“Competition regime and consumer protection issues reinforce each other. Both aim to ensure wider consumer choice in the market for goods and services, through innovation and efficient resource use by players in the market to promote economic welfare.” Kofi Amenyah, Director Legal Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), made these remarks during a keynote address on behalf of Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Honourable Trade Minister at a National Workshop on Competition Policy organized by CUTS.
He was of the strong conviction that a strong and competitive economy would be required to drive Ghana’s long term social and economic development agenda. An effective competition policy and law is a key to achieving this. He said that the Ministry has begun in earnest the process of developing a national competition policy for the country, and that the country will have a fully functional competition regime by middle of next year. The competition policy would pass through an intensive stakeholder consultation process, for inputs from businesses, CSOs and academia. He asserted that once the policy is approved by the Cabinet, work would commence on the competition law. He added that MoTI is pleased to have CUTS as a ‘knowledge partner’ on the issues of Competition Policy & Law and Consumer Protection in Ghana, especially because the organisation has been a long-standing ally of the MoTI in Ghana.
Kofi Amenyah released the report entitled, Competition Regime in Ghana: A Need of the Nation on behalf of the honourable Minister together with Prof. Samuel Kofi Date-Bah, Board Chair of CUTS Accra. This report was developed under the project entitled, “Advocating for Functional Competition Regime for Ghana” (COMPAD Project) being implemented by CUTS with support from BUSAC Fund.
In his opening remarks, Prof Date-Bah reiterated the importance of a competition regime for development of a nation’s economy. He reiterated that CUTS will continue to work with the MoTI and key stakeholders in evolving an effective national competition regime in Ghana. He reminded everyone that the meeting’s aim was to create a platform for key stakeholders involved in the nation’s policy and business arena to interact and develop the best options on how to aid the government facilitate the process of drafting and implementing an effective competition regime in the nation.
Rijit Sengupta representing CUTS International emphasised that a competition regime works in favour of both consumers and businesses by ensuring their welfare – something that policymakers need to realise. He shared a tool developed by CUTS International, referred to as ‘Framework for Competition reforms: A Practitioner’s Guidebook’, to help policymakers and practitioners to promote pro-competitive policies and programmes in sectors. The guidebook developed under another project of CUTS (CREW project) is meant to assist policymakers and key stakeholders to ensure that competition policy and law get the attention that it deserves even in developing countries.
Presenting the outcome, Abubakari Zakari the lead researcher highlighted anti-competitive tendencies in a number of markets in the country. He pointed out that business membership and associations in various sectors of the country have considerable influence on the operation of their members including prices, quality and quantities supplied. The report disclosed that some associations sometimes allowed their members to form cartels which allow them to control prices or exclude entry of a new competitor in a market. He was of the view that the behaviour of these firms and individuals which seeks to distort the market and reduces the efficiency should be checked. The absence of a national competition law compounds the problem.
Reacting to the research findings, Madam Mercy Needjan, the president of the Ghana Market Association, asserted that the aim of business associations is to protect the rights of their members – and not all associations should be pained in the same brush. Nevertheless, she highlighted the need for government oversight to check possible anti-competitive behaviour in the market.
Contributing to the discussions, Mr. Nana Osei Bonsu, CEO of Private Enterprise Federation echoed the importance of a competition policy and said that Ghana is in urgent need of an autonomous authority to monitor the market. He urged CUTS to not only limit its advocacy agenda to the policy makers but also reach out to small and medium enterprises to educate them on the importance and benefits of a competition regime in Ghana. Mr. Abroise Yennah from AIDEC Consult Ltd added his voice to the discussion by pointing out that the mandates of the proposed competition agency should seek to identify the essential policies needed in the economy to protect small businesses from being crowed out of the economy by large multinationals all in the name of competition.
Mr. Kofi Datsa, Director, National Communications Authority (NCA) highlighted the need for sectoral regulators like NCA to work closely with the competition agency to ensure efficiency and fairness in the market place. Policies, institutions and actions in the telecom and petroleum sectors impinging on competition were discussed to reinforce the need for Ghana to move forward quickly towards embracing a national competition policy.
Currently, in Ghana the Protection against Unfair Competition Act, 2000 (Act 589) does not regulate anti-competitive behaviour that generate a significant social cost, including loss of efficiency and innovation in the economy as well as higher prices passed onto consumers. CUTS is of the strong view that an enactment of a modern, national competition law will infuse a ‘level playing field’ in key markets and enhance the predictability and certainty in markets, thereby stimulating entrepreneurship and economic growth. This would therefore be a win-win for both consumers and producers.
The event was well attended by over 50 key stakeholders from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI), Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Private Enterprise Federation (PEF), Peasant Farmers Association (PFAG), African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), National Petroleum Authority (NPA), National Communications Authority (NCA), Ghana National Association of Small Scale Miners, National Pension Regulatory Authority, (NPRA), Law and Development Associates (LADA), representatives from Supreme Court of Ghana, BUSAC Fund, African Development Bank and African Development Fund. Others included the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the Ghana Market Women Association, the Market Queen Associations and Maize Sellers Association of Ghana, Cities Alliance and Association of Oil Marketing Companies.