Foreigners operating in Ghana’s open markets are expected to stop their activities by June 20, this year or incur the wrath of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which intends to apply the law after several protests by Ghanaian retailers.
Though retail business has been reserved for Ghanaians, most open markets have been invaded by foreign nationals who undertake petty trading.
It took several pleas by traders, particularly the leadership and members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) to draw attention to the issue.
A national taskforce set up by the Ministry of Trade to handle the issue has finally asked foreign traders involved in the retail business to vacate the open market places and areas designated for Ghanaian traders.
It would be recalled that members of GUTA declared their intention to take the law into their hands and forcibly remove foreign retailers if the taskforce mandated to do so fails to act.
Though the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 478, of 1994 stipulates that petty-trading, hawking, selling and all small-scale retail activities must reserved for Ghanaians, GUTA claimed activities of foreigners had increased in the retail industry.
George Kweku Ofori, president of GUTA, who welcomed the news said, “It’s long over due, elsewhere there are severe punishments for flouting the laws regarding trade, but today what do we see, foreigners are all over town doing retailing.”
Aside westerners, other African nationals make up the large population of the retailers who operate illegally in the sector.
Mr Ofori stated that majority of West African nationals hide behind the ECOWAS trade laws and engaged in retail business “the ECOWAS protocol does not allow for the establishment of a business in other countries.”
In line with the laws of Ghana, foreign nationals who intend to do any form of business are expected to register and obtain permit from the GIPC.
Kofi Larbi, Chairman of the 20-member Taskforce made up of representatives from the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Immigration Service, Police Service, GIPC, GUTA, Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Registrar General’s Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said they are poised to prosecute all foreign traders who flout Ghana’s investment laws.
There are reports that most foreign retailers flout Ghana’s employment laws, evade and avoid the payment of taxes.
Mr. Larbi admitted that the problems could also be attributed to the fact that most of the foreign investors fail to register their investments as required under the law.
By Emelia Ennin Abbey