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The Ghana Export School: success with minimum investment.

In an effort to diversify and promote exports of nontraditional products, Ghana has implemented a series of policy and institutional reforms over the last several years. One of these has entailed strengthening the Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC), and, along with this, the creation of an export training institution. The need for increased knowledge of export opportunities, greater familiarity with export techniques and a heightened export consciousness among current and potential export enterprises was recognized as a requirement for expanding the country's exports. To meet this need a well organized programme of foreign trade training was called for, which could best be handled by a special school created for that purpose. The export training institution that was subsequently set up is based on a particularly innovative approach. Its basic features could be adopted with appropriate adaptation by other developing countries that are reinforcing their export training capacity.

Steps in establishment

With the launching of Ghana's national Economic Recovery Programme several years ago and the Government's commitment to the promotion of nontraditional exports, an urgent need arose to develop a pool of trained exporters in the country in the short and medium term.

A preliminary training needs analysis carried out in Ghana in 1989 identified the requirements for strengthening the knowledge and skills of exporters in international business operations, particularly in the small-scale sector. The survey also showed that several existing training institutions in the country were providing some programmes in trade and trade-related topics, but very few offered practical export marketing courses on a regular basis for business executives and trade promotion officials.

Taking into consideration the necessity of training a large number of persons in a wide range of topics over a short time, the relatively small capacity of existing training institutions and the limited financial resources available for this purpose, a practical solution had to be found for export training if the goals of export diversification were to be met.

In view of these factors, it was proposed to create a centralized institution in the country that would have access to existing training expertise and would work under the aegis of the Ghana Export Promotion Council. The training institution would operate on minimum fixed resources. For the remainder of its requirements it would mobilize resources already existing in the country to the maximum extent possible.

In April 1989 the Council established the Ghana Export School (GES) with the following objectives:

* Generate export consciousness in the business sector, which had traditionally been import oriented.

* Create an awareness of the importance of exports in official circles to obtain positive response from the Government on export development and trade promotion matters.

* Provide the business community with the necessary techniques for developing and managing export business efficiently.

* Spread the results of such training throughout the export community to as many companies as possible.

* Provide a forum for discussing, evaluating and finding solutions to export development problems in the country.

Main features

The Ghana Export School is a particularly innovative experiment, as it has neither a campus, training facilities nor faculty of its own. It draws its speakers and course developers from business and government, uses the facilities of existing training institutions, and develops its own training materials based on local experience. By cooperating closely with the business sector and established training institutions, the School is able to provide a wide range of practical seminars and workshops in the foreign trade sector with minimum investment, tailored to the needs of the export community.

Preliminary activities

Before launching its courses and seminars, the School undertook several types of preparatory activities to build a solid foundation for its training programme. These included obtaining the commitment of existing training institutions to its programme, identifying specialists to help with the training and organizing courses on pedagogical techniques for its trainers.

Of the various training institutions in Ghana, the Management Development and Productivity Institute (MDPI) was considered to be the most suited for the type of training that the School was planning to offer. Arrangements were therefore made to work with it. Under an agreement between the School and MDPI, the Institute makes its facilities available to the School for short periods, provides training specialists in trade and trade-related subjects, and offers the use of its audiovisual equipment.

The cooperation with MDPI does not exclude linkages with other training institutions and organizations in the country, such as the University of Ghana, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), the University of the Cape Coast, the Institute of Marketing and the National Banking College. These other institutions have agreed to participate in specialized programmes where their field of expertise is particularly relevant.

An important feature of the School's human resource development is the recruitment of persons to serve as associate faculty. GES hired several principal course leaders specialized in given subjects to assume responsibility for designing programme contents, selecting appropriate teaching techniques, developing training materials and coordinating the inputs of other lecturers in their respective subject matter. These subject leaders commit several weeks over a period of two to three years to this job. This length of time guarantees continuity while avoiding rapid turnover of resource personnel. For subjects not covered by these specialists, the School recruits course leaders from oher training institutions in the country and, when appropriate, persons from local business and export service organizations.

During the initial period ITC provided technical support to the School, in particular through training and technical guidance to the subject leaders. For instance a seminar for trainers on pedagogical skills and a case-writing workshop were held. Some of the subject leaders were also given specialized training abroad, which ranged from a few weeks to several months.

Organizational set-up

The School is an integral part of the Ghana Export Promotion Council. Two training officers and one secretary on the Council's staff manage the training programme. The Executive Secretary of the Council has overall responsibility for the School.

The Executive Secretary of the Council heads a 12-member Advisory Committee that makes recommendations concerning the School. The Committee meets every three months, chaired by the Executive Secretary (or a senior official of the Council). Each member is appointed for a four-year term and represents key Ghanaian institutions concerned with trade matters: Ministry of Trade and Tourism; Customs, Excise and Prevention Service; Institute of Marketing; Shippers' Council; Management Development and Productivity Institute; University of Ghana School of Administration; Bank of Ghana; Institute of Bankers; Ghana Airways; Ghana National Chamber of Commerce; and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (see box above). Representatives of the Export Promotion Council also participate in the Committee.

As can be seen from the Advisory Committee membership, the School has close working links with major institutions and organizations in the country concerned with trade, including trade-related services and training. Members of the Committee are actively involved in the School's activities. They review the work programme, including the course content and location of the courses; help determine the fees to be charged to participants; take part in recruiting resource persons and setting their honoraria; and assist in preparing evaluation reports.

The School benefits greatly from the expertise and experience of the Advisory Committee members. The arrangement also helps avoid any potential duplication in training activities with other institutions. Furthermore it ensures that the training programme not only meets the needs of exporters but also is in line with the Government's export plan and priorities.

Financial resources

The School operates on limited financial resources. It obtains funds from the Export Promotion Council, and the salaries, office space and training equipment of the two training staff of the School are provided by the Council. It has also received support from technical cooperation projects, including those carried out with ITC and other international and bilateral organizations. The School's budget covers only costs directly related to the organization of the work programme.

Each training event is self-financed through participants' fees. For example, the total cost of a two-week foundation course in export marketing is US$3,000. Participants are charged a fee of $100 each and, with an enrollment of 30 participants, all costs are covered. The budget for a course does not include the expenses of preparing and administering the programme by the School's two staff trainers. Nor does it take into consideration the costs of experts from other countries who participate in some programmes, as such expenses are covered by the sponsoring international agency. By applying such practices, the School is able to run its yearly programme of 20 training events on a self-financing basis. An example of a budget for a two-week course is given in the box on page 24.

Physical facilities

The School staff occupy a few offices in the Ghana Export Promotion Council. The Advisory Committee also meets in GEPC. The courses, however, are held in rented premises, preferably in other training institutions.

Until this year all of the training events were held in Accra. Now a few courses will be offered in other major trading centres in the country. At the present time most of the School's training activities in Accra take place in the Management Development and Productivity Institute and the Bank of Ghana Training School. Conference rooms are also occasionally leased from hotels, where rates are much higher. In Kumasi, the second largest economic centre in the country, a foundation course in export marketing will be organized in the Polytechnic.

Types of training

The School offers approximately 20 training events annually. They cover a wide range of subjects dealing with both techniques and products, reflecting exporters' training needs as well as the country's efforts to diversify its export product mix. For example, in 1990 the School held workshops on mushroom production for export, packaging and labelling, mango export production, the role of banks in export, export marketing for women entrepreneurs and export production management for village enterprises. it also conducted a foundation export marketing course. Most workshops and seminars are of two to five days' duration, while the basic export course is ten days. Last year 21 events were offered covering a range of products (for example mushrooms, pepper, pineapple and rattan); techniques (such as quality assurance, and costing and pricing) and target groups (exporters, trade commissioners and trainers). Similar activities are being organized this year. Examples:

An example of these training events is the School's foundation course in export marketing. This intensive course is for new exporters or current exporters wishing to improve their overall understanding of international marketing. It consists of nine modules representing 60 hours of instruction spread over a ten-day period. The event, which has been held several times in Accra, will now be offered in other major cities as well, starting in Kumasi this year.

An example of a specialized training activity is a recent workshop on how to market black pepper from export production villages. The three-day event was organized in cooperation with Ghana's Crop Research Institute, its Agricultural Development Bank, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Export Promotion Council. The programme consisted of technical lectures, field visits enabling participants to obtain on-the-spot exposure to practical applications and group discussions.

Another example is a recent one-week export workshop for women entrepreneurs. The objective was to upgrade skills in practical trade promotion techniques. The participants were mainly women engaged in importing who were considering expanding their business activities into exports.

Promotional activities

To launch its programmes during the first year of operation, the School publicized its courses and workshops through television and radio advertisements. Now that the School is known to the public, and its programmes are fully subscribed, it uses only newspaper advertisements, along with personal invitations. The annual training programme, listing specific events, is announced in local newspapers at the beginning of the calendar year. In addition special advertisements are placed a few weeks before the opening of each event (see example, page 25). The School also sends details on each workshop or course to all major organizations concerned with trade matters.

Problems encountered

The School has been faced with various problems during its first two years of operation, which are in the process of being overcome.

One of the main difficulties has been to find adequate training facilities. The School now rents space from two training institutions, but rooms are not always available when needed. Furthermore, for seminars with 40 to 60 participants, sufficiently large training facilities at rates affordable by the School are in short supply. By coordinating the planning of its training events more closely with the two training institutions' own course schedules, the School has been able to overcome the space problem to a large extent. At the same time, however, GES has less flexibility in scheduling its own events.

Another problem encountered has been the availability of resource persons. Although 17 trade specialists were initially identified as resource staff and were trained in teaching methods, they are not always available when needed because of their other professional commitments. To overcome this constraint, the School plans to find other such specialists and train them in pedagogical techniques to enlarge the group from which to recruit.

The remuneration of such specialists has been an additional issue that the School has had to tackle. Although the current fees are considered competitive, nonfinancial incentives would reinforce the technical contributions of these persons and could encourage them to become more directly involved in the School's programme. Inviting them to participate in the programme scheduling and encouraging their involvement in overall GES activities would likewise contribute to their sense of belonging and commitment to the School. As GES does not have any regular faculty, it is especially important for these resource persons - who have been selected and trained and have performed well -- to be recognized as being among GES most valuable assets. The School is taking these aspects into consideration as it further reinforces its group of specialists.

The lack of appropriate training materials available or developed by the School has been still another constraint in carrying out the programme. Because GES has no facilities and no regular faculty, it is essential for it to have its own training materials. To remedy this situation the School, in cooperation with ITC, has now written and published a casebook on the export experience of various Ghanaian companies. The production of other training materials is also under consideration, including adaptation of ITC's training packages to the particular needs of Ghanaian exporters and trade promotion officials.


The decision to create an effective training capacity in international business, centralized within the Export Promotion Council while having access to existing training expertise, has proven to be sound. Both the concept and role of the School have been firmly accepted by the export community, academia and trade-supporting institutions. The establishment of the GES has made a significant and sustainable contribution to the development of human resources in the country's foreign trade sector.

The School has already trained nearly 1,600 government officials, export executives and future exporters. It is expected that about 1,000 persons will be trained annually in the next several years, through 20 to 25 training events each year. All GES programmes are fully subscribed, and they have been well received by the business community. The cooperation of other trade-related organizations has contributed greatly to the relevance of the programme for the export community and has helped attract the appropriate type of candidates for the training events.

All of the programmes have been designed to meet specific training needs, which has contributed to the School's success. For example, the necessity for training in the development of mushroom cultivation for export was identified through contacts with the Food Crop Institute in the country. The School subsequently cooperated with the Institute in providing export development seminars for that product.

Besides serving as a means to upgrade export skills, the training programmes have increased export consciousness in the country and, along with this, have improved export performance. Through the training exporters have been able to upgrade the level of quality and presentation of their products, which has resulted in a significant drop in the number of export goods rejected by both the Standards institute in Ghana and importers in foreign markets. Similarly, fewer complaints on products and trade practices have been received by the GEPC from foreign buyers since the training started.

Future plans

This year the School plans to offer training programmes in other major trading cities, as mentioned above. In addition to a foundation course to take place in Kumasi, organized with the Polytechnic, a wider range of seminars will be conducted in Kumasi and also in other cities.

In the longer term, GES foresees establishing a programme leading to a diploma in foreign trade. The training will cover a period of several months, possibly up to one year on a parttime basis. It will be aimed at export managers wishing to obtain a professional qualification in the trade sector. The School is holding initial discussions with local training institutions and ITC to formalize a cooperation agreement to offer such a programme.

To help overcome the current lack of appropriate training facilities, the Ghana Export Promotion Council is planning to include in its future office requirements several conference rooms fully equipped with audiovisual equipment for courses.

The Council is also considering strengthening the core staff of the School with additional personnel, particularly because the training activities are now being extended to other locations in the country.

To realize these plans, the School will need to undertake research and development, such as training needs surveys and the development of training materials. it will also be required to develop further the skills of its staff through additional training for them. This research and development activity will increase in importance as GES expands its activities geographically and enters into new subject areas reflecting both the country's export diversification efforts and exporters' growing experience in international trade. The offering of a diploma programme will likewise require substantial research and development work before it can be launched.

Application by others

The approach used by GES can be applied in other countries, with appropriate modifications (see the box at left giving the main considerations for setting up and operating such a school successfully).

Certain conditions must exist before starting to establish an export school of this type. First and foremost is a clear need for such a school. It should be determined that no existing training institution in the country can fulfill that need. A training capacity analysis can be carried out for this purpose.

Once established, the school should be committed to working closely with the government, business and academia to provide relevant and practical seminars and workshops. The creation of an advisory committee that is representative of the trade sector and academia is a way to achieve such cooperation. The committee should be actively involved in the school's activities.

Another element that is basic in applying the approach adopted by Ghana's School is ensuring that programmes are self-financing. The availability of a pool of trade specialists in the country is a further fundamental requirement for adopting the approach elsewhere.

Longer term

In the long term, a school that is set up along the lines described above might be tempted because of its success to transform itself into a regular training institution with its own full-time faculty, own premises and degree-granting powers. Such a proposal should be studied carefully, however, as it would depart from the initial concept of a school meeting exporters' training needs with a minimum allocation of financial, human and physical resources. A successful training arrangement as discussed above based on low investment should not be altered without careful consideration of the costs and benefits involved.

Organizational set-up: Ghana Export School

Ghana Export Promotion Council [arrow down] Executive Secretary [arrow down] Export School Advisory Committee Ministry of Trade and Tourism Customs, Exercise and Prevention Service Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Bank of Ghana Ghana National Chamber of Commerce Institute of Marketing Institute of Bankers Shippers' Council Ghana Airways Management Development and Productivity Institute University of Ghana School of Administration

Example: budget for a basic course in export marketing

Duration: 10 day Participants: 30 persons
Expenses US$
Honoraria for resource persons (34 specilists at $20 a session) 680
Room rental ($25 per day) 250
Lunch ($2.50 per person per day) 750
Refreshments ($1.55 per person per day) 465
Brochures and certificates 340
Stationery and photocopy paper 145
Name tags ($1.50 each) 45
Transportation for participants 150
Advertisements (2 insertions at $50 each) 100
Photograph of participants ($2.50 per copy) 75
Total $3,000


Fees charged to participants ($100 per person) $3,000

National Mushroom Project

WORKSHOP ON MUSHROOM PRODUCTION THE GHANA EXPORT PROMOTION COUNCIL (G.E.P.C.) in collaboration with the FOOD RESEARCH INSTITUTE (F.R.I.) is organizing a two-day workshop on mushroom production Day 1: Thursday,

30 January, 1992 Venue: M.D.P.I., Accra Day 2: Friday, Venue: Pilot Plant of F.R.I.,


Fee: 7,000 [cents] (meals


For registration contact the Executive Secretary, G.E.P.C., Republic House, Tudu, Accra.

Factors for success: an export school based on the GES example

Aim to achieve: - Flexible structure - Low investment in faculty and facilities - Low operational costs - Close links to business, government and academia - Strong commitment of school's sponsoring organization - Practical, tailormade courses based on identified needs - Use of trade specialists as resource persons - Adequate training of resource persons in pedagogical skills - Carrying out of limited but relevant research and development - Training offered in the local language - Continuously revised programme reflecting changing export mix - Expansion of the programme throughout the country Try to avoid: - High turnover of resource persons - Relying on a limited number of resource persons - Providing insufficient incentives for resource persons - Using inadequate training facilities - Broadening the audience beyond the foreign trade sector - Offering courses too general or too academic in nature - Extending the programme beyond international trade subjects - Organizing programmes only in the city where the school is located
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Author:Cellich, Claude; Ahwoi, Kwesi
Publication:International Trade Forum
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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