The Private Enterprise Federation(PEF) has charged government to consult private business owners in the country before it rolls out policies that will affect their operations.
The call was in response to some reforms that have been announced by the Ghana Investment Promotion Center(GIPC) to restructure activities in the retail sector aimed at boosting local and foreign investment.
Speaking at the Investment Opportunities Forum as part of the Citi Business festival, the Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprise Federation, Nana Osei-Bonsu cautioned against using top-down approach in designing policies.
“The government policies that drive the enabling environment may be the biggest enemy of the private sector or can be the biggest friend of the private sector if its structured right, if it done with consultations, if it is done with the understanding of what pertains on the ground. We have always have a top-down policy matrix,” he pointed out.
He was of the view that government’s refusal to engage the private sector before it opens the retail sector is the misconception that—private businesses in the retail sector were demanding for protection.
“We are not asking for protection. We are asking for support, the support mean a lot of countries subsidize their businesses to come here,” he said.
Nana Osei-Bunsu maintained that it important to use the bottom-up approach when designing policies since such laws ultimately affect the livelihood of ordinary Ghanaians.
Earlier at the forum, the Chief Executive Officer of the GIPC, Mr. Yofi Grant stated that the center will no longer reserve the retail sector for Ghanaians as it incentivize them to move into critical sectors of the economy such as production and manufacturing.
Mr. Grant argued that it is time for Ghanaian business owners to expand their operations and move beyond the retail sector that is mainly made up of the sale of imported goods, and petty trading.
He insisted that the real sectors of the economy must not be left in the hands of foreigners while Ghanaians confine themselves to the retail sector.
“My position is, we have gone through that. Sixty years of Ghana, we have enough of protectionism. We now need to move to incentivize, we need to start building up our business, we need to start bringing them up. We need to stop being table top traders importing goods from China, India and everywhere to trade on table tops. We need to move those guys on the table tops into shops, we need to move those in shops into manufacturing. We need to move those in manufacturing into owners of capital so that they can also reinvest,” he maintained.
Mr. Grant was of the view that time is running out on Ghanaians in the retail sector since global trends are influencing the structure of the retail industry.
“I don’t look for things that protect; I look for things that project. So I if we are keeping and selling in market to Ghanaians only the reality today, is that the 98 percent of the things we sell in the market are not even Ghanaian. The other reality is that, mark my words, as this country becomes more middle class all those markets are gradually going to disappear and will be replaced by formalized supermarkets and chains, and we are seeing it happen,” he warned.
Citing the changes in the transport business as an example, Mr. Grant stated that technology has changed the face of public transport hence Ghanaians cannot sit in their comfort zones and expect to benefit.
“That is a natural evolution that has happened in so many places in the world, Ghana is not an exception, it will happen. I will better see our Ghanaians now owning supermarkets than still be stuck at table tops. We talk of reserving taxi driving for Ghanaians only, but today we have Uber, Uber is a disruption in the taxi service and I bet somebody who wants to come here to run his Uber service will do it anyway, We already have foreigners selling in our markets,” he said.
On his part, the CEO of African Tiger Holdings Limited, Mr. Henri Wientjes who was part of the panel cautioned against opening up the country’s economy for imports of goods that are produced in the country.
He mentioned for example that Ghana could make a lot of foreign earnings from Oil Palm and sugar to reduce their import.