With that done, he said Ghanaian jewelry producers would be able to recapture the local market and extend their footprints into other African countries under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative.
“We are working together with the Ghana Export Promotions Agency to take advantage of the African market, particularly under the AfCFTA, and we intend to ensure that Ghanaian-made jewelry can enter the international market,” Awuah said.
To pave the way for local producers in the international market, the World Bank has been supporting the country to deal with issues of irresponsible mining, based on which Ghanaian-made articles of jewelry are denied access into the global jewelry market.
Ghana is also actively seeking to accede to the Hallmarking Convention that standardizes the quality of jewelry globally so that Ghanaian jewelry would be accepted all around the world.
“One of the feedbacks from the international market is that our finishing is not of the best quality. So we are engaging with the institutions of higher learning such as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Mines and Technology, and Asanska College of Jewelry, to promote the jewelry industry by building the capacity of our jewelers,” he added.
Judy Nakuor Crayem, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rapport Services, organizers of the annual Gold Statement events was optimistic that with efforts by the government to ensure responsible mining in Ghana, the local industry would gain access to the global stage.
Crayem observed that many jewelry dealers in Ghana had become more comfortable importing their wares from elsewhere due to the neglect of the local industry over the years.
“People found the easy way of buying outside and there was the easy way of importing cheap jewelry into the country. But to ensure that your country is properly recognized, you need to put in the effort, to put all the necessary things in place, with the right collaborations. This is what we are doing,” she added.
As technology evolves, she said it was time to teach young jewelers how to use simple softwares to design their products and give them a finishing that would meet global standards, and make Ghanaian products competitive.
Richard Prah, CEO of City of Gold Jewelries in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city said it was time the Ghanaian authorities restructured the gold and jewelries market to set up a proper industry.
“As we speak there is no jewelry industry in Ghana because there are no proper standards, and that leaves much to be desired. Indeed, foreign jewelers have actually taken over the Ghanaian market,” Prah said.
The jeweler called for proper investments to design and redevelop the entire mineral value chain in the country such that, the Ghana could reap the expected returns.
“With a growing youth unemployment rate in Ghana, the jewelry industry alone has the capacity to absorb many of our youth, from designers, actual fabricators, and even in marketing and administration,” Prah stated.
The 2021 Gold Statement, Conference and Exhibitions, which closes with a Gala Awards night on Saturday, was held under the theme: “Promoting Collaboration for the Advancement of Responsible Gold and Jewelry: The Ghana Project.”