Monday, 24 August 2020

Foreigners in retail business: stakeholders proffer solution

 Ghana: GUTA Locks up Retail Shops Belonging to Foreigners ...

 

 

 Adnan Adams Mohammed

  

For the past half a decade, Ghanaian traders and foreigners operating in the retail business (especially, Nigerians) in a breach to the Ghana Investment Promotion Center(GIPC) law have been jostling each other to the extent of forcefully locking up shops belonging to foreigners within the business districts of Accra and Kumasi.

 

 

Many have condemned the persisting hostile situation while others support the actions of the Ghanaian traders and the Trade Ministry in ensuring that, the country’s law on trade and investment are respected. 

 

 

The latest prominent stakeholder to add his voice in looking for everlasting solution is the a former Minister of Trade and Industry who has advised the Nigerian traders to move their shops from areas designated as markets, as the law of Ghana bar them from retail trade in such designated areas.

 

 

“Nigerian retail traders should be fine, once they choose to sell in malls or big shops outside areas designated as markets”, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah noted in an interview, last week, when speaking on the worrying lingering situation between the giants in the West Africa sub-region.

 

 

The Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA), over the years, has been closing Nigerian-owned shops based on the GIPC law that bars foreigners from engaging in retail business in the country. The incessant closure of Nigerian shops earlier this week forced the Nigerian government to summon Ghana’s Chargé d'Affaires to Africa’s most populous country to protest and demand resolution to the protracted problem.

 

 

Mr Spio-Garbrah disclosed that, during his term as Trade Minister, he learnt from the then-Chief Justice and her team that the GIPC law bars foreigners in retail trading at market arenas and, thus, advised the Nigerians and other foreigners to move their shops far away from the markets.

 

 

“The Chief Justice and her staff pointed out that the legislation, as far as they know, was not to ban non-Ghanaians from trading in general, which many people seem to think is the law. However, the banning takes place in areas designated as market places”.

 

 

“So, the first thing to ask when there’s conflict in an area, whether Kumasi or Accra is whether that area has been designated as a market place. And the authority that designates these areas as market places are the local governments like the Accra Metropolitan Assembly or the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, would have designated Kejetia or Agbogbloshie or Mallam Atta or Kaneshie as market places.

 

“When that designation takes place, then people who are non-Ghanaians…they cannot sell in that area designated as a market place.

 

“So, what any Nigerian or Chinese or anybody considered a foreigner, who is selling in a designated place can do, is to move their shops or acquire another shop that is not in a place designated as a market. So, for example, Melcom is an Indian-owned company, it’s involved in retail trade and almost all the shops at the malls of Accra or Kumasi are retailers but they are not in areas designated as market places where they can sell and not cause any problem”.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Nigerian retailers in Ghana are calling for the amendment of the GIPC law that bars foreigners from retail trade to harmonise the local law with the ECOWAS protocols that allow ECOWAS citizens to freely trade in member countries.

 

 

Section 27(1) of GIPC Act 865 generally lays out activities that foreign investors are not permitted to invest or participate in. This list is not exclusive. Other laws have provisions on activities reserved for Ghanaians.

 

 

These activities include 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.

 

Other activities not permitted for non-citizens include the operation of taxi or car hire service in an enterprise that has a fleet of less than twenty-five vehicles; the operation of a beauty salon or a barbershop; and the printing of recharge scratch cards for the use of subscribers of telecommunication services.

 

The rest are: the production of exercise books and other basic stationery; the retail of finished pharmaceutical products; and the production, and retail of sachet water.

 

Isaac Osahon Ekhator, General Secretary for the All Nigerian Community in Ghana speaking on the current uproar between them and GUTA said, “We feel that in the implementation of the GIPC law, at least there should be a level of human face attached to it because many Nigerians came in here believing that as a citizen of ECOWAS, they are free and they are at liberty to carry out their businesses and conduct their affairs within the ECOWAS space and not undermining the laws of the country in which they are domiciled.

 

“So, if you even look at the passport in which ECOWAS citizens move around, it is written that its an ECOWAS passport so we were also thinking that the GIPC law should be in harmony, there should be that agreement between the GIPC law and ECOWAS protocol so that we avert some of these problems that we are currently experiencing.”

 

Article (3) of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS stipulates the removal of trade barriers and harmonisation of trade policies for the establishment of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market and an eventual culmination into a Monetary and Economic Union in West Africa.

 

 

Also, the Nigeria Union of Traders Association, Ghana (NUTAG) has criticized and chastised the leadership of GUTA for unlawfully closing down shops belonging to Nigerians in Accra and some parts of the country.

 

 

President of NUTAG Chief Chukwuemeka Levi Nnagi described the move by GUTA as “dishonest” and “needless” when speaking in a separate interview, last week.

 

 

Chief Nnagi believes GUTA has been unfair and is only perpetrating illegitimate and iniquitous action against Nigerians and other foreigners in Ghana. Claiming that, GUTA is playing politics instead of allowing the law that permits foreigners to do business in Ghana take its course.

 

 

“My people are feeling hardship and the issue here is that the shops were locked up for no reason and we are going to do everything within our power to let the world hear about this.”

 

 

NUTAG has petitioned the Nigerian High Commission and authorities in Nigeria for their intervention and he is optimistic that with God calm and peace would be restored.

 

 

Consequently, Chief Nnagi insisted that, Nigeria did not close its borders as perceived in Ghana.

 

“Let me make it clear to all Ghanaians [that] Nigeria did not close their borders. What they did is to monitor activities and asked foreigners to bring their goods through sea. I import my goods through sea in Ghana and what is wrong about it?” he quizzed.

 

He thus described the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat to the African Union in Ghana as a joke and big scam since he believes Ghana has not rectified its laws to suit African Continental Free Trade.

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