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One Year of Implementation of WTO TFA in Ghana

One Year of Ghana’s Implementation of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
Dode Seidu, Team Leader, Frontier Market Advisors
February 23rd 2018
The objective of this article is to provide a snapshot on progress of implementation of activities by the Government of Ghana,
Private Sector and Development Partners since January 2017 when Ghana ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Ghana became the 104th country to ratify the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on 4th January 2017. The ratification by Ghana’s
Parliament gave further boost to the country’s ongoing efforts at implementing trade facilitation reforms in the country.
The ratification came at a critical period in the country’s political and economic history: the end of one political regime, with the
National Democratic Congress (viewed as a social democratic party) losing power in the December 2016 elections; and the dawn
of a new government, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), largely seen as a pro-business party assuming office in January 2017. The
NPP promised sweeping reforms including the removal of nuisance taxes for businesses, an industrialization drive to put one
factory in each district and to make Ghana one of the preferred investment destinations in Africa by moving up to the top 40
rank of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking in its first year.
Challenges with Trade in Ghana
Traders complain that slow customs clearance, duplication of activities by border agencies and duplication of documentation
resulted in longer days for clearing goods and additional cost in demurrage to businesses/importers.1 The USAID Trade
Facilitation Project in 2017, undertook a study on Ghana’s compliance with Article 6 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on
Fees and Charges and found that about 20 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are involved in the import, export and
transit trade clearance process.2 The study further found that 88% of fees and charges levied at the ports were for government
revenue than for cost of services provided by the MDAs.
Prior Efforts
Since 2008, Ghana has undertaken a number of reforms to improve its import, export and transit trade regime including
reduction in processes and use of information and communication technology at the ports.3 Others include unifying and
reforming tax administration function of Customs.
There is a National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) formed prior to Ghana’s ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation
Agreement that provides the platform for discussion and implementation of reforms for improved trading environment in the
country. The NTFC is chaired by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and constituted by a cross-section of Ministries, Agencies and
Departments falling under Trade, Health, Agriculture, Finance, Transport and Aviation, and Justice. There are also private sector
representatives including the Association of Ghana Industries, Federation of Associations of Ghana Exporters, Ghana Union of
Traders Association, Custom Brokers Association of Ghana and Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders. The NTFC also has
representation of private and quasi-public sector companies involved the port clearance processes such as Ghana Community
Network (GCNET) and Westblue Consulting, both operating the Ghana National Single Window with Customs.
Key Government Initiatives
The Vice President of Ghana in May 2017, at the Ports Efficiency Conference gave three directives towards improving trade in
the country, all effective September 1st, 2017: first, removal of all customs barriers in the country’s transit corridor; second, joint
inspection by all border agencies and third, the implementation of a paperless transaction system at the ports. The paperless
transaction system has been duly implemented, but with challenges. There are reported complains from the trading public that
Ghana Trade Policy Review, WTO, 2017, page 37, https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s298_e.pdf
WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Article 6, Assessment of Ghana’s Discipline on Fees and Charges, page 13.
Ghana Trade Facilitation Roadmap (2018-2022), page 7.
One Year of Ghana’s Implementation of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
Dode Seidu, Team Leader, Frontier Market Advisors
February 23rd 2018
the new system has not made significant improvements in the clearing time. On the government side however, there are
indications that the paperless system has improved revenue collection (about 50%) and they seem satisfied.
The NPP Government’s aim is to improve overall ease of doing business. It has started implementing a Business Regulatory
Reform (BRR) Programme as part of its 10 Point Agenda for Industrial Transformation. Among other things, the BRR Programme
aims to adopt good regulatory practices to remove bottlenecks to business growth by identifying and creating an electronic
inventory of all regulations that affect businesses, and creating an electronic consultation portal. It also intends to undertake a
rolling review of regulations using the Guillotine Principles and a Public-Private Dialogue Platform for ongoing engagement on
regulatory issues.
Donor Support
The key development partners supporting Ghana’s implementation of Trade Facilitation Measures include UNCTAD, USAID,
World Bank and a Multilateral Initiative led by GIZ.
UNCTAD, under its Empowerment Programme for National Trade Facilitation Committees launched in early 2016, has provided
training to Ghana’s NTFC. Also, with technical support from UNCTAD, a National Trade Facilitation Roadmap was developed in
October 2017. The National Trade Facilitation Roadmap (2018-2022) aims to cut down the time for clearing imports, export and
transit goods to 48hrs; reduce cost of doing business across borders by 40%; and improve Ghana’s ranking to be among the top
100 countries in the World Bank Doing Business Report-trading across borders.
USAID, through its Trade Facilitation Project (TFP) launched in October 2016, has rolled out technical support to the Ministry of
Trade and Industry and other border agencies as part of USAID’s Trade Africa Expansion Initiative. The TFP is supporting Ghana
to implement specific articles of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement working with the NTFC. Two key outputs of the TFP has
been the support in helping the government set-up Enquiry Points and resource the National Notification Authority; and the
Study on Ghana’s Compliance with Article 6 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on Fees and Charges.
The World Bank since 2013 has been implementing the Improved and Facilitated Trade in West Africa Project, supporting
countries including Ghana to reduce the time and cost of regional trade, increase border agency cooperation and coordination,
and encourage a swift flow of goods at both intra-regional and international levels. In Ghana, the Project is providing technical
assistance to the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Revenue Policy Division of the Ministry of Finance in
analyzing and implementing reforms in import clearance processes (scanning) and transit revenue administration (VAT on transit
The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation-a multilateral donor support programme, is working with the local chapter of the
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to support Ghana and the private sector to implement the WTO Trade Facilitation
Agreement to improve the country’s trade regime.
Private Sector
Though the private sector is the main beneficiary of an improved and a facilitated trading environment, their role has been
lackluster and reactive. The private sector’s contribution to the trade facilitation effort has been through sporadic reactions to
government’s policies such as the introduction of the paperless system; and introduction of levies and fees by border agencies.
The private sector’s advocacy work has principally been through their umbrella bodies such as the Private Enterprise Federation,
Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Association of Ghana Industries, Federations of Association of Ghana
Exporters, Ghana Union of Traders Association and Importers and Exporters Association.
Ghana’s efforts at implementing trade facilitation measures have been ongoing since 2008. The government and development
partners seem to be leading the implementation efforts with the private sector being more reactive than proactive. Ghana’s
One Year of Ghana’s Implementation of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
Dode Seidu, Team Leader, Frontier Market Advisors
February 23rd 2018
ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and its coming into force provides a new impetus to drive the trade
facilitation reform agenda in the country as results of implementation have been mixed.
The key risks that remain are the continued political will of the government to continue to implement its commitment under the
WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and ECOWAS to facilitate regional trade as well as its willingness to reduce the use of port
fees and charges as a main revenue generation tool.
Dode Seidu is the Founder and Team Leader of Frontier Market Advisors, a trade and investment facilitation consulting firm
based in Ghana, West Africa. Frontier Market Advisors helps firms interested in Africa to identify and take advantage of
investments opportunities.