Nigerians kick Ghanaians out of small business

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    Yoofi Grant, GIPC boss

    At least 6 out of 10 phone retailers are Nigerians

    GIPC admits law flouted but waits on Attorney-General

     

    By Cecil MENSAH

    (cecilm@businessdayghana.com)

    Members of the Mobile Phone and Accessories Dealers Association (MPADA) are livid!

    Why? The reason is that the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) is not seen to be acting as foreign nationals, particularly Nigerians, deepen their invasion of the mobile phone and accessories retail business in the country.

    Per GIPC Act 865 of 2013, all foreigners need not less than one million United States Dollars to be able to invest in the purchase and sell business.

    Section 27 (1a) of the GIPC Act 2013 (Act 865) states: “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 and provision of services in a market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place.”

    But, according to the MPADA, Nigerian nationals are edging everybody, especially Ghanaian nationals, out of the business when the GIPC Act of 2013 bars them from engaging in retail trading.

    Additionally, reliable information has it that their presence has pushed rent on stalls high, especially in the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Area, leaving Ghanaian traders who cannot afford such fees to scramble for table-tops to sell.

    Speaking exclusively with Business Day Ghana, Joseph Yaw Agyemang, Co-Chairman of MPADA, said under normal circumstance foreigners should not be in retail trading but the situation has arisen because some unscrupulous members of a GIPC taskforce have colluded with the leadership of the Nigerians in the mobile phone business in the area to shield them from the law.

    Yaw Agyemang, who is also a member of the Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA), alleged that the said officials of the GIPC usually visit the Nkrumah Circle area and collect moneys and other items like mobile phones from the foreign nationals and leave them to operate in blatant disregard of the law.

     

    The invasion

    The MPADA agrees that there are foreign nationals like Chinese, Lebanese, Turkish and Indians in the retail business in the country but observes the mobile phone business is dominated by Nigerians and a few Chinese nationals.

    Evidence of the claim is available at the Tip-Toe Lane and its environs in Accra, which is noted as the hub for mobile phone dealership. The area is apparently inundated with Nigerians doing brisk retailing.

    Besides, the area that was popularly called ‘Soja Bar’ has been rented out by property owners to Nigerians to mount container stalls to do their retailing of mobile phone accessories.

    From the account of MPADA, the situation is a free for all and a head count will reveal that at least six out of ten dealers of mobile phone accessories are Nigerians.

    Not only are the Nigerians in the sale of accessories but also into the repairs of mobile phone and lap tops, Business Day Ghana can reveal.

    Interestingly, because of the large numbers of Nigerians in the sector, the sale of Nigerian staple foods like ‘Amala and Eba’ is booming.

    Others are cashing in on the rent surge. For instance, new stalls built directly opposite the defunct Orion Cinema by a Lebanese-Ga family for rent are selling like hotdogs.

    These developments mean more cash injection into the economy and income for many property owners but the MPADA sees it as a recession for Ghanaian small business holders.

    Yaw Agyemang explains that it is not the situation that members of the Association want to unduly fight their West African counterparts but the law says they are not supposed to be in the markets.

    “Have you seen any member of the Association fight the likes of Max Mart, Koala, Mr. Price, Woolworth Melcom, Shoprite, Junction Mall, among others, even though they are operated by foreigners?” he queried. “It is because they are operating within the purview of the GIPC Act,” he told Business Day Ghana.

    Now, he wants government to investigate and prosecute any foreigner who flouts the law or pay the needed penalty to serve as a deterrent.

    In this regard, the Association has given the new government a six-month ultimatum and if nothing is done about the situation they will pour out in their numbers on the streets of Accra to protest, he said but failed to indicate when the said ultimatum had been issued.

     

    GIPC Waits on A-G

    In reaction, the GIPC, in a correspondence dated May 2, 2017 sent to Business Day Ghana, admitted to the presence of foreign nationals in the retail business sector, having carried out monitoring activities in collaboration with the Inter Agency Taskforce set up to ensure compliance with the provisions of the country’s  investment laws.

    A letter signed for the Chief Executive Office by Carl Nelson, the Chief Operating Officer, indicated that the GIPC had embarked on monitoring activities in the Kwame Nkrumah Circle interchange area to identify traders in breach of the GIPC Act.

    “Those enterprises found to have breached provisions of the Act were notified to regularize their operations in accordance with the GIPC Act 2013 and other relevant laws,” letter indicated.

    But “To date some of these traders have not complied with the directive.

    “Consequently the centre is currently working with the Attorney –General’s Department to prosecute identified investors who are breaching the GIPC Act 2013,” the letter further revealed.

    While that is waiting, the GIPC says it will continue to work within the laws to sanitize trading activities and ensure that players in the trading sector operate within the provisions of the centre.

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