Transparency of the Regulatory System
The Government of Ghana’s policies on trade liberalization and investment promotion are guiding its efforts to create a clear and transparent regulatory system.
Ghana does not have a standardized consultation process but ministries and Parliament generally share the text or summary of proposed regulations and solicit comments directly from stakeholders or via public meetings and hearings. All laws that are currently in effect are printed in the Ghana Gazette.
The Government of Ghana has established regulatory bodies such as the National Communications Authority, the National Petroleum Authority, the Petroleum Commission, Energy Commission, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission to oversee activities in the telecommunications, downstream and upstream petroleum, electricity and natural gas, and water sectors, respectively. The creation of these bodies was a positive step but they remain relatively under-resourced and subject to political influence, thus their ability to deliver the intended level of oversight is limited.
The government launched a three-year Business Regulatory Reform program in 2017. The program aims to improve the ease of doing business, review all rules and regulations to identify and reduce unnecessary costs and requirements, establish an e-registry of all laws, establish a centralized public consultation web portal, provide regulatory relief for entrepreneurs, and eventually implement a regulatory impact analysis system.
International Regulatory Considerations
Ghana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1995. Ghana issues its own standards for most products under the auspices of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA). The GSA has promulgated more than 500 Ghanaian standards and adopted more than 2,000 international standards for certification purposes. The Ghanaian Food and Drugs Authority is responsible for enforcing standards for food, drugs, cosmetics, and health items. Ghana notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Ghana’s legal system is based on British common law and customary law. Investors should note that the acquisition of real property is governed by both statutory and customary law. The judiciary comprises both the lower courts and the superior courts. The superior courts are the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court and Regional Tribunals. Lawsuits are permitted and usually begin in the High Court. The High Court has jurisdiction in all matters, civil and criminal, other than those involving treason. There is a history of government intervention in the court system, although somewhat less so in commercial matters. The courts have, when the circumstances require, entered judgments against the government. However, the courts have been slow in disposing of cases and at times face challenges in enforcing decisions, largely due to resource constraints and institutional inefficiencies.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The GIPC Act codified the government’s desire to present foreign investors with a transparent foreign investment regulatory regime. GIPC regulates foreign investment in acquisitions, mergers, takeovers and new investments, as well as portfolio investment in stocks, bonds, and other securities traded on the Ghana Stock Exchange. The GIPC Act also specifies areas of investment reserved for locals, and further delineates incentives and guarantees that relate to taxation, transfer of capital, profits and dividends, and guarantees against expropriation.
While Ghana does not currently have a one-stop shop for business registration, GIPC helps to facilitate the process and provides economic, commercial and investment information for companies and business people interested in starting a business or investing in Ghana. GIPC provides assistance to enable investors to take advantage of relevant incentives. Registration can be completed online at www.gipcghana.com . The government has announced plans to establish a one-stop shop and in February 2018 the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) began a three month pilot, bringing together representatives from requisite agencies in a single location to facilitate quicker registration. However, the process is not automated, and it is unclear when full implementation is planned.
As detailed in the previous section on Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment, sector specific laws regulate foreign participation/investment in telecommunications, banking, fishing, mining, petroleum, and real estate.
Ghana regulates the transfer of technologies not freely available in Ghana. According to the 1992 Technology Transfer Regulations, total management and technical fee levels higher than eight percent of net sales must be approved by GIPC. The regulations do not allow agreements that impose obligations to procure personnel, inputs, and equipment from the transferor or specific source. The duration of related contracts cannot exceed ten years and cannot be renewed for more than five years. Any provisions in the agreement inconsistent with Ghanaian regulations are unenforceable in Ghana.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Ghana’s competition law, Protection Against Unfair Competition Act, 2,000 (Act 589), is currently under review.
Expropriation and Compensation
The Constitution sets out some exceptions and a clear procedure for the payment of compensation in allowable cases of expropriation or nationalization. Additionally, Ghana’s investment laws generally protect investors against expropriation and nationalization. The Government of Ghana may, however, expropriate property if it is required to protect national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning, or to ensure the development or utilization of property in a manner to promote public benefit. In such cases, the GOG must provide prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation to the property owner. The Government of Ghana guarantees due process by allowing access to the high court by any person who has an interest or right over the property.
U.S. investors are generally not subject to differential or discriminatory treatment in Ghana, and there have been no official government expropriations in recent times. There have been no reported instances of indirect expropriation or any government action equivalent to expropriation during the past year.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Ghana is a member state to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). Ghana is a signatory to the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).
There is a caveat for investment disputes arising from within the energy sector: the Government of Ghana has expressed a preference for handling disputes under the ad hoc arbitration rules of the U N Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law).
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Ghana’s track record for sound governance and a relatively reliable legal system result in a dispute resolution process that benefits foreign investors, in comparison to other countries in the region.
Since 2001, four American investors have filed for international arbitration against the Ghanaian government. Two of these cases were resolved when the Government of Ghana agreed to purchase the investments in dispute. In both cases the American investors agreed to the terms of the government purchase as an exit strategy, notwithstanding perceived inequitable terms. The other two cases are still in litigation where they have remained since December 2012.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The United States has signed three bilateral agreements on trade and investment with Ghana: a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), OPIC Investment Incentive Agreement, and the Open Skies Agreement. These agreements contain provisions for investment as well as trade dispute mechanisms.
The Commercial Conciliation Center of the American Chamber of Commerce (Ghana) provides arbitration services on trade and investment issues for disputes regarding contracts with arbitration clauses.
There is interest in alternative dispute resolution, especially as it applies to commercial cases. Several lawyers provide arbitration and/or conciliation services. Arbitration decisions are enforceable provided they are registered in the courts.
The Government of Ghana established fast-track courts to expedite action in certain cases. These fast track courts, which are automated divisions of the High Court, were intended to oversee cases which can be concluded within six months. However, they have not succeeded in consistently disposing of cases within six months. In March 2005, the government established a commercial court with exclusive jurisdiction over all commercial matters. This Court also handles disputes involving commercial arbitration and the enforcement of awards, intellectual property rights, including patents, copyrights and trademarks, commercial fraud, applications under the Companies Code, tax matters, and insurance and re-insurance cases. A distinctive feature of the commercial court is the use of mediation or other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, which are mandatory in the pre-trial settlement conference stage. Ghana also has a Financial and Economic Crimes Court. It is a specialized division of the High Court that handles high profile corruption and economic crime cases.
Enforcement of foreign judgments in Ghana is based on the doctrine of reciprocity. On this basis, judgments from Brazil, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Senegal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom are enforceable. Judgments from American courts are not currently enforceable in Ghana.
The GIPC, Free Zones, Labor, and Minerals and Mining Laws outline dispute settlement procedures and provide for arbitration when disputes cannot be settled by other means. They also provide for referral of disputes to arbitration in accordance with the rules of procedure of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), or within the framework of a bilateral agreement between Ghana and the investor’s country. The 2010 Alternative Dispute Resolution Act (Act 798 of 2010) provides for the settlement of disputes by mediation and customary arbitration, in addition to regular arbitration processes.
Ghana does not have a bankruptcy statute. The Companies Code of 1963, however, provides for official closure of a company when it is unable to pay its debts.