Gov’t must come clean on foreigners in retail trade

Government’s decision to extend the deadline for the eviction of foreigners in the retail trade space has not gone down well with the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA), and this is to be expected. In arriving at the decision, GUTA claims it was not consulted. It thus feels double-crossed by the Trade Ministry.

Considering the fact that the committee formed to implement the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre’s Act, which bars foreign nationals from participating in retail trade, has five members drawn from GUTA, it is indeed surprising that they were not privy to the circumstances that led to the postponement.

We understand that some West African nationals are not too happy with the GIPC clause that bars ECOWAS members from participating in retail trade and lumps together them with all foreigners who are supposed to raise US$1 million for wholly-owned foreign trading companies buying and selling imported goods or services.

Specifically, Nigerians have taken up the matter with the ECOWAS Commission, claiming it is discriminatory and against the ideals of regional integration.

However, the GIPC Act 865, Section 27 (1) is explicit and says “a person who is not a citizen, or an enterprise which is not wholly owned by a citizen shall not invest or participate in the sale of goods or provision of services in the market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place”.

The back on forth between government and GUTA over this manner has been around for far too long. Clearly, the government has failed to enforce this piece of legislation that appears a tall order. We at the B&FT believe the time has come for government to take its head out of the proverbial sand and ask itself the tough question of whether the law should remain or go.

Our position is not to call for its abrogation; our position is that government should enforce the law if it believes so much in it. Otherwise, it should scrap it and settle the controversies surrounding it for good.

Protecting aspects of business from foreign domination is not a new thing throughout the world, and throughout history, although those global trade benefits make it look such a bad thing. Donald Trump has been in the news a lot lately for his very attempt at protecting American businesses. The government of Ghana must be resolute and firm when it intends to protect any indigenous businesses. Otherwise, it should spare us putting such laws in place only to end up not implementing them.

The Trade and Industry Ministry and the GIPC should therefore come clean on this piece of legislation and give us reason to believe they will enforce this piece of legislation, or it should be scrapped.