The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) Yofi Grant has said the economy the Akufo-Addo-led government envisages is one in which Ghanaians will dominate in the manufacturing and other sectors, where jobs are created and not a situation where locals settle for ‘crumbs’ in the retail sector.
Although the GIPC Act restricts entry into the country’s retail sector to only Ghanaians, several other nationals have invaded that space to the disappointment of many traders in the various market places.
While there have been calls, mainly led by the Ghana Union of Traders Associations, to have these foreign nationals barred from the market places, Yofi Grant hinted that the new GIPC Act being considered may not offer that sort of protection to the local retailer.
Mr. Grant said it is about time the country reconsidered its economic empowerment strategy by incentivising its citizens who are lower down the retail chain than just protecting them.
This is because, he argued, without incentives to push them up they remain lower down the food chain of commerce even with a lot of protection.
“True economic empowerment should be the focus and some protectionism may be required somewhere along the line. I believe we can do much better than that. We need to elevate our people to truly be in the commanding heights in matters of the economy i.e. a truly world class Ghanaian economy by Ghanaians and for Ghanaians and that means we need to migrate from the buy and sell and factor driven economy to one of value added and processing of our raw materials and resources,” he said.
“Our table top sellers and retailers do not have the capital and so need incentives to move up the ladder to owning the shops and supermarkets and also into production so we can sell our goods instead of depending on foreign manufactured goods,” Mr. Grant explained.
According to him, the country has all the factors it needs to become a manufacturing hub for West Africa and needs to take full advantage of that window of opportunity.
“For our traders who want to be manufacturers, we should give them the incentives, both tariff and non-tariff, and elevate them. We should prefer our people to manufacture goods and let others sell them too than others manufacture and we only sell,” the GIPC CEO explained.
Apart from the demerits with the current protectionist regime in the retail sector, the retail space is also under disruption.
He argued that in the very near future, the retail space will be dominated by online shops and high street type super markets.
“We are already seeing it happen where people now prefer the convenience of malls and organised shops (online and physical) and the efficiency of mobile apps. In my opinion, we should rather protect Ghanaians in manufacturing, especially pharmaceuticals and light industrial manufacturing; we should protect Ghanaians in the large contract procurement end for government contracts and in the strategic areas of our economy.
We should then incentivise our smaller guys to move on up because without it they will naturally atrophy. I want the big loaves for our guys, not the crumbs,” Mr. Grant said, welcoming a debate on the subject.