The dilemma of an indigenous entrepreneur, Derrick Dotse, who is engaged in distilling a hugely successful brand of herbal based alcoholic drink – a genre popularly known as ‘bitters” vividly illustrates the need for state support for small indigenous manufacturers whose activities still straddle the formal and informal sectors, but who have strong growth potential.
Dotse produces Wengeze bitters, a herbal-based drink utilizing 21 different herbal ingredients derived from all around the country. Approved by the Foods and Drugs Authority, most buyers of the drink claim that it has medicinal qualities – a claim made by all other brands of this genre of drink, but which many buyers have since dismissed as false.
However, in the case of Wengeze, the ingredients are primarily herbal roots the Dotse learned to use for his good health right from childhood; he simply adds on alcohol to make it more widely attractive to the consumer market.
Instructively, apart from Ghana itself, it has attracted export markets in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Benin Republic. Although financial and logistical constraints prevent him from exporting his product directly; this is done entirely by third party traders.
The business started in 2014 and now employs nearly 40 staff. Importantly, the enterprise handles wholesale distribution itself through five distribution depots. Dotse claims this is part of his quality assurance strategy, to ensure the product is not adulterated along the supply chain.
However, despite strong demand for the product, he is unable to match it with commensurate supply since he lacks the finance to scale up production and does not qualify for bank financing, while micro-financing is too expensive for manufacturing activities to service viably.
Without support from the state – in the form of financing on concessionary terms, tax holidays or the likes – growth will only be organic, a slow and arduous process, even as an available consumer market, both local and foreign, lies un-satiated.
Economic analysts point to enterprises such a Dotse’s as clear examples of micro and small-sized enterprises that are most deserving of state support which do not get any undercurrent schemes such as the GHc1 billion Coronavirus Alleviation Programme because the net, by its very design, excludes them.