The Gold manufacturing industry in Ghana is a vibrant one dominated by foreign conglomerates and most recently the Chinese Galamseyers. Although a sizeable number of Ghanaians have dabbled in the gold sector since precolonial times few have been as successful as their foreign counterparts in adding value to our nations biggest foreign exchange earner.
Richard Prah, CEO of City of Gold Jewellers manufacturers of Gold and Silver ornaments and artifacts based in Daban, Kumasi sat down with #ThinkGhana www.think.com.gh to throw more light on the challenges currently facing the gold manufacturing sector especially for the goldsmiths and Jewellers in Ghana.
ThinkGhana: How would you describe jewellery production in Ghana?
Richard Prah (RP): Ghana has been producing gold since precolonial days. In the olden days goldsmiths with fairly simple tools of the anvil and hammer were able to craft some very fine gold ornaments and artifacts. Presently with the advent of technology we have much more sophisticated tools which make the work of a goldsmiths and jeweller like myself able to do more in a relatively short time.
ThinkGhana: How long have you been into jewellery production?
RP: I have been gold jeweller since 1997, about 20 years. I started our as a craftman’s apprentice but as I got older I enrolled in jewellery production school and I am now a certified Gold Jeweller.
ThinkGhana: How was jewellery production sector before and how is it now?
RP: It was initially very profitable to be in jewellery production. Raw materials were relatively easy to come by compared to what we have now. It was easier to get raw gold, silver and other raw materials.
Also many people could purchase a full a full set of gold ornaments. These days due to the expensive nature of gold and other materials many people only resort to gold for ornaments like wedding rings which they don’t compromise on. It is hard to come by a customerwho wants a full set of gold ornaments like earrings, bracelets, necklaces, anklets and rings.
ThinkGhana: What materials do u use to produce your jewellery and how easy or difficult is it to get them?
RP: My company, City of Gold Jewellers primarily work on Gold & Silver ornaments.
Apart from gold which is mined right here in Ghana, raw silver is imported from South Africa and Switzerland. It was initially very cheap to get silver but this has changed and it has affected our market greatly.
Also the government’s ban on galamsey and in many respects small scale mining has led to a shortfall in gold supply which is our primary raw material. To augment this shortfall we have resorted to using secondary gold ornaments and artifacts by people who wish to dispose off their used gold pieces at a cost to craft new jewellery.
This has led to spike in the value of raw gold affecting our production cost and the pricing of our finished products.
ThinkGhana: Is the issue of imported jewellery affecting your business?
RP: Yes; our market is such that people can easily import cheaper and substandard jewellery from the Asian countries and Europe. This is having a negative impact on our business because our jewellery are substituted by these cheap imports and it is having a toll on jewellers and goldsmiths nationwide.
ThinkGhana: What measures do you think government should put in place to help the industry
RP: Government certainly has a huge role to play in reviving this previously lucrative industry which can provide employment for thousands of Ghanaian youth.
I believe the government apart from its regulatory role can also make sure raw materials are readily available to manufacturers. We need institutions that can sell raw materials to Ghanaian jewellers.
We know government has a stake in many of these huge mining company and therefore we wish they can set aside a portion of their receivables in raw materials specially for the local manufacturers.
We are not asking for subsidies, what we want is an available supply of raw materials at competitive prices for certified jewellers and goldsmiths in Ghana.
Also Goldsmiths and Jewellers should come together to form associations to benefit from the interventions of government.
ThinkGhana: What are your main challenges in this industry as a shop owner?
RP: The challenges are enormous. Firstly we have a huge difficulty assessing raw materials which I already spoke extensively on.
Also the tax system doesn’t help much. Personally I would wish we had an input into what goes into coming up with the rates assemblies (KMA) and authorities (GRA) charge us as taxes.
The jewellery industry is such that those who set up shop like myself are burdened with so much taxes by the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly which is responsible for collection of taxes in my vicinity. However, those who work from corners and by the road side without proper shops don’t pay taxes.
For instance in the Kumasi Metropolis; Ashtown which is a densely populated community has many goldsmiths and Jewellers who don’t pay taxes and are not pursued by the authorities because they have chosen not to set up shops. They’re not easily identified like myself.
These people engage in fraudulent scams and churn out substandard products giving our craft a very bad name. Many customers only get to know of these substandard products when they are ready to dispose of their gold ornaments and the valuer determines that what they thought as 18 or 14 carat gold is in fact nothing more than miscalculated alloying of precious metals.
ThinkGhana: Is the industry profitable in its current state?
RP: I would say no. It is certainly not as profitable as it use to be. Also the tax agency easily come after us when we default in taxes but do not take into consideration the issues plaguing our industry.
We also want our politicians to go beyond rhetoric to actually work on value addition to our raw materials.
We should indeed move from exporting raw materials to adding value to our products right here in Ghana. As I said earlier this industry has the potential to contribute immensely to the development of this nation and create employment for the youth.
Students from the University of Mines, Tarkwa and those who have learnt the craft through apprenticeship for instance will be engaged in this sector from mining to manufacturing. We will also pay taxes to contribute to building the nation.
ThinkGhana: How is business for you as a shop owner?
RP: Although things have been tough over the past couple of months we believe that this sector is too precious like the ornaments we make to be left to die. We have invested heavily in the sector have a stake in how things turn out going into the future. We are committed to making sure the gold jewellery production industry bounces back. Thank you.
Richard Prah CEO City of Gold Jewellers. Daban, Kumasi.