Ghana’s macroeconomic situation has improved over the last three years under its extended credit facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which concluded in April 2019. The fiscal deficit has narrowed, inflation has come down, and GDP growth has rebounded, driven primarily by increases in oil production. Ghana’s economy is projected to grow 8.8 percent in 2019, according to the IMF, after expanding over 8 percent in 2017 and an estimated 5.6 percent in 2018. However, the economy remains highly dependent on the export of primary commodities such as gold, cocoa, and oil/gas, and consequently is vulnerable to potential slowdowns in the global economy and commodity price shocks. The Government of Ghana is seeking to diversify and industrialize, in particular through agro-processing, mining, and manufacturing. It has made attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) a priority to support its industrialization plans and overcome an annual infrastructure funding gap of at least USD 1.5 billion.
While the economy is doing relatively well, high government debt, low government revenue, and high energy costs remain challenges. Ghana has a population of 30 million with six million potential taxpayers of which only two million are actually registered to pay taxes. As Ghana seeks to move beyond dependence on foreign aid, it must develop a solid domestic revenue base. On the energy front, Ghana has enough installed power generating capacity to meet current demand, but it needs to make the cost of electricity more affordable through more effective management of its power distribution system and diversification of its energy matrix, including through renewable energy.
Among the challenges hindering foreign direct investment are: a burdensome bureaucracy, costly and difficult financial services, under-developed infrastructure, ambiguous property laws, a costly power and water supply, the high costs of cross-border trade, a shifting policy environment, lack of transparency, and an unskilled labor force. Enforcement of laws and policies is weak. Public procurements are opaque and there are often issues with delayed payments. In addition, there are troubling trends in investment policy over the last five years, with the passage of local content regulations in the petroleum sector and the power sector.
Despite these challenges, Ghana’s abundant raw materials (gold, cocoa, and oil/gas), security, and political stability make it stand out as one of the better locations for investment in sub-Saharan Africa. The investment climate in Ghana is relatively welcoming to foreign investment. There is no discrimination against foreign-owned businesses. Investment laws protect investors against expropriation and nationalization and guarantee that investors can transfer profits out of the country. Ghana enjoys a lower degree of corruption than that of some regional counterparts, although companies have reported a high level of corruption in foreign investments. Among the most promising sectors are agribusiness; food processing; textiles and apparel; downstream oil, gas, and minerals processing; and mining-related services subsectors.
The government has acknowledged the need to foster an enabling environment to attract FDI, and is taking steps to overhaul the regulatory system and improve the ease of doing business, maintain fiscal discipline, combat corruption, and promote better transparency and accountability.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||78 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||114 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||107 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$1,698||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$1,880||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Government of Ghana has no overall economic or industrial strategy that discriminates against foreign-owned businesses. The government has made increasing FDI a priority and acknowledged the importance of having an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. Officials are implementing some regulatory and other reforms to improve the ease of doing business and make investing in Ghana more attractive.
The 2013 GIPC Act requires the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) to register, monitor and keep records of all business enterprises in Ghana. Sector-specific laws further regulate investments in minerals and mining, oil and gas, industries within Free Zones, banking, non-banking financial institutions, insurance, fishing, securities, telecommunications, energy, and real estate. Some sector-specific laws, such as in the oil and gas sector and the power sector, include specific local content requirements that could discourage international investment. Foreign investors are required to satisfy the provisions of the GIPC Act as well as the provisions of sector-specific laws. GIPC leadership has pledged to work in closer collaboration with the private sector to address investor concerns but there have been no significant changes to the laws. More information on investing in Ghana can be obtained from GIPC’s website, .
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Ghana is one of the more open economies to foreign equity ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of its major sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation.
U.S. investors in Ghana are treated the same as any other foreign investor. All foreign investment projects must register with the GIPC. Foreign investments are subject to the following minimum capital requirements: USD 200,000 for joint ventures with a Ghanaian partner that should have at least 10 percent of the equity; USD 500,000 for enterprises wholly-owned by a non-Ghanaian; and USD 1 million for trading companies (firms that buy or sell imported goods or services) wholly owned by non-Ghanaian entities. The minimum capital requirement may be in cash or capital goods relevant to the investment. Trading companies are also required to employ at least 20 skilled Ghanaian nationals.
Ghana’s investment code excludes foreign investors from participating in eight economic sectors: petty trading, the operation of taxi and car rental services with fleets of fewer than 25 vehicles, lotteries (excluding soccer pools), the operation of beauty salons and barber shops, printing of recharge scratch cards for subscribers to telecommunications services, production of exercise books and stationery, retail of finished pharmaceutical products, and the production, supply, and retail of drinking water in sealed pouches. Sectors where foreign investors are allowed limited market access include: telecommunications, banking, fishing, mining, petroleum, and real estate.
The 1992 Constitution recognized existing private and traditional titles to land. Freehold acquisition of land is no longer permitted. There is an exception, however, for transfer of freehold title between family members for land held under the traditional system. Foreigners are allowed to enter into long-term leases of up to 50 years and the lease may be bought, sold, or renewed for consecutive terms. Nationals are allowed to enter into 99-year leases.
Oil and Gas
The oil and gas sector is subject to a variety of state ownership and local content requirements. The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act (2016, Act 919) mandates local participation. All entities seeking petroleum exploration licenses in Ghana must create a consortium in which the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) holds a minimum 15 percent carried interest. The Petroleum Commission issues all licenses, but exploration licenses must be approved by Parliament. Further, local content regulations specify in-country sourcing requirements with respect to the full range of goods, services, hiring, and training associated with petroleum operations. The regulations also require mandatory local equity participation for all suppliers and contractors. The Minister of Energy must approve all contracts, sub-contracts, and purchase orders above USD 100,000. Non-compliance with these regulations may result in a criminal penalty, including imprisonment for up to five years.
The Petroleum Commission applies registration fees and annual renewal fees on foreign oil and gas service providers, which, depending on a company’s annual revenues, range from USD 70,000 to USD 150,000, compared to fees of between USD 5,000 and USD 30,000 for local companies.
Per the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), foreign investors are restricted from obtaining a small-scale mining license for mining operations less than or equal to an area of 25 acres (10 hectares). Non-Ghanaians may only apply for industrial mineral rights if the proposed investment is USD 10 million or above. The Act mandates compulsory local participation, whereby the government acquires 10 percent equity in ventures at no cost. In order to qualify for a license, a non-Ghanaian company must be registered in Ghana, either as a branch office or a subsidiary that is incorporated under the Ghana Companies Act or Incorporated Private Partnership Act.
The Minerals and Mining Act provides for a stability agreement, which protects the holder of a mining lease for a period of 15 years from future changes in law that may impose a financial burden on the license holder. When an investment exceeds USD 500 million, lease holders can negotiate a development agreement that contains elements of a stability agreement and more favorable fiscal terms. Parliament passed a new Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act (Act 900) in December 2015. One significant provision of the new act requires the mining lease-holder to, “…pay royalty to the Republic at the rate and in the manner that may be prescribed.” The previous Act 703 capped the royalty rate at six percent. The Minerals Commission implements the law.
In December 2017, Ghana introduced regulations requiring local content and local participation in the power sector. The Energy Commission (Local Content and Local Participation) (Electricity Supply Industry) Regulations, 2017 (L.I. 2354) specify minimum initial levels of local participation/ownership and ten year targets:
|Electricity Supply Activity||Initial Level of Local Participation||Target Level in 10 Years|
|Wholesale Power Supply||15||51|
|Renewable Energy Sector||15||51|
|Electricity Sales Service||80||100|
|Electricity Brokerage Service||80||100|
The regulations also specify minimum and target levels of local content in engineering and procurement, construction works, post construction works, services, management, operations and staff. All persons engaged in or planning to engage in the supply of electricity are required to register with the ‘Electricity Supply Local Content and Local Participation Committee’ and satisfy the minimum local content and participation requirements within five years. Failure to comply with the requirements could result in a fine or imprisonment.
The National Insurance Commission (NIC) imposes nationality requirements with respect to the board and senior management of locally-incorporated insurance and reinsurance companies. At least two board members must be Ghanaians, and either the Chairman of the board or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) must be Ghanaian. In situations where the CEO is not Ghanaian, the NIC requires that the Chief Financial Officer be Ghanaian. Minimum initial capital investment in the insurance sector is 15 million Ghana cedis (approximately USD 3 million).
Per the Electronic Communications Act of 2008, the National Communications Authority (NCA) regulates and manages the nation’s telecommunications and broadcast sectors. For 800 MHz spectrum licenses for mobile telecommunications services, Ghana restricts foreign participation to a joint venture or consortium that includes a minimum of 25 percent Ghanaian ownership. Applicants have two years to meet the requirement, and can list the 25 percent on the Ghana Stock Exchange. The first option to purchase stock is given to Ghanaians, but there are no restrictions on secondary trading.
There are no significant limits on foreign investment or differences in the treatment of foreign and national investors in other sectors of the economy.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Ghana has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD recently. UNCTAD last conducted an IPR in 2003.
The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in May 2014. The TPR concluded that the 2013 amendment to the investment law raised the minimum capital that foreigners must invest to levels above those specified in Ghana’s 1994 GATS horizontal commitments, and excluded new activities from foreign competition. However, it was determined that overall this would have minimum impact on dissuading future foreign investment due to the size of the companies traditionally seeking to do business within the country. An executive summary of the findings can be found at:
Although registering a business is a relatively easy procedure and can be done online through the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) at , businesses have noted that the process involved in establishing a business is lengthy and complex, and requires compliance with regulations and procedures of at least four other government agencies, including GIPC, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ghana Immigration Service, and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, it takes eight procedures and 14 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) that wants to engage in international trade in Ghana. This is longer than the regional average for Sub-Saharan Africa. Foreign investors must obtain a certificate of capital importation, which can take 14 days. The local authorized bank must confirm the import of capital with the Bank of Ghana, which will then confirm the transaction to GIPC for investment registration purposes.
Per the GIPC Act, all foreign companies are required to register with GIPC after incorporation with the RGD. Registration can be completed online at . While the registration process is designed to be completed within five business days, bureaucracy often delays this process.
The Ghanaian business environment is unique and guidance can be extremely helpful. In some cases, a foreign investment may enjoy certain tax benefits under the law or additional incentives if the project is deemed critical to the country’s development. Most companies or individuals considering investing in Ghana or trading with Ghanaian counterparts find it useful to consult with a local attorney or business facilitation company. The Embassy maintains a list of local attorneys which is available through the U.S. Commercial Service in Ghana (www.export.gov/ghana). Specific information about setting up a business is available at the GIPC website: .
Ghana Investment Promotion Centre
Post: P. O. Box M193, Accra-Ghana
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 665125, +233 (0)302 665126, +233 (0) 302 665127, +233 (0) 302 665128/ +233 (0) 302 665129
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 244318254/ 244318252
Note that mining or oil/gas sector companies are required to obtain licensing/approval from the following relevant bodies:
Ghana has no specific outward investment policy. It has entered into bilateral treaties, however, with a number of countries to promote and protect foreign investment on a reciprocal basis. A few Ghanaian companies have established operations in other West African countries.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Ghana has signed and ratified Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with the following countries: China; Denmark; Germany; Malaysia; the Netherlands; Switzerland; and the United Kingdom. Ghana has concluded the BIT negotiation process with 26 countries in total, 19 of which are awaiting Parliament ratification. The countries with concluded BITs that have not yet been internally ratified are: Barbados, Benin, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Egypt, France, Guinea, Italy, Mauritania, Mauritius, Romania, Spain, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Agreements with Pakistan, South Korea, North Korea, and Belgium are being discussed.
Ghana has signed and ratified tax treaties, commonly referred to as double taxation agreements, with the following countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Mauritius, and the United Kingdom. Signed double taxation agreements with the Czech Republic, Morocco, Singapore, Qatar, Malta, Seychelles, Barbados, and Ireland are yet to be ratified by Parliament.
Ghana has not yet signed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) intergovernmental agreement (IGA), but it has allowed banks or foreign financial institutions (FFIs) in Ghana to report information directly to the United States Internal Revenue Service.
The United States has signed several investment-related agreements with Ghana: the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), OPIC Investment Incentive Agreement, and the Open Skies Agreement. In 2012, the United States and Ghana initiated exploratory BIT discussions but those stalled.
Ghana has continued to meet eligibility requirements to participate in the benefits afforded by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and also separately qualifies for the apparel benefits under AGOA.
3. Legal Regime
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 (equivalent of the U.S. Federal Register).
The Government of Ghana has established regulatory bodies such as the National Communications Authority, the National Petroleum Authority, the Petroleum Commission, the 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. The creation of these bodies was a positive step but the lack of resources and their subjectiveness to political influence challenge their ability to deliver the intended level of oversight.
The government launched a Business Regulatory Reform program in 2017, but implementation has been slow. 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.
Ghana continues to improve on making information on debt obligations, including contingent and state-owned enterprise debt, publicly available. Information on the overall debt stock (including domestic and external) is presented in the Annual Debt Management Report which is available on the Ministry of Finance website at . However, information on contingent liabilities from state-owned enterprises is not explicit and is scattered in various reports.
International Regulatory Considerations
Ghana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1995. Ghana issues its own standards for many 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 local 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 .
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 still 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 government expropriations involving U.S. investments 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 UN 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.
Over the past ten years, there have been four disputes involving U.S. investors. One of the cases was resolved through international arbitration. The other three are still pending resolution.
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 Act; 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 Act of 1963, however, provides for official closure of a company when it is unable to pay its debts. A new insolvency law is under debate in Parliament.
4. Industrial Policies
Investment incentives differ slightly depending upon the law under which an investor operates. For example, while all investors operating under the Free Zone Act are entitled to a ten-year corporate tax holiday, investors operating under the GIPC law are not automatically entitled to a tax holiday. Tax incentives vary depending upon the sector in which the investor is operating.
All investment-specific laws contain some incentives. The GIPC law allows for import and tax exemptions for plant inputs, machinery and parts that are imported for the purpose of the investment. Chapters 82, 84, 85, and 89 of the Customs Harmonized Commodity and Tariff Code zero-rate these production items. The Government of Ghana imposed a five percent import duty on some items that were previously zero-rated, to conform to the ECOWAS common external tariff.
The Ghanaian tax system is replete with tax concessions that considerably reduce the effective tax rate. The minimum incentives are specified in the GIPC law and are not applied in an ad hoc or arbitrary manner. Once an investor has been registered under the GIPC law, the investor is entitled to the incentives provided by law. The government has discretion to grant an investor additional customs duty exemptions and tax incentives beyond the minimum stated in the law. The GIPC website (http://www.gipcghana.com) provides a thorough description of available incentive programs. The law also guarantees an investor all the tax incentives provided for under Ghanaian law. For example, rental income from commercial and residential property is exempt from tax for the first five years after construction. Similarly, income from a company selling or leasing out premises is income tax exempt for the first five years of operation. Rural banks and cattle ranching are exempt from income tax for ten years and pay 8 percent thereafter.
The corporate tax rate is 25 percent and this applies to all sectors except income from non-traditional exports (8 percent tax rate) and oil and gas exploration companies (35 percent tax rate). For some sectors there are temporary tax holidays. These sectors include Free Zone enterprises and developers (0 percent for the first ten years and 15 percent thereafter); real estate development and rental (0 percent for the first five years and 25 percent thereafter); agro-processing companies (0 percent for the first five years, after which the tax rate ranges from 0 percent to 25 percent depending on the location of the company in Ghana), and waste processing companies (0 percent for seven years and 25 percent thereafter). Tax rebates are also offered in the form of incentives based on location. A capital allowance in the form of accelerated depreciation is applicable in all sectors except banking, finance, commerce, insurance, mining, and petroleum. Under the new Income Tax law of 2015, all businesses can carry forward tax losses for at least three years.
Ghana has no discriminatory or excessively burdensome visa requirements. A foreign investor who invests under the GIPC law is automatically entitled to a specific number of visas/work permits based on the size of the investment. When an investment of USD 50,000, but not more than USD 250,000 or its equivalent is made in convertible currency or machinery and equipment, the enterprise can obtain a visa/work permit for one expatriate employee. An investment of USD 250,000, but not more than USD 500,000, entitles the enterprise to two automatic visas/work permits. An investment of USD 500,000, but not more than USD 700,000, allows the enterprise to bring in three expatriate employees. An investment of more than USD 700,000 allows an enterprise to bring in four expatriate employees. An enterprise may apply for extra visas or work permits, but the investor must justify why a foreigner must be employed rather than a Ghanaian. There are no restrictions on the issuance of work and residence permits to Free Zone investors and employees. Overall, the process of issuing work permits is not very transparent.
Ghana has no import price controls. It is pursuing a liberalized import regime policy within the framework of the World Trade Organization to accelerate industrial growth. The Government of Ghana joined other ECOWAS countries by fully implementing the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) in February 2016.
In some instances, Ghana has issued guarantees for foreign direct investment projects that it deems critical to the country’s development. To make the operation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) effective, the government may support such projects with viability gap funding and guarantees. A new PPP law is under debate in Parliament.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Free Trade Zones (called Free Zones in Ghana) were established in May 1996, with one near Tema Steelworks, Ltd., in the Greater Accra Region, and two other sites located at Mpintsin and Ashiem near Takoradi in the Western Region. The seaports of Tema and Takoradi, as well as the Kotoka International Airport and all the lands related to these areas, are part of the Free Zone. The law also permits the establishment of single factory zones outside or within the areas mentioned above. Under the law, a company qualifies to be a Free Zone company if it exports more than 70 percent of its products. Among the incentives for Free Zone companies are a ten-year corporate tax holiday and zero import duty.
To make it easier for Free Zone developers to acquire the various licenses and permits to operate, the Ghana Free Zones Authority (www.gfzb.com.gh) provides a “one-stop approval service” to assist in the completion of all formalities. A lack of resources has limited the effectiveness of the Authority. Foreign employees of Free Zone businesses require work and residence permits.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
In most sectors, Ghana does not have performance requirements for establishing, maintaining, and expanding a business. Investors are not currently required to purchase from local sources or employ prescribed levels of local content, except in the upstream petroleum sector and the power sector, which are subject to substantial local content requirements. Similar legislation is being drafted for the downstream petroleum sector and a National Local Content Policy is being debated by Cabinet that may extend to a broad array of sectors of the economy, but there is no clear timeline for its approval.
Generally, investors are not required to export a specified percentage of their output, except for Free Zone enterprises which, in accordance with the Free Zone Act, must export 70 percent of their products. Government officials have intimated that local content requirements should be applied to sectors other than petroleum, but currently no local content regulations have been promulgated for other sectors.
As detailed earlier in this report, there are a few areas where the GOG does impose performance requirements including the mining, oil and gas, insurance, and telecommunications sectors.
The Government of Ghana does not follow a forced localization policy in which foreign investors must use domestic content in goods or technology. In addition, there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software or turn over keys for encryption).
5. Protection of Property Rights
The legal system recognizes and enforces secured interest in property. The process to get clear title over land is difficult, complicated, and lengthy. It is important to conduct a thorough search at the Lands Commission to ascertain the identity of the true owner of any land being offered for sale. Investors should be aware that land records can be incomplete or non-existent and, therefore, clear title may be impossible to establish.
Mortgages exist, although there are only a few thousand in existence due to a variety of factors including land ownership issues and scarcity of long-term finance. Mortgages are regulated by the Home Mortgages Finance Act 770 (2008) which has enhanced the process of foreclosure. A mortgage must be registered under the Land Title Registration Law, a requirement that is mandatory for it to take effect. Registration with the Land Title Registry is a reliable system of recording the transaction.
Intellectual Property Rights
The protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is an evolving area of law in Ghana. Progress has been made in recent years to afford protection under both local and international law. Ghana is a party to the Universal Copyright Convention, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PTC), the Singapore Trademark Law Treaty (STLT), and the Madrid Protocol Concerning the International Registration of Marks. Ghana is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the English-speaking African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2004, Ghana’s Parliament ratified the WIPO internet treaties, namely the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty. Ghana also amended six IPR laws to comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), including: copyrights, trademarks, patents, layout-designs (topographies) of integrated circuits, geographical indications, and industrial designs. Except for the copyright law, implementing regulations necessary for fully effective promulgation have not been passed.
The Government of Ghana launched a National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy in January 2016, which aimed to strengthen the legal framework for protection, administration, and enforcement of IPR and promote innovation and awareness, although progress on implementation stalled. Enforcement remains weak and piracy of intellectual property continues to take place. Although precise statistics are not available for many sectors, counterfeit computer software is regularly available at street markets and counterfeit pharmaceuticals have found their way into public hospitals. Counterfeit products have also been discovered in such disparate sectors as industrial epoxy, cosmetics, drinking spirits, and household cleaning products. Based on cases where it has been possible to trace the origin of counterfeit goods, most have been found to have been produced outside the region, usually in Asia. Holders of IPR have access to local courts for redress of grievances, although the few trademark, patent, and copyright infringement cases that have been filed in Ghana by American companies have reportedly moved through the legal system slowly.
Ghana is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.
Resources for Rights Holders
Please contact the following at Mission Accra if you have further questions regarding IP issues:
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
A list of local lawyers can be found at: https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Private sector growth in Ghana is constrained by financing challenges. Businesses continue to face difficulty raising capital on the local market. While credit to the private sector has increased, levels have remained stagnant over the last decade and high government borrowing has driven up interest rates beyond 25 percent and crowded out private investment.
Capital markets and portfolio investment are gradually evolving. The longest-term domestic bonds are 15 years, with Eurobonds ranging up to 31-year maturities. Foreign investors are only permitted to participate in bond auctions with maturities of two years or longer. In 2018, foreign investors held about 30 percent (valued at USD 5.7 billion) of the total outstanding domestic securities. Authorities are working to expand the secondary market to improve liquidity.
The rapid accumulation of debt over the last decade has raised debt sustainability concerns. Ghana received debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative in 2004, and began issuing Eurobonds in 2007. Following a rebasing of GDP in 2018, total public debt, roughly evenly split between external and domestic, stands at approximately 58 percent of GDP. Following the government’s strategy of increasing demand for longer-dated bonds, short-term debt declined from a share of 22.4 percent in 2017 to 17.3 percent in 2018.
The Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) has 42 listed companies, four government bonds and one corporate bond. Both foreign and local companies are allowed to list on the GSE. The Securities and Exchange Commission regulates activities on the Exchange. There is an 8 percent tax on dividend income. Foreigners are permitted to trade stocks listed on the GSE without restriction. There are no capital controls on the flow of retained earnings, capital gains, dividends or interest payments. The GSE composite index (GGSECI) has exhibited mixed performance.
Money and Banking System
Banks in Ghana are relatively small with the largest in the country, Ecobank Ghana Ltd., holding assets totaling about USD 1.3 billion. The Central Bank increased the minimum capital requirement for commercial banks from 120 million Ghana cedis (USD 24 million) to 400 million (USD 80 million) effective December 2018, as part of a broader effort to strengthen the banking industry. As a result of the reforms and subsequent closures and mergers of some banks, the number of commercial banks dropped from 36 to 23. Eight are domestically controlled and the remaining 15 are foreign-controlled. In total, there are nearly 1,500 branches distributed across the sixteen regions of the country.
Overall, the banking industry in Ghana is well-capitalized with a capital adequacy ratio of 21.7 percent as of February 2019, which is above the 10 percent prudential and statutory requirement. As of February 2019, the non-performing loans ratio had decreased to 18.2 percent from 21.6 percent in February 2018. Lending in foreign currencies to unhedged borrowers poses a risk, and widely varying standards in loan classification and provisioning may be masking weaknesses in bank balance sheets. The BoG is taking steps to address weaknesses in the non-bank deposit-taking institutions sector (e.g., microfinance, savings and loan, and rural banks) and has also issued new guidelines to strengthen corporate governance regulations in the banks.
Recent developments in the non-banking financial sector indicate increased diversification, including new rules and regulations governing the trading of Exchange Traded Funds. Non-banking financial institutions such as leasing companies, building societies, and savings and loan associations have increased access to finance for underserved populations, as have rural and mobile banking. Currently, Ghana has no “cross-shareholding” or “stable shareholder” arrangements used by private firms to restrict foreign investment through mergers and acquisitions.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Ghana operates a free-floating exchange rate regime. The Ghana cedi can be exchanged for dollars and major European currencies. Investors may convert and transfer funds associated with investments provided there is documentation of how the funds were acquired. Ghana’s investment laws guarantee that investors can transfer the following transactions in convertible currency out of Ghana: dividends or net profits attributable to an investment; loan service payments where a foreign loan has been obtained; fees and charges with respect to technology transfer agreements registered under the GIPC Act; and the remittance of proceeds from the sale or liquidation of an enterprise or any interest attributable to the investment. Companies have not reported challenges or delays in remitting investment returns. For details, please consult the GIPC Act (http://www.gipcghana.com) and the Foreign Exchange Act guidelines (http://www.sec.org). Persons arriving in or departing from Ghana are permitted to carry up to USD 10,000.00 without declaration; any greater amount must be declared.
Ghana’s foreign exchange reserve needs are largely met through cocoa, gold and oil exports, government securities, foreign assistance, and private remittances.
There is a single formal system for transferring currency out of the country through the banking system. The Parliament passed the Foreign Exchange Act in November 2006. The Act provided the legal framework for the management of foreign exchange transactions in Ghana. It fully liberalized capital account transactions, including allowing foreigners to buy certain securities in Ghana. It also removed the requirement for the Bank of Ghana (the central bank) to approve offshore loans. Payments or transfer of foreign currency can only be made through banks or institutions licensed to do money transfers. There is no limit on capital transfers as long as the transferee can identify the source of capital.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Ghana’s only sovereign wealth fund is the Ghana Petroleum Fund (GPF), which is funded by oil profits and flows to the Ghana Heritage Fund and Stabilization Fund. The Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) (Act 815), passed in 2011, spells out how revenues from oil and gas should be spent and includes transparency provisions for reporting by government agencies, as well as an independent oversight group, the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC). Section 48 of the PRMA requires the Fund to publish an audited annual report by the Ghana Audit Service. The Fund’s management meets the legal obligations. Management of the Ghana Petroleum Fund is a joint responsibility between the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana. The Minister develops the investment policy for the GPF, and is responsible for the overall management of GPF funds, consults regularly with the Investment Advisory Committee and Bank of Ghana Governor before making any decisions related to investment strategy or management of GPF funds. The Minister is also in charge of establishing a management agreement with the Bank of Ghana for the oversight of the funds. The Bank of Ghana is responsible for the day-to-day operational management of the Petroleum Reserve Accounts (PRAs) under the terms of Operation Management Agreement.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
By the end of 2017, Ghana had 86 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), 45 of which are wholly-owned while 41 are partially owned. Thirty-six (36) of the wholly-owned SOEs are commercial and operate more independently from government while nine are public corporations or institutions, some providing regulatory functions. While the President appoints the CEO and full boards of most of the wholly-owned SOEs, they are under the supervision of line ministries. Most of the partially owned investments are in the financial, mining, and oil and gas sectors. To improve the efficiency of SOEs and reduce fiscal risks they pose to the budget, in 2017 the government embarked on an exercise to tackle weak corporate governance in the SOEs as well as create a single entity institution to monitor all SOEs. Legislation creating a single authority for managing state-owned assets in pending before Parliament.
Today only a handful of large SOEs remain, mainly in the transportation, power, and extractive sectors. The largest SOEs are Ghana Ports and Harbor Authority (GPHA), Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Volta River Authority (VRA), Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL), Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Ghana National Gas Company Limited, and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). Many of these receive subsidies and assistance from the government. In March 2019, a private sector concessionaire, Power Distribution Services (PDS) Limited, took over management of ECG, through a process of increasing private sector participation in ECG under Ghana’s second Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact, which entered into force in September 2016. The USD 498.2 million compact is designed to increase the commercial viability of the utility. PDS will manage and operate ECG on a concession agreement for a period of 20 years.
While the Government of Ghana does not actively promote adherence to the OECD Guidelines, corporate governance of SOEs is overseen by the State Enterprise Commission (SEC). The SEC encourages SOEs to be managed like Limited Liability Companies so as to be profit-making. In addition, beginning in 2014, most state-owned enterprises were required to contract and service direct and government-guaranteed loans on their own balance sheet. The government’s goal is stop adding these loans to “pure public” debt, paid by taxpayers directly through the budget.
Ghana currently has no formal privatization program; however, the current government is prioritizing the creation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to restructure and privatize non-performing state-owned enterprises. Procuring PPPs is allowed under the National Policy on Public Private Partnerships in Ghana, which was adopted in June 2011. A PPP law is being drafted.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is no specific responsible business conduct (RBC) law in Ghana and the government has no action plan regarding OECD RBC guidelines.
Ghana has been a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative since 2010. The government also enrolled in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in 2014, making Ghana the only African country in the initiative to this day.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a growing concern among Ghanaian companies. The Ghana Club 100 is a ranking of the top performing companies, as determined by GIPC. It is based on several criteria, including a 10 percent weight assigned to corporate social responsibility, including philanthropy. Companies have noted that Ghanaian consumers are not generally interested in the CSR activities of private companies, with the exception of the extractive industries (whose CSR efforts seem to attract consumer, government and media attention). In particular, there is a widespread expectation that extractive sector companies will involve themselves in substantial philanthropic activities in the communities in which they have operations.
Corruption in Ghana is comparatively less prevalent than in other countries in the region, but remains a serious problem. The government has a relatively strong anti-corruption legal framework in place, but enforcement of existing laws is rare and haphazard. Corruption in government institutions is pervasive. The Government of Ghana has vowed to combat corruption and has taken some steps to promote better transparency and accountability. These include establishing an Office of the Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, and passing a Right to Information Act (similar to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act) to increase transparency.
The most common commercial fraud scams are procurement offers tied to alleged Ghanaian government or, more frequently, ECOWAS programs. U.S. companies frequently report being contacted by an unknown Ghanaian firm claiming to be an authorized agent of an official government procurement agency. Foreign firms that express an interest in being included in potential procurements are lured into paying a series of fees to have their companies registered or products qualified for sale in Ghana or the West Africa region. U.S. companies receiving offers from West Africa from unknown sources should use extreme caution and conduct significant due-diligence prior to pursuing these offers. American firms can request background checks on companies with whom they wish to do business by using the United States Commercial Service’s International Company Profile (ICP). Requests for ICPs should be made through the nearest United States Export Assistance Center. For more information about the United States Commercial Service, visit .
Businesses have noted that bribery is most pervasive in the judicial system and across public services. Companies report that bribes are often exchanged in return for favorable judicial decisions. Large corruption cases are prosecuted, but proceedings are lengthy and convictions are slow. A 2015 exposé captured video of judges and other judicial officials extorting bribes from litigants to manipulate the justice system. Thirty-four judges were implicated, and 25 were dismissed following the revelations, though none have been criminally prosecuted.
In 2016, the public procurement law was amended to address the shortcomings identified over a decade of implementation of the original law aimed at harmonizing the many public procurement guidelines used in the country and to bring public procurement into conformity with WTO standards. Notwithstanding the procurement law, companies cannot expect complete transparency in locally funded contracts. There continue to be allegations of corruption in the tender process and the government has in the past set aside international tender awards in the name of national interest. Though the law on public financial management was overhauled in August 2016, with stiffer sanctions and penalties on breaches, its impact on corruption is yet to be recorded. The Companies Act was also amended in 2016 to establish a register to collect and maintain a national database on beneficial owners in Ghana, but the register has yet to be established.
The 1992 Constitution established the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Among other things, the Commission is charged with investigating alleged and suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public funds by officials. The Commission is also authorized to take appropriate steps, including providing reports to the Attorney General and the Auditor-General in response to such investigations. The effectiveness of the Commission, however, is affected by a lack of resources, as it conducts few investigations leading to prosecutions. CHRAJ issued guidelines on conflict of interest to public sector workers in 2006, and issued a new Code of Conduct for Public Officers in Ghana with guidelines on conflicts of interest in 2009. CHRAJ also developed a National Anti-Corruption Action Plan that was approved by the Parliament in July 2014, but many of its provisions have not been implemented due to lack of resources. In November 2015, then-President Mahama fired the CHRAJ Commissioner after she was investigated for misappropriating public funds.
In 1998, the Government of Ghana also established an anti-corruption institution, called the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), to investigate corrupt practices involving both private and public institutions. SFO’s name was changed to Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) in 2010 and its functions were expanded to include crimes such as money laundering and other organized crimes. EOCO is empowered to initiate prosecutions and to recover proceeds from criminal activities. The government passed a “Whistle Blower” law in July 2006, intended to encourage Ghanaian citizens to volunteer information on corrupt practices to appropriate government agencies.
Like most other African countries, Ghana is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.
Resources to Report Corruption
Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ)
Old Parliament House, High Street, Accra
Postal Address: Box AC 489, Accra
Phone: 0302- 662150/ 664267/ 664561/ 668839
Fax: 0302- 660020/ 668840/ 680396/ 673677
10. Political and Security Environment
Ghana offers a relatively stable and predictable political environment for American investors. Ghana has a solid democratic tradition. In December 2016, Ghana completed its seventh consecutive peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections. Opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo defeated incumbent President and National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate John Mahama by a margin of over one million votes. Mahama conceded the election and power was transferred to the NPP peacefully. There were isolated cases of politically-motivated violence but no widespread civil disturbances.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Ghana has a large pool of unskilled labor. English is widely spoken, especially in urban areas. However, according to the United Nations, illiteracy remains high at 33 percent. Labor regulations and policies are generally favorable to business. Although labor-management relationships are generally positive, there are occasional labor disagreements stemming from wage policies in Ghana’s inflationary environment. Many employers find it advantageous to maintain open lines of communication on wage calculations and incentive packages. A revised Labor Act of 2003 (Act 651) unified and modified the old labor laws to bring them into conformity with the core principles of the International Labor Convention, to which Ghana is a signatory.
Under the Labor Act, the Chief Labor Officer both registers trade unions and approves applications by unions for a collective bargaining certificate. A collective bargaining certificate entitles the union to negotiate on behalf of a class of workers. The Labor Act also created a National Labor Commission to resolve labor and industrial disputes, and a National Tripartite Committee to set the national daily minimum wage and provide policy guidance on employment and labor market issues. The National Tripartite Committee includes representatives from government, employers’ organizations, and organized labor. The Labor Act sets the maximum hours of work at eight hours per day or 40 hours per week, but makes provision for overtime and rest periods. Task workers and domestic workers are excluded from the eight hours per day or 40 hours per week maximum.
The Labor Act prohibits the “unfair termination” of workers for specific reasons outlined in the law, including participation in union activities, pregnancy, or based on a protected class, such as by gender, race, color, ethnicity, origin, religion, creed, social, political or economic status, or disability. The Labor Act also provides procedures companies are required to follow when laying off staff, including under certain situations providing severance pay, known locally as “redundancy pay.” Disputes over redundancy pay can be referred to the National Labor Commission. The Act’s provisions regarding fair and unfair termination of employment do not apply to some classes of contract, probationary, and casual workers.
There is no legal requirement for labor participation in management. However, many businesses utilize joint consultative committees in which management and employees meet to discuss issues affecting business productivity and labor issues.
There are no statutory requirements for profit sharing, but fringe benefits in the form of year-end bonuses and retirement benefits are generally included in collective bargaining agreements. Child labor remains a problem. Child labor is particularly severe in agriculture, including in cocoa, and in fishing. Fish (including tilapia) is included on the U.S. government’s Executive Order 13126 List of Goods Produced by Forced and Indentured Child Labor. Additionally, cocoa, fish, gold, and tilapia are included on the U.S. government’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. In general, worker protection provisions in the Labor Act, including health and safety provisions, are weakly enforced. Post recommends consulting a local attorney for detailed advice regarding labor issues. The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( ).
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
Ghana has signed an agreement with the Overseas Private Investment Cooperation (OPIC). OPIC is active in Ghana, providing financing and insurance for a number of projects – particularly in the energy, housing, and health sectors. The African Project Development Facility (APDF) and the African investment program of the International Finance Corporation are other sources of information.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||Amount||100%||Total Outward||Amount||100%|
|Cayman Islands||Amount||12%||Country #3||Amount||X%|
|Brit Virgin Islands||Amount||11%||Country #4||Amount||X%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana