Those who actively follow us will already know what our biggest goal for 2020 is: the completion of our new, solar-powered chocolate factory in the rural region of Suhum in Ghana. The construction of the factory, which is expected to be completed in autumn this year, is running quite smoothly despite the current situation. Here we keep you informed about the steps until the completion of the factory:
Week 1-3: We are building! Oh, first of all, bureaucracy
Before we can get started, we first have to register the planned construction and obtain various permits. In addition to food permits, a permit from the Ghanaian fire brigade must also be obtained. Furthermore, it has to be clarified whether our planned location may be used for industrial purposes at all. For this purpose, an appointment has been scheduled at the next town meeting in Suhum.
Week 4-7: We are allowed to build! Ooh, more bureaucracy!
We have received permission to build a factory for business purposes at our planned location. This is an important milestone on our way to the first solar-powered chocolate factory in Suhum. Of course, we also have to consider the environment, which is why it is being clarified exactly in which area our factory may be built and how. Permits from the Ministry of the Environment and Science are also required for this. We are confident that we will receive these soon. We still need a preliminary environmental report, which is why we are currently looking for an independent auditor to draft it for us. Confidence is spreading that the bureaucratic steps will soon be completed.
Week 8-10: approval after approval – we’re making progress
Our preliminary environmental report has been completed and submitted to the appropriate department. Hopefully we will be able to put the matter behind us after the review. During a personal visit to the Regional Director of the responsible planning office, we made it clear once again how urgently we need the approval of the Ministry for Environment and Science. After we have clarified the financial and accounting aspects, everything will be put in place. We also had to clarify a few things with the tax office. So we are still working our way through a mountain of bureaucratic regulations. The anticipation to finally start the construction increases daily.
Week 11-13: Negotiations with local developers in the final phase, we will start soon
It was clear to us from the beginning and also a criterion to work with local construction companies. After several rounds of negotiations, we found suitable partners, a joint team consisting of South African and Ghanaian construction companies. Now the ground work can start quite quickly. So we see the light at the end of the tunnel and we are optimistic to be able to present great news with the next update!
Week 14: The effects of COVID-19 are also visible in Ghana
Almost all countries worldwide have imposed a curfew in the wake of the novel corona virus. The government in Ghana is also imposing such conditions, suspending flights and closing the borders. We must hope for a rapid improvement in the situation. The safety of our employees on site is of course our first priority.
Week 15-16: It finally starts! The construction site becomes our workplace
After weeks of talks and tough negotiations we can finally get started! We start with the ground work and land surveying in Suhum. All people involved are full of energy to build a state-of-the-art, solar-powered chocolate factory. We take another look at what this means for the people and the region. A great feeling.
Land surveys are in full swing
Week 17: Finally! fairafric is a free trade zone company
After weeks of to and fro, thanks to the generous help of the office of Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo, we were able to bag our last outstanding permit: The Free Zone Company Registration. Now the bureaucratic preparations have finally been completed, allowing us to concentrate fully on building our factory. A relieving feeling.
Week 18: Electricity and running water are also the basics when building a factory
Before the foundation of the chocolate factory can even be built, the huge construction site must be supplied with both electricity and running water. This was guaranteed at the beginning of May, which means we can finally move from the planning phase to the implementation phase.
Finally, we can start: Our team is ready
Week 19: Construction can finally begin – or can it?
After the foundations have been laid, as mentioned above, we can finally start with the construction. The partner company “Group Five”, which is mainly responsible for the construction, is now on site and should start work. However, before we can start, Mother Nature seems to try playing a trick on us. According to our partner, the ground on which our factory is to be built may contain too much clay. We will have to carry out further tests. Worst case? We have to expect a significant delay. But we are starting with a lot of energy and we will not be thrown off track. Nevertheless, there is also some news beyond the factory floor: One of our suppliers, Buhler Germany, has informed us that the molding line for our factory may be delayed. So the week did not go perfectly. Nevertheless, we remain positive. As the saying goes: Rome was not built in a day either!
Despite some problems everything is going according to plan
The next week starts with the ever prevalent topic of the clay content in our soil. To our relief, we have found out through soil samples that the problem is not a real problem after all. The work on the foundation is already in full swing. The plastering of the inner side of the wall, which will be around our site, is now completed. Great work, considering the length of the fence! The work on the outside is now starting. The small delay from the previous week will be made up by our motivated colleagues on site. Great news from Buhler Germany is also reaching us: The delays announced in the previous week can be averted after all. The completion of the drainage system is scheduled for the near future. This is important to protect the building from the potential storm-related damage.
Week 20/21: Waiting for the opening of the border – and again and again this clay
The Buhler machines will arrive within the planned time frame. However, there is currently the problem that the airlines do not yet allow any international flights into Ghana. Yet an external team is urgently needed to install the machines. We are working hard to find solutions and prepare everything necessary. The good news is that we have already assembled the team so that we can start as soon as we get the go-ahead.
Great progress on the construction site despite delays
Away from the problem of entry, an old problem reappears: The clay content of the soil is worse than feared. To protect the building in the long term, it was decided to mix 25cm of gravel under the building platform. This will also impact the planning of other areas, which will increase the costs. Our steel frames will arrive next week and will be brought to the construction site as soon as the construction of the foundation is completed. There is great news regarding the construction of our security tower: Excavations have started and should be completed on time.
There were also other training sessions on hygiene and handling of the corona rules. The topic should and must not be neglected despite the daily routine. The safety of our employees is paramount!
Week 22: Further work on the foundation – and once again Mother Nature
During this week, further work was done to eliminate the clay problem. Our 70 employees are constantly on site and in the process of integrating the gravel layer and completing the drainage canal. Our steel frames arrived at the port on time and as expected. Unfortunately there were again unavoidable delays this week: heavy rainfall slowed down the work considerably and made it more difficult. But even the rainfall has something positive: our drainage system is working.
Even in spite of heavy rainfall, work continues on the construction site
Week 23: The foundation was (almost) laid
The week was again marked by heavy rainfall. But this could not really slow down the work on site. Consequently, a clear picture is slowly emerging on the construction site, as the foundation is nearing completion! Incredible news. The first containers with steel girders have also arrived at the construction site. Within the next two weeks, Buhler and LoeschPack will send us the machines for our factory. So the week went very satisfactorily and you can slowly see the big picture.
The foundation is almost completely laid and a clear picture emerges on the construction site
Week 24: Life cannot be planned 100% – neither can a factory
As a result of heavy rainfall and the still very present restrictions due to Covid-19, there are unfortunately delays of several weeks. The first chocolate bars are therefore expected to roll off the belt in mid-September. On the construction site, things are still progressing well, since the first girders have just been erected. Meanwhile, Buhler is packing our containers in Germany and Switzerland and preparing them for transport to Ghana. The planned start of the journey: Next week.
The first steel beams rise up on the construction site
Week 25: The containers are ready to arrive
At the beginning of the week, a test of both our Bühler moulding line and our LöschPack packaging machine was scheduled. This test was to ensure that compatibility could be guaranteed. Fortunately, this was the case, which is why the containers can finally be delivered! The construction of the factory has suffered a small delay because some components were missing from the last delivery. These are now being replaced by local contractors. Buhler will most likely be on site in August, which is why the start of production in September remains our target.
Week 26: We can fly again very soon!
The week began with great news: Ghana will open its borders to international air traffic between July 15th and 31st, giving us more planning security. On site, everything is progressing well, the steel frames are almost finished and the delayed construction of our concrete platform will also start next week. Our employees on site are taking an extended break this weekend, as they have been working relentlessly for the last 4 weeks. Relaxation is a must despite all motivation!
Week 27: Are we compacted? Yeah we’re compacted!
The week began with a compaction test. This was necessary before the planned construction of the concrete platform could take place. The test went very well, but we have to be patient and wait for the certificate, which is why the construction is delayed by a few days. The week was marked by many minor works such as tiling the floor of the security towers, electrical work and the completion of the security gate. Everything is still going according to plan and there were no significant setbacks. So it continues!
We are happy to continue providing you with insights on current events at this point. For us, as well, it is currently becoming apparent that despite months of planning, unplanned influencing factors are often coming your way. However, thanks to the progress made and the positive mood on the construction site, we can cope with the small delays without any problems. We are still confident that we will be able to present you further updates soon.