Ghana: GUTA Locks up Retail Shops Belonging to Foreigners

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(file photo).
5 November 2019

The Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA) yesterday carried out its threat to close down all retail shops belonging to foreigners.

Information gathered by the Ghanaian Times indicated that as early as 7:00am, members of GUTA stormed retail shops belonging to foreigners who dealt in electrical gadgets in the Central Business District in Accra to lock them up.

Their action stems from government's failure to fully enforce the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre's Act (Act 865) which bars foreigners from operating in the country's retail space.

As of 2:00pm when the paper visited the Opera Square in Accra, a popular hub for electrical materials, about 50 shops were under lock and key with occupants seated idle in front of their shops and while others had obviously left for their homes.

Undertaken by the Ghana Electrical Dealers Association (GEDA) of GUTA, special locks inscribed, "GUTA" were seen affixed to the foreign owned shops which signaled that until the association reversed its decision, owners would not have access to their shops.

Seated among a five-member group, Nii Agyei in an interview condemned the exercise insisting that, "we are Ghanaians; our only crime is that we work for Nigerians but, if you close the shops, how do we fend for ourselves and family?"

To him, the posture of GUTA could only heighten unemployment and social vices among the youth in the country who had been employed by foreigners.

"This is not the first time they are doing this but today's own has been very severe. We are tired and we expect government to do something about this issue else we will have a re-think in the elections," he said.

A woman who expressed similar sentiments, but wanted to remain anonymous, said: "They came around without the police but with heavily built men to lock the shops. Once they see you are fair they claim you are a Nigerian and lock your shop, but we are not Nigerians."

Another shop owner who admitted to being a Nigerian argued he had reason to do legitimate business in the country as he had the necessary work permit, saying: "They did not even allow me to pack my goods which I just took delivery of into the shop, so does it mean I will have to sit here all day to watch over them and what if it rains, they will just be destroyed," he wondered.

Giving reason for the exercise, Deputy Public Relations Officer of GEDA, Mr Ronald Bastford, could not fathom why the problem of foreigners flooding the retail sector persists despite existing laws that prohibit the act.

"I do not know what our leaders are afraid of, the laws are there. This agitation has been almost 20 years down the line and all government tell us is exercise patience, meanwhile they are taking over the markets and gradually Ghanaians whom the state is to protect are losing their business.

"What we have done is to exercise our civil rights. We are not beating anyone, we are not applying violence, what we have done is to pack their goods inside and lock their shops and we are going to ensure it remains so," he insisted.

Mr Bastford lamented the level of injustice meted out to Ghanaians in the retail space from high cost of rent, exorbitant charges for stalls and duties paid to clear goods from the ports, "but they do not pay duties and landlords are willing to even eject you from your store to give to them because they have money to pay for the shops, so where lies our fate in our own country?"

Consenting to the move, which he believed was long overdue, Greater Accra General Secretary of GUTA, Nana Poku in a telephone interview said, "We have been doing pageantry with this illegality for a long time."

He, however, hinted of plans by GUTA to embark on a "national education spree" of all traders in the retail sector on the GIPC Act 865, "so that by the time we are finished they themselves will see the need to lock up their shops and leave."

It would be recalled that on Thursday, October 31, 2019, GUTA issued an ultimatum demanding the closure of all retail shops belonging to foreigners by Monday, November 4, 2019.

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