Spokesperson on Trade, Industry and State Enterprises for the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Kwame Awuah-Darko, has blamed the continuous dispute between Ghanaian traders and their Nigerian counterparts on the lack of access to funds for the Ghanaian traders which make them uncompetitive.
Some members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, GUTA, have attributed the collapse of their businesses to the invasion of foreigners especially Nigerians, in the retail sub-sector, and have thus been calling for a strict enforcement of Ghana’s laws banning foreigners from engaging in retail trade.
But in an interview with Citi Business News, Kwame Awuah-Darko said the current situation could have been avoided if Ghanaian traders had access to favorable funds which would have given them a competitive advantage in the retail space.
“Look at the current fight between the Ghanaian traders and the Nigerian traders, it’s all coming from the fact that Ghanaian traders have lost access to capital because we wiped off indigenous banks that were providing capital for Ghanaian businesses and the banks that are left are foreign (Nigerian and South African) who lend to their countrymen using Ghanaian deposits. Not that there is anything wrong; but as a government you must have a strategy when you are talking about creating an enabling environment, where your people have access to capital,” he added.
Ghana and Nigeria begin high level talks to settle trade dispute
A Nigerian delegation led by the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Olufemi Gbajabiamila, and a Ghanaian delegation led by Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, recently held talks to find ways to improve trade relations between the two countries.
This follows recurring tensions between Ghanaian and Nigerian retailers in parts of the country, particularly Accra and Kumasi.
A statement issued by Ghana’s Parliament after the first engagement stated that discussions so far have been on how the implementation of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 2013, Act 865, can be carried out in a manner that will not render Nigerian traders in Ghana jobless, ”since most of them have had their shops closed and some fines levied on them in accordance with the provisions of the Act.”
It also noted that Ghana’s sovereignty and national interest in the matter has been in the front burner in all discussions held so far.
Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, assured Nigerians of Ghana’s good intentions. He also stated that reports on the matter may have escalated tensions and encouraged the use of diplomacy in the resolutions.
In his submissions, Speaker Olufemi Gbajabiamila also urged both countries to use legislative diplomacy to resolve the issues confronting them.
Trade Minister, Alan Kyerematen, also explained the context of the GIPC Act and its implementation, adding that it was not targeted at any particular national.
Earlier last year, after Nigeria closed its borders to stop the alleged smuggling of sub-standard products from neighbouring West African states, the Ghana Union of Traders, GUTA, also asked authorities to strictly enforce Ghana’s laws banning foreigners from engaging in retail trade. According to them, the activities of the foreigners breach the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre’s Act (Act 865).
Per Section 27 of the GIPC Act 865, “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 a market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place,”
Members of the union say government has not fulfilled its promise of ridding the market of such traders despite several appeals.
GUTA consequently locked up over 600 foreign-owned shops in Accra and Kumasi belonging to the foreigners.
President Akufo-Addo in a meeting with the leadership of GUTA on Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, stated that “undoubtedly, the law favours GUTA’s position” but, urged the leadership and membership of GUTA not to take the law into their own hands in dealing with the foreign traders.
This led to the formation of a task force by the Presidency to address the issues, but there have renewed tensions over the disagreement.