Foreigners need to be allowed in the retail business in Ghana?
Adnan Adams Mohammed
Recent impasse between the Ghanaian retailers in the automobile and mobile phone industry and Nigerians have generated a resounding discussions and suggestions as to how Ghana could better regulate its trade and business laws to accommodate foreigners while protecting local businesses.
Among some of the discussions are around the GIPC Act which bans foreign entities and nationals not to go into retail businesses in the country.
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act, 2013 (Act 865) stipulates that ‘A person who is not a citizen or an enterprise which is not wholly owned by a citizen shall not invest or participate in (a) the sale of goods or provision of services in a market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place.’
The Ministry of Trade and Industry last year issued a statement warning the non-Ghanaians in the retail sector to leave the markets or face the wrath of the government.
In a statement, the Ministry threatened to take legal action against non-Ghanaians who do not adhere to the directive.
“Notice is hereby given to all non-Ghanaians who are engaged in retail trading activities contrary to the provision of the Act [GIPC Law 2013] to desist from doing so. All persons engaged in such practices are therefore advised to stop to avoid legal actions being taken against them,” the Ministry’s statement directed.
“Offenders are entreated to move out of the markets by Friday, July 27, 2018,” the statement added.
However, as at June, 2019, Ghanaian retail business operators in part of the country were still struggling with foreigners (especially, Nigerians) for the retail spaces and customers in markets, mostly around Kumasi-Suame Magazine and Accra-Circle Tiptoe lane.
The Ghanaians complained that, the Nigerians have taken over the retail business with cheap-inferior goods thereby creating unfriendly market competition. Yet, the government’s inability to enforce the GIPC law pushed the Suame Magazine spare parts dealers to force the Nigerians out of retail business.
Several Ghanaians and foreign nationals did not welcome the force used by the Suame Spare parts dealers to push the foreigners out of the retail market. They described the situation as a possible igniter for xenophobic attacks on nationals of the two sister nations in the individual countries since there are also huge number of Ghanaians in Nigerian trading and doing all kind of businesses.
But, the President of the Republic, Nana AddoDankwaAkufo-Addo holds a contrary view to that assertion. He has said, Ghana is not a xenophobic State, and has no problems with fellow Africans living and working in the country.
“There is no xenophobia in Ghana; we are not a xenophobic State. We are the pan-African nation that has opened its doors to all Africans, and they are not going to be the object of any hate campaign in Ghana”, the President said,last week, at a farewell event to the outgoing Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana, Bernard Ehui-Koutua, who also doubles as the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Ghana.
Experts say, the government must allow the foreigners to remain in the retail business which would bring competitiveness and also make the economy grow.
This is the right time for the government to lead the agenda for the unification of trade for West Africa and for that matter Africa as a whole as Africa pursue a common trade area. It would help to expand our economy, create more jobs for our youths as well as increase the country’s domestic tax revenue.
They of the view that some provisions in the current GIPC Act are outmoded, and if it continues to remain in the GIPC Act, the country’s economy would not grow, it would be stagnant.
In USA for instance, foreigners are allowed to remain in the retail sector which is making their economy to rise, if we don’t change things in Africa, we would be going backwardness. It is high time that law is scrapped since it has outlived its usefulness.
There is the need for the government to give an equal playing field for each and every one, be it local trader or foreign to deepen the competitiveness in the country, they said.