Functional Competition Regime A Key Element For Private Sector Development In Ghana, Says Trade Minister Mustapha Ahmed
The objective of a functional competition regime is to promote competition, and contribute towards increased efficiency and curb anti-competitive practices in the market. Anti-competitive practices including cartels, abusive monopolies, predatory pricing, collusive tendering, exclusive market sharing agreements, bid rigging etc. have negative effects on both consumers and producers.
Certainly, a well-enforced competition regime reduces uncertainty for businesses and is an important element of promoting private sector development, Dr. Mustapha Ahmed, the Acting Trade Minister of Ghana. This was conveyed in his speech during the launch of a CUTS project to complement the process of development of a national competition policy in Ghana.
Kofi Amenyah, Director (Legal Affairs) at the Ministry of Trade and Industry added that an effective competition regime not only benefits consumers but also firms to find markets and retain customers. It is a development weapon that could ensure benefits for consumers and producers. However, competition cannot be achieved automatically and needs to be nurtured by the introduction and propagation of a well-orchestrated competition regime.
Speaking on the topic Why Ghana Needs to have a Competition Policy and Law , Centre Coordinator for CUTS Ghana, Appiah Kusi Adomako mentioned that, competition law promotes competition in markets and curbs anti-competitive conducts by firms. In a fair and competitive market there are large numbers of sellers and buyers, variety of quality goods and services for consumers, and free entry and exit for firms. In every market, producers aim is to maximize profit whilst consumers also want to maximize utility. Market competition thus encourages production of goods and services that are desired by consumers, making use of the most cost-effective use of available resources. Thus, consumers get the best possible choice of goods and services at the lowest possible price.
On his part, Joe Tackie, the Chief Executive Officer of Private Sector Development (PSD) said strong competition or antitrust policy and law in the country would infuse a level playing field in key markets and enhances the predictability and certainty in the market, thereby stimulating entrepreneurship and economic growth which becomes a win-win for both consumers and producers. He was optimistic due CUTS International through their centre in Ghana would be able to bring their expertise to Ghana to help in the area of trade and development, competition policy and law, and regulation and investment.
Rijit Sengupta, CUTS Regional Director for Africa mentioned that CUTS is also involved currently together with its partner the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), in undertaking an initiative that aims to demonstrate implications of competition in two key sectors (maize and bus transport) on consumers and producers. The aim of this initiative (referred to as the CREW project) is to enhance policy attention for competition reforms in these sectors for achieving consumer and/or producer welfare.
Research undertaken in this project clearly shows that the enabling business environment was improved in the fertiliser market by the government leading to the entry of a number of fertiliser firms in it. This resulted in both reducing the price of fertilisers and improving its usage in the country. Surely, other factors also contributed to this outcome, but increased competition among firms seem to have resulted in easier access to this key farming input.
Samson Lardy Anyenini, barrister at law and private legal practioneer in Accra contributing to the discussions said the Protection against Unfair Competition Act 589 of 2000 for example provides civil remedies against unfair acts of competition. The Act specially contains provisions on acts of unfair competition closely related to intellectual property, such as, causing confusion to the goods and services of the competitor with respect to a trademark, whether registered or not, a trade name, presentation of a product or service. He added that cabinet has also approved the consumer protection bill which would soon go before parliament.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Seth Twum Akwaboah on his part said that the association supports in principle the concept of competition in the country. He said the current level of competition in the country is a result of natural market forces. He hoped that Ghana s yet to be Competition Authority or Commission would acquire the sophistication of technology and investigation skills to be able to investigate alleged issues of cartels and price collusion. He deplored the flooding of the Ghanaian market with substandard goods which comes in the name of competition, where quality takes a back seat. Such unregulated market entry could perhaps been avoided if there was an active competition regime in Ghana.
Contributing to the discussions, Franklin Cudjoe, Founding President & CEO, IMANI Ghana underscored the significance of competition to economy of Ghana and called for policies and regulations that improve ease of doing business in Ghana.On his part, the Director for Policy Advisory Services at Africa Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), Dr. Ed Brown said the role of the state in making sure that market is efficient cannot be left to the market forces. He added that role of civil societies and business association is very critical in Ghana s attempt to have competition policy and law as well as the consumer protection.
The Competition Policy Advocacy Project or COMPAD is being undertaken by CUTS Ghana with the support from the Businesses Sector Advocacy and Challenge Fund (Busac Fund). The main goal of this project is to facilitate the process towards evolutions of a national competition regime in Ghana, through an informed process, incorporating views of key actors and with support of relevant stakeholders.
The project is to compliment the ongoing effort by MOTI s process of adoption of the national competition policy of Ghana. The project will inform key stakeholders like the government, business associations, private sector, academia and parliament. The research, advocacy, sensitisation and media advocacy will add momentum and transparency to the process of adoption of the competition policy in Ghana, that has already been initiated by the Government.