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Nana Addo kicks against the Chinese Takeover of the Retail Sector: Really?

Sat, 5 May 2012 Source: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

The Aliens Compliance Order, instituted or enforced by Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, was certainly a controversial move. This provision, badly and cruelly implemented to benefit the then Progress Party, represent a dark spot in Ghana’s history. Whilst all of us expect foreigners coming into Ghana to follow the laws just as we do when outside, this is one law whose poor implementation had and continues to have debilitating and lasting effect on Ghana. This law, premised on the forcible expulsion of undocumented or improperly registered aliens, decimated the ranks of our retail investors and created bad relationships with our West African neighbors, especially Nigeria. Later, scores of Ghanaians were callously murdered, in the ever popular Black Maria tragedy, as a direct response from our Nigerian brothers and sisters. I personally lost a boyhood Nigerian friend in this unfortunate and ill-timed ACO event. To later learn that the ACO was mainly implemented to create retail room for PP party faithfuls made me even more sick to the stomach. I hope the UP-PP-NPP, under Nana Addo, if given the chance, will not dare take us down this road again.

That was then and this is now! Here comes Nana Addo, bitching about Chinese involvement in our retail space and the lack of law enforcement. The NPP often forgets that it was in office for 8 bloody years before the NDC took over. I never thought I would be forced to hold sway for the NDC. The NDC, being in power for 3 plus years, cannot be wholly held responsible for the Chinese invasion of Ghana. My first observation of the Chinese armada was the building of the Arts Center by Rawlings. Though an impressive building and perhaps built at a reasonable cost, I still cannot understand why Ghana needs a country like China to build an Arts Center for us. After 50 plus years of independence and churning out several architects from our local universities, why the hell do we need foreigners to build anything for us? Why do we want to celebrate our arts and culture in a Chinese built venue? Why can’t we incorporate the concept of African arts in building such a pronounced landmarks? Where are my loud mouth Ghanaian traditionalists? Make some noise!! As if the latter is not enough insult, we bring in the Indians to build our so called presidential mansion under the NPP? And we do it by taking a loan from the Indians at a time Ghanaians hunger for work? God save us! Where is our pride and can-do attitude?

Fast forward to Kufour’s regime and the story becomes even more bizarre. Under Kufour’s government, a regime that Nana Addo partook for 8 torturous years, Ghana basically sold its soul to the Chinese. Our roads were built by the Chinese. Ghana@50 became Chinese@Ghana. AGOA also provided a trade escape for the Chinese. As they cleverly do, the Chinese built their factories inside our country. Thus their products pass as made in Ghana even though Ghanaians don’t own these businesses. The stadia for CAN 2008 were built or existing ones refurbished, by the Chinese. Indeed, in Tamale and other places, the Chinese were even reported to have fathered numerous kids and left without any parental responsibilities. Nana why don’t you find these wayward Chinese fathers and enforce the law on them? What a trifling hypocrite!

All these events that I narrate, occurred under the sharp scenting nose of the NPP. Where the hell was Nana Addo then? He was the AG for a while wasn’t he? Now, and all of a sudden, out of vindictive politics, and with a fake grunt, Nana Addo is threatening to review and renegotiate the $13bn loan that the NDC legally procured from the Chinese? Maybe the NDC ought to review the alleged oil deals that keep bearing fruits for some these NPP politicians. Thank God the NDC loan is not a mirage of a hair saloon loan but instead, a real loan. Nana Addo is complaining about value for money? Is that not Woyome’s argument against Kufour’s illegal abrogation of the Stadia contracts that were awarded to the Chinese? Sa ne baa ba oh!!

Nana Addo is all of a sudden bitching about shoddy roads! Well, who gave them the contracts and how did we get here? Has he examined his own party’s involvement in the trajectory of the Chinese takeover? Granted he is free to timidly and grudgingly disagree with his party. Why didn’t he speak up then? Even if he must speak up now, shouldn’t he apportion blame where it is due? Why is he coming across as if the NDC is the only derelict party in this emerging confrontation? This is a Ghanaian issue and not a partisan one. We can’t open the gates to the Chinese and then turn around and blame them for not following our laws. Of course the Kufour government was notorious for creating jobs for others at the expense of Ghanaians even as we are shackled with the bill. These politicians are more comfortable taking kick backs from foreigners than they are from loud-mouth Ghanaians who are more apt to spill the beans with the least provocation.

We must certainly enforce our rules and laws. However, we should also keep in mind that we have been inviting investors to come to Ghana. Kufour spent the entire 8 years of his failed presidency, waltzing and regaling investors to come set up shop in Ghana. He did not spare any opportunity to rake in per diem under the pretence of traveling overseas to woo investors for Ghana. Why then are we crying about the Chinese taking over? What the Chinese do best is retail and manufacturing. If they can manufacture cheaply in China, then Ghana better serves their need to market cheap goods. Thus their thrusting and panic inspired entry into Ghana. Why must we blame them? The Chinese remain a credible threat to our local industries but we invited them.

Let me warn the NPP about China. China is no Nigeria, Niger or Burkina Faso. China carries a big stick and has a war chest that dizzies even the West. China has become and will remain a key player in world economic affairs. Any attempt to toy or play peek-a-boo or gotcha with them will have debilitating repercussion for Ghana. So, let us manage this situation carefully. Surely, we must not allow another greed inspired Aliens Compliance Order-like move to bedevil us. The best way to deal with this situation is to develop new visa categories that specifically details what all foreigners, not just the Chinese, can or cannot engage in. This way, all who enter legally know exactly what they are allowed to do and not to do. In addition, fees should be levied and specifically used to hire Ghanaian Immigration Agents to enforce the laws. The effort to regulate entry into Ghanaian markets should be a national one, instead of a partisan effort. We must learn to live in a global economy. Surely, one cannot go to China and start trading locally over there without the right permission. The same must apply to the Chinese that come in. We should have a consistent and persistent effort to make sure that our people are not denied the opportunity to be owners, instead of consumers, in their economy.

Perhaps, one sure way of guaranteeing strong Ghanaian involvement in the retail arena is to provide economic incentives and remove bottlenecks. In addition, we should take a systems approach in this effort. We must raise the standards by making sure that our retail business folks have the education and experience to manage and lead businesses. I am not sure why a well trained Ghanaian should be afraid to compete with a Chinese retailer. After all, the concept of trade is as African as Ananse stories. I hope that Nana Addo will forever be a champion for our people. I hope he does not go AWOL if his own party or tribesmen engage in behaviors that hurt the average Ghanaian. I wish he had spoken up earlier and scolded Kufour for giving contract to foreigners, the Chinese included, instead of trusting Ghanaians to lead. The least Kufour could have done was to create some form of partnership that leads to knowledge transfer as a result of the contracts. As always, we seek the interest of others better than we do ours. Thanks for waking up Nana Addo. However, no Aliens Compliance Order or witch hunts sir! Viva Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Also fondly dubbed the double edge sword)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell---Harry Truman

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka