Ghana currently has a regulatory framework that broadly aligns with the goal of enhanced intra-African trade being espoused by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a new report has shown.
The ‘Situational Analysis of Ghana’s AfCFTA Preparedness’ – jointly published by Ishmael Yamson & Associates in collaboration with Sam Okudzeto & Associates – showed that the nation is ahead of many of its peers regarding the broad framework for implementing the agreement.
“Ghana’s labour laws are generally aligned with principles and objectives of the AfCFTA… These laws and regulations are generally aligned with international norms and standards, and they provide a good foundation for Ghana to participate in the AfCFTA.
“Ghana has a robust legal and regulatory framework for trade. Government has also developed, and to some extent implemented, various policies and initiatives to promote trade…,” portions of the report read.
The report, which provided a review of the legal, policy and regulatory framework for implementing AfCFTA in Ghana, however highlighted areas for improvement across trade in goods as well as services, labour, investment, dispute resolution and competition.
A review of the Immigration Act and Labour Act was mooted as a step toward eliminating restrictions on the movement of people and skills originating from AfCFTA state parties. By doing so, the nation will enhance its attractiveness for skilled labour from diverse African regions.
This, the report argued, will complement the nation’s commitment to facilitating the movement of workers and skills from across the African continent, as reflected in the National Pensions (Amendment) Act 2014 (Act 883).
“The National Pensions (Amendment) Act 2014 (Act 883) is a commendable move that reflects Ghana’s willingness to encourage the movement of workers from other parts of Africa into the country. This amendment is in line with the AfCFTA’s goal of promoting the movement of people and skills within Africa; and it is likely to make Ghana a more attractive destination for skilled workers from across the continent,” it read.
However, the report emphasised the need to strike a careful balance between attracting foreign investments and safeguarding its national interests. Continual consultation with various stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society organisations, is crucial in achieving this equilibrium.
To ensure effective operation and compliance with AfCFTA principles, the report also pushed for the promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms – like mediation and arbitration – to resolve disputes efficiently.
The report also highlighted the importance of strengthening the country’s intellectual property (IP) regime. While Ghana’s IP framework is generally in line with international standards, it may need updating to align with the AfCFTA IP protocol. This includes enacting new laws and regulations, providing resources and training for IP professionals, and enhancing enforcement mechanisms – such as establishing specialised IP courts and providing access to comprehensive IP information through online databases.
The protection of indigenous rights and traditional knowledge is vital in the context of AfCFTA. Ghana is encouraged to create a strong legal framework to safeguard the rights of indigenous communities and ensure the appropriate use and recognition of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.
Policymakers were urged to develop a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence (AI) that suits the nation’s unique needs and circumstances. This framework should account for the potential benefits and risks of AI, protect human rights and ensure data privacy. Collaboration with other African countries to develop a harmonised AI regulatory framework is also suggested.
Ghana however currently lacks comprehensive competition legislation, which is a common issue in many African countries. To address this gap, the Protection Against Unfair Competition Act, 2000 (Act 589) may require amendments or adjustments to accommodate cross-border trade and unfair competition within AfCFTA. Additionally, the report recommends harmonising the Act’s definitions with those ascribed to unfair competition practices in AfCFTA. This consistency will ensure uniform interpretation across different participating countries.
For effective operation within AfCFTA, the Act should also include provisions for handling cross-border disputes arising from unfair competition practices between Ghana and other AfCFTA member-states. Coordination with regional authorities responsible for enforcing AfCFTA regulations can further enhance cooperation in addressing cross-border unfair competition issues.
As host of the AfCFTA secretariat, Ghana was one of the first to ratify the arrangement and participate in the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI).
When fully realised, AfCFTA is expected to be the largest free trade area since formation of the World Trade Organisation, given Africa’s current population of 1.3 billion people – which is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050 and increase the volume of trade among African countries from 15 percent to over 80 percent by 2035.
As of August 2023, 47 countries – that is, 87 percent of the 54 signatories – had submitted their instruments of ratification for the AfCFTA.