Graphic Online

Graphic Online 

Trade Ministry rescinds decision to exclude foreigners from retail trade

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe

A last-minute decision by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) to rescind its directive to all foreigners in the domestic retail business to leave the local market before July 27, this year has been met with stiff resistance from the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA).

The ministry issued the directive on July 11, this year, in line with Section 27(1) of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act, that
debars foreigners from participating in the local retail sector. 

Following that directive, some groups mounted pressure on the ministry to rescind its decision, since the move could mar trade relations between Ghana and some West African countries in particular.

In a dramatic twist, the ministry, in a release signed by its acting Chief Director, Mr Ebenezer Padi Adjirackor, and issued in Accra Wednesday, said the directive had been suspended “to intensify sensitisation and education in the domestic retail trade sector”.

The release urged stakeholders in the retail sector and members of the public to cooperate with the ministry in the sensitisation process to
ensure that the right steps were taken to sanitise the retail trade sector.

Defiance


In a sharp response to the u-turn, some traders and the national executive of GUTA thronged the premises of the ministry yesterday to ask officials of MoTI to make good their earlier directive.

Sources close to a tensed meeting that was held with a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah, said tempers rose so high, ending the meeting abruptly.

Meanwhile, in defiance of the latest turn of events, GUTA has directed all its members to “take every step within their means to protect their territories in the local market after the July 27 deadline.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic on the issue, the Deputy National Secretary of GUTA, Mr Emmanuel Nana Poku Acheampong, called on  President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to axe Mr Ahenkorah from office as Deputy Minister as a matter of urgency.

“GUTA is of the view that we cannot work with Mr Ahenkorah any longer because he does not respect traders, and his actions are creating insecurity for Ghanaian traders. He has demonstrated incompetence in dealing with us, but we still hold the view that no sovereign country will be enforcing a law and still try to educate those who are flouting the law.

“GUTA will not sit down unconcerned on this issue so, we will go all out and fight to claim our birth rights,” he stressed.

Murky situation

In a related development, a group called Start in Ghana Investment Limited, an entity that focuses on promoting trade relations between Ghana and Nigeria, is strongly opposed to the earlier directive by the ministry for foreigners to be flushed out of the domestic retail sector.

At a press conference held in Accra Wednesday, the group described the directive by MoTI as “a threat to national security and the lives of
Ghanaians who are also engaged in petty trade in Nigeria”.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the group, Mr Yahaya Alhassan, who spoke to journalists, said attempts to flush out retail traders from
West African countries in particular could result in a “fullblown trade war and violence”.

“We have passed the notorious eras of 1969 and 1983 and there are intermarriages among us, with Ghana having no better trusted friends
or neighbours than Nigeria.

“Ghana is a signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty which promotes trade harmonisation, cooperation, integration and unionisation, as clearly stipulated in Article 3 of the treaty. We in Ghana can, therefore, not harbour and hatch a trade blockade in this century against a
treaty that was signed in the spirit of unity,” he stressed.

Response

Speaking to the Daily Graphic on the issues raised by the group, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of MoTI, Mr Prince Boakye Boateng, said the suspension of the directive was not the result of pressure from any group.

He did not state when exactly the directive would be revisited but said the suspension of the enforcement would pave the way for more
engagement to be made with relevant stakeholders on the way forward.

“I do not want to react to the issues raised by this group because there are laws in this country that regulate retail trade. If it has any genuine concerns, it should engage the ministry for more engagement,” he said.