Nigeria and Ghana seek end to retaliatory tariff and trade policies

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President Akufo-Addo and his Nigerian counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari

By Benjamin Alade

Worried about the trade tension between Nigeria and Ghana, members of the private sector in the two countries, many of them largely affected, have sought an end to the imposition of restrictive trade rules and counter-actions between the countries. While there are claims of resolution, private sector operators are worried about the effect on trade and the two countries’ economic development.

Ghana High Commissioner to Nigeria, Rashid Bawa, expressed readiness by the Government of the Republic of Ghana to cooperate, collaborate and work closely with the Nigerian government for the sustainable development of the economies of both countries.

He said this at the 2022 forum of Ghana Nigeria Business Council (GNBC) and Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) for Chief Executive Officers, in Lagos, on Friday 18 February 2022.

Represented by Consul-General of Ghana in Lagos, Madam Samata Gifty Bukari, Bawa said relations between the two countries have been sustained by collaborations between their private sectors, adding that this development has positioned Ghana and Nigeria as the two dominant economies in the West African sub-region. He explained that the perennial tension between Ghanaian and Nigerian traders in Ghana are being resolved. His words: “Let me disclose that the Ministers of Trade of Ghana and Nigeria, late last year, signed a joint agreement that establishes a framework to guide the engagement between the two countries in resolving issues between Ghanaian retail traders and their counterparts from Nigeria. I can, however, assure you that the Government of the Republic of Ghana is committed to the timely implementation of the framework of engagement between Ghanaian and Nigerian traders. As the economic and trade relations between the two countries warm up, as world economies are beginning to find ways of functioning in the midst of the pandemic, the desire for deepening cooperation among enterprises is growing stronger. It is, however, disheartening to learn that many Nigerian entrepreneurs still fall short of the knowledge of and connectivity to the Ghanaian market. Many are oblivious of the huge potentials that exist in Ghana. It is a matter of fact that mutual understanding of the economies of our two countries with a positive attitude would further promote and strengthen our bilateral relations and escalate the growth of business cooperation.” 

In his remarks, President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole, said for more than five decades, Nigeria and Ghana have established bilateral relationships in line with mutual interest of both countries for their individual economic development agenda and shared prosperity for the West African region. The relationship between the two largest economies in the West Africa sub region has metamorphosed from merchandise trade into international trade in goods and services.

Speaking on the topic, ‘Ease of Doing Business in Ghana to Nigerian Businessmen and Women’, Olawale-Cole said this programme is aimed at facilitating conversation on business environment in Ghana and most importantly deepen awareness on how Nigerian entrepreneurs can explore opportunities in Ghana without falling foul of the extant laws, policies and several regulatory measures while doing their businesses in Ghana.

He said internationally oriented Nigerian businesses have deep footprints in Ghana cutting across key economic sectors like banking, insurance, oil and gas, industrial commodities, consumer goods, construction and real estate, telecommunication, maritime and freight forwarding. Officially, Nigeria has the second largest business portfolio in Ghana, only second to China.

He said that recently the relationship between the two countries have suffered a series of setbacks occasioned by episodes of trade attacks and disputes. “The use of discriminatory trade policies, high tariffs, border closures and harsh business environment has impacted negatively on our trade volumes.”

He observed that there was urgent need for the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council to work assiduously towards boosting trade between the two countries’ neighbouring countries. “We must strategize to explore the opportunities coming with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). While both parties have expressed their grievances and resolutions sought, we need to move forward to more trade and investments for economic prosperity. It is often said that the situation in Ghana seems to flare up as an act of retaliation whenever Nigeria closes her land borders or when Ghanaian goods, even those which have documented ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) approval and have been enjoying zero duty access to the Nigerian market, are affected by the sudden banning of certain categories of products by the Nigerian government. The role of the private sector in the quest to attain the goal of the founding fathers of ECOWAS cannot be overemphasized. The private sector should be organized to take the driving seat in the economic integration process. The government needs to create a more conducive environment by providing the atmosphere for trade and investment to thrive.

Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), Dr Afua Asabea Asare, said one of the challenges is the inability of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make available foreign exchange for the export of certain products. She said the government should encourage the flow of services and goods between the two countries, as this remains one of the most important drivers of job creation and prosperity for both countries.

She also advised the government to eliminate the growing number of non-tariff measures that continue to fragment trade, avoid unnecessary red tape and increase technical cooperation and capacity building, while finding common answers to address regulatory needs and standards.

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