Ghana 'orders foreign traders out of market centres'By KEMO CHAM | Wednesday, July 4 2012 at 17:44
Sources at the Ecowas Commission have indicated to Africa Review that the regional bloc was making frantic efforts to deal with a looming trade dispute sparked by a leading member, Ghana.
This follows reports of an organised clampdown on nationals from other Economic Community of West African States member countries by the Ghanaians who blame foreigners for “illegally” getting into local retail business.
The Nigerian government is championing a regional drive to block the Ghana clampdown.
The founding Ecowas treaty envisaged unrestricted cross-border trade, among other measures to promote integration. But some member countries have recently been criticised for their attitude towards other nationals.
After months of failed negotiations, Ghana`s Ministry of Trade on Tuesday began dislodging non-citizens engaged in retail businesses at market centres, saying these were reserved for local traders.
This has forced the Ecowas parliament to warn of negative implications for regional integration.
The Ecowas Commission has since made a formal request to the Ghanaians to halt the controversial exercise, but the body has no executive authority when it comes to an individual country`s policies.
Following a petition to the Ecowas parliament by countries representing the affected traders, a delegation from the regional lawmaking body held a closed-door meeting with officials of the Ghanaian government.
Deputy Ecowas parliamentary speaker Michael Teye Nyaunu, who happens to be a Ghanaian himself, stressed that in as much as the legislative body could not dictate to the member countries, more public sensitization was preferable to prevent a looming commercial rift between Ghana and her Ecowas neighbours.
But Ghanaian officials insist that all foreigners, and not just those from Ecowas member countries, were being checked to ensure they comply with the country`s trade policy.
“As much as their Ecowas rights give them the opportunity to do business, they must adhere to all regulations and operate legally,” Ghana`s Minister of Trade and Industry, Hannah Tetteh, was quoted saying.
The Ghanaians argue that the removal of the foreign retail traders from the markets did not contradict the Ecowas Protocol.
Nigerian threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Ghana if it deports its citizens, according to reports.
Most of the affected traders are understood to be Nigerian.
Over the weekend, the Nigerian House of Representative called on the various arms of the 15-member Ecowas bloc to intervene and prevent the deportation of its citizens.
Pan-Africanist groups in Ghana have also expressed worry that the development could jeopardise the advancement of the West African custom union and the promotion of a common market.
A Trade ministry official in Freetown told Africa Review that the Sierra Leone government had not received any complaint so far from any of its citizens, but expressed worry over the implications of the development on the regional integration dream.
In May, Ghana's Immigration Service had given foreigners a June 30 deadline to get out of local retail business.
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