Nigerian traders are accusing local authorities in Ghana of discrimination after many had their shops closed in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic that sees a year-long trade war being waged between Ghanaian natives and foreign business owners over the control of the local retail trade in the capital city, Accra.
Chizoba Okechukwu, the owner of a shop closed by Ghanaian authorities, expressed his frustrations, “We have family here, we pay our taxes here, we pay house rent, we take care of our family. Ok, now the shops are closed, how do you expect us to take care of our responsibilities? I don’t know what is the problem, what have we done to them? The problem we have is that we are Nigerians, other foreigners are here doing their business success.”
Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) laws prohibit foreigners from getting involved in the retail sector unless they invest at least 1 million USD — and the Ghana Union of Traders Association has been lobbying its implementation since 2019. Meanwhile, several hundred Nigerian-owned retail shops have already been shut down.
Chukwuemeka Nnaji, President of the Nigeria Union of Traders Association in Ghana, shared a few words, “It’s a shame to Africa, fighting among ourselves, it’s quite a shame. How can people from other regions take us seriously when we have rules we cannot obey, when we have protocols we can’t follow. How can we relate with people outside this block? They will not take us seriously.”
The imposed 1 million USD investment requirement mandated by the GIPC law in Ghana does not apply to non-citizens who are nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Louis Afful, a business analyst, gives some expert insight into the situation, “So even between a regional block, you have countries having trade disputes or treaty misunderstandings, barriers and issues. Then, of course, there is, as I said earlier, you need to work on every minor issue because the free trade is about volumes of exports and so if at the end of the day, Nigeria is not a member state yet, it has to ratify it (the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement). They have to take into consideration every one of these small issues before they ratify it (the agreement).”
This ongoing trade war, that some may view as an insignificant issue, could affect the future of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), which Nigeria has yet to ratify.