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Ghana Swoops On "illegal" Foreign Retailers   
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More than 20 retail shops purported to be owned by foreigners in and around the central business district of Accra were Tuesday closed down by the Inter-Agency Task Force of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The exercise was in response to a directive by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) that all foreigners operating retail shops in the market should vacate before June 25, 2012.

This is because their retail activities are in violation of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Law (Act 478, 1994) which reserves small-scale retail businesses for Ghanaians.

During the exercise, many of the owners, believed to be foreigners, had closed down the shops themselves or were asked to close them.

At shops where the owners had closed them down themselves, the task force, comprising officials of the Registrar-General’s Department, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, the Ghana Revenue Authority, the police, the Ghana Immigration Service, the Trade and Foreign Affairs ministries, added more padlocks to the locks of the already locked shops.

Additionally, the task force posted notices on the gates of the shops, part of which read, “The law enjoins all non-Ghanaians, including ECOWAS citizens, who wish to engage in trading to comply with the following: To set up businesses outside places designated as markets, invest a minimum of US$300,000 in cash or in kind, register with the GIPC, obtain immigration quota and employ at least 10 Ghanaians in the business.”

“A breach of any of the listed requirements is unacceptable and consequently your business activity will be retained,” the notice added. The exercise took place against the backdrop of moves by a delegation from the ECOWAS Parliament to intervene on the part of ECOWAS nationals.

Briefing journalists on the exercise, the Director of Domestic Trade and Distribution at the MoTI, Mr K. N. Atuahene, said the ministry was ready to assist foreigners to relocate their businesses out of the market centre to approved areas.

Some Ghanaian traders who buy from the shops operated by foreigners complained about the decision of the MoTI to close down the shops.

According to them, the foreigners, especially the Chinese, sold their products at cheaper prices, a situation which gave the Ghanaian traders the opportunity to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices to make a living.

Some hawkers and petty traders cautioned against the action, explaining that they would be out of business if the foreigners were made to vacate the markets. Others expressed fear that Ghanaians living in other countries might be treated in the same way in those countries.

A Lebanese trader, Mr Karim Zahir, who is the owner of a shop that sells dress hangers, produced all the documentation regarding ownership of his shop but the only hitch was in respect of the location of the shop.

He was able to produce evidence of Social Security and National Insurance Trust contribution for his workers, a GIPC certificate, VAT receipts and his Ghana Revenue Authority papers, as well as a certificate of incorporation of business from the Registrar-General’s Department.

But it was explained to him that although he had all the documentation, he was not allowed to own a shop at a market centre, a place reserved for only Ghanaians.

But he argued that he had been made to believe that he could operate as a wholesaler within that vicinity. “If I, as a foreigner, do not know that l am not allowed to operate in the market centre reserved for Ghanaians, then why did the GIPC issue me a certificate to operate here?” he asked.

Mr Atuahene was optimistic that the foreign traders would adhere to the directive by the ministry, adding that the exercise was for the benefit of both Ghanaians and foreigners in the country.
Source: Citifmonline.com

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