After long deliberation, Ghana’s government decided not to ban the importation of textiles, a controversial measure considered as a means to stanch the flow of pirated goods into the country.
Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Trade and Industry, speaking to Graphic Business, said the country has tabled all proposals to categorically halt imports into the country but new measures would soon be introduced to regulate the entry of all textiles.
The Ghanaian textile industry has suffered from the preponderance of pirated goods making their way over the border, largely from China. Recently, a government sponsored conference was convened to come up with putative solutions. On the basis of those discussions, the government decided to assemble a special anti-piracy task force but, amidst great controversy, President John Mahama disbanded the group suddenly, only weeks after it commenced operations.
The task force was a matter of hot dispute from its inception. Unable to intercept illicit goods as they crossed Ghana’s borders, it resorted to confiscating goods from traders after they had purchased them. The government did not reimburse them for the money lost in the process.
The Ghana Textile Garment Employer’s Union, irate that the task force was disbanded rather than reformed, issued a statement registering their protest. “The Textile Garment Employers Union is shocked and gravely disappointed about the unilateral decision of the Ministry of Trade and Industry to suspend the operations of the Anti-piracy Taskforce without recourse to the stakeholders, thereby EMBOLDENING the perpetrators of the illicit trading activities in the country.
“We are also questioning government’s commitment to its obligation as a member of the World Trade Organisation to protect Intellectual Property Rights, and create a congenial environment for industries to grow and retain jobs.”
The piracy problem is widely credited as the source of the near collapse of Ghana’s once thriving textile industry. Iddrisu admitted that the pirated goods had taken their toll, reducing a workforce of 30,000 workers to barely 3,000. He also said that Ghanaian authorities struggled to discern the difference between fake and authentic products, making it hard for them to police the importation of forgeries.
The delicate task for Ghana’s border agents, Iddrisu noted, is to stop the flood of illegal goods without discouraging legal importation. This would require more effective training for customs agents and greater cooperation between the government and local traders.