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Egypt

Executive Summary

The Egyptian government continues to make progress on economic reforms, and while many challenges remain, Egypt’s investment climate is improving.  The country has undertaken a number of structural reforms since the flotation of the Egyptian Pound (EGP) in November 2016, and after successfully completing a set of difficult macroeconomic reforms as part of a three-year, $12-billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) program, Egypt was one of the fastest-growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Egypt was also the only economy in the Middle East and North Africa to record positive economic growth in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased investor confidence and the reactivation of Egypt’s interbank foreign exchange (FX) market have attracted foreign portfolio investment and increased foreign reserves.  The Government of Egypt (GoE) increasingly understands that attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is key to addressing many of its economic challenges and has stated its intention to create a more conducive environment for FDI.  FDI inflows grew 11 percent between 2018 and 2019, from $8.1 to $9 billion, before falling 39 percent to $5.5 billion in 2020 amid sharp global declines in FDI due to the pandemic, according to data from the Central Bank of Egypt and the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UNCTAD ranked Egypt as the top FDI destination in Africa between 2016 and 2020.

Egypt has passed a number of regulatory reform laws, including a new investment law in 2017; a new companies law and a bankruptcy law in 2018; and a new customs law in 2020.  These laws aim to improve Egypt’s investment and business climate and help the economy realize its full potential.  The 2017 Investment Law is designed to attract new investment and provides a framework for the government to offer investors more incentives, consolidate investment-related rules, and streamline procedures.  The 2020 Customs Law is likewise meant to streamline aspects of import and export procedures, including through a single-window system, electronic payments, and expedited clearances for authorized companies. The GoE is still developing implementation rules for the Customs Law.

The government also hopes to attract investment in several “mega projects,” including the construction of a new national administrative capital, and to promote mineral extraction opportunities.  Egypt intends to capitalize on its location bridging the Middle East, Africa, and Europe to become a regional trade and investment gateway and energy hub, and hopes to attract information and communications technology (ICT) sector investments for its digital transformation program.

Egypt is a party to more than 100 bilateral investment treaties, including with the United States.  It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA).  In many sectors, there is no legal difference between foreign and domestic investors. Special requirements exist for foreign investment in certain sectors, such as upstream oil and gas as well as real estate, where joint ventures are required.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 117 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 114 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 96 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, on a historical-cost basis 2019 USD 11,000 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 2,690 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Egypt’s completion of the three-year, $12-billion IMF Extended Fund Facility between 2016 and 2019, and its associated reform package, helped stabilize Egypt’s macroeconomy, introduced important subsidy and social spending reforms, and helped restore investor confidence in the Egyptian economy.  The flotation of the Egyptian Pound (EGP) in November 2016 and the restart of Egypt’s interbank foreign exchange (FX) market as part of this program was the first major step in restoring investor confidence that immediately led to increased portfolio investment and should lead to increased FDI over the long term.  Other important reforms have included a new investment law and an industrial licensing law in 2017, a new bankruptcy law in 2018, a new customs law in 2020, and other reforms aimed at reducing regulatory overhang and improving the ease of doing business. Egypt’s government has announced plans to improve its business climate further through investment promotion, facilitation, more efficient business services, and the implementation of investor-friendly policies.

With few exceptions, Egypt does not legally discriminate between Egyptian nationals and foreigners in the formation and operation of private companies. The 1997 Investment Incentives Law was designed to encourage domestic and foreign investment in targeted economic sectors and to promote decentralization of industry away from the Nile Valley. The law allows 100 percent foreign ownership of investment projects and guarantees the right to remit income earned in Egypt and to repatriate capital.

The Tenders Law (Law 89 of 1998) requires the government to consider both price and best value in awarding contracts and to issue an explanation for refusal of a bid. However, the law contains preferences for Egyptian domestic contractors, who are accorded priority if their bids do not exceed the lowest foreign bid by more than 15 percent.

The Capital Markets Law (Law 95 of 1992) and its amendments, including the most recent in February 2018, and relevant regulations govern Egypt’s capital markets.  Foreign investors are able to buy shares on the Egyptian Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.

The General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI, http://gafi.gov.eg) is the principal government body that regulates and facilitates foreign investment in Egypt, and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

The Investor Service Center (ISC) is an administrative unit within GAFI that provides “one-stop-shop” services, easing the way for global investors looking for opportunities presented by Egypt’s domestic economy and the nation’s competitive advantages as an export hub for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This is in addition to promoting Egypt’s investment opportunities in various sectors.

The ISC provides a start-to-end service to the investor, including assistance related to company incorporation, establishment of company branches, approval of minutes of Board of Directors and General Assemblies, increases of capital, changes of activity, liquidation procedures, and other corporate-related matters. The Center also aims to issue licenses, approvals, and permits required for investment activities within 60 days from the date of request. Other services GAFI provides include:

Advice and support to help in the evaluation of Egypt as a potential investment location;

Identification of suitable locations and site selection options within Egypt;

Assistance in identifying suitable Egyptian partners; and

Aftercare and dispute settlement services. ​

The ISC plans to establish branches in each of Egypt’s Governorates by the end of 2021.  Egypt maintains ongoing communication with investors through formal business roundtables, investment promotion events (conferences and seminars), and one-on-one investment meetings.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Egyptian Companies Law does not set any limitation on the number of foreigners, neither as shareholders nor as managers/board members, except for Limited Liability Companies where the only restriction is that one of the managers must be an Egyptian national. In addition, companies are required to obtain a commercial and tax license, and pass a security clearance process.  Companies are able to operate while undergoing the often lengthy security screening process.  However, if the firm is rejected, it must cease operations and may undergo a lengthy appeals process.  Businesses have cited instances where Egyptian clients were hesitant to conclude long-term business contracts with foreign businesses that have yet to receive a security clearance. They have also expressed concern about seemingly arbitrary refusals, a lack of explanation when a security clearance is not issued, and the lengthy appeals process. Although the Government of Egypt has made progress streamlining the business registration process at GAFI, inconsistent treatment by banks and other government officials has in some cases led to registration delays.

Sector-specific limitations to investment include restrictions on foreign shareholding of companies owning lands in the Sinai Peninsula. Likewise, the Import-Export Law requires companies wishing to register in the Import Registry to be 51 percent owned and managed by Egyptians. Nevertheless, the new Investment Law does allow wholly foreign companies investing in Egypt to import goods and materials. In January 2021 the Egyptian government removed the 20-percent foreign ownership cap for international and private schools in Egypt.

The ownership of land by foreigners is complicated, in that it is governed by three laws: Law 15 of 1963, Law 143 of 1981, and Law 230 of 1996.  Land/Real Estate Law 15 of 1963 explicitly prohibits foreign individual or corporation ownership of agricultural land (defined as traditional agricultural land in the Nile Valley, Delta and Oases). Law 15/1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land.  Law 143/1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is approximately equal to one acre) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships, and corporations regardless of nationality. Partnerships are permitted to own 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own 50,000 feddans.

Under Law 230/1986, non-Egyptians are allowed to own real estate (vacant or built) only under the following conditions:

  • Ownership is limited to two real estate properties in Egypt that serve as accommodation for the owner and his family (spouses and minors) in addition to the right to own real estate needed for activities licensed by the Egyptian Government.
  • The area of each real estate property does not exceed 4,000 m².
  • The real estate is not considered a historical site.

Exemption from the first and second conditions is subject to the approval of the Prime Minister. Ownership in tourist areas and new communities is subject to conditions established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Non-Egyptians owning vacant real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public. Non-Egyptians cannot sell their real estate for five years after registration of ownership, unless the Prime Minister consents to an exemption.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December 2020, the World Bank published a Country Private Sector Diagnostic report for Egypt, which analyzed key structural economic reforms that the Egyptian government should adopt in order to encourage private-sector-led economic growth. The report also included recommendations for the agribusiness, manufacturing, information technology, education, and healthcare sectors. https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/publications_ext_content/ifc_external_publication_site/publications_listing_page/cpsd-egypt

https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/publications_ext_content/ifc_external_publication_site/publications_listing_page/cpsd-egypt

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) signed a declaration with Egypt on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises on July 11, 2007, at which time Egypt became the first Arab and African country to sign the OECD Declaration, marking a new stage in Egypt’s drive to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI).  On July 8, 2020, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review for Egypt that highlighted the government’s progress implementing a proactive reform agenda to improve the business climate, attract more foreign and domestic investment, and reap the benefits of openness to FDI and participation in global value chains. https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm  

https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm  

In January 2018 the World Trade Organization (WTO) published a comprehensive review of the Egyptian Government’s trade policies, including details of the Investment Law’s (Law 72 of 2017) main provisions. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

The United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) published an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy Review for Egypt in 2017, in which it highlighted the potential for investments in the ICT sector to help drive economic growth and recommended specific reforms aimed at strengthening Egypt’s performance in key ICT policy areas.   https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf 

https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf   

Business Facilitation

GAFI’s ISC ( https://gafi.gov.eg/English/Howcanwehelp/OneStopShop/Pages/default.aspx ) was launched in February 2018 and provides start-to-end service to the investor, as described above.  The Investment Law (Law 72 of 2017) also introduces “Ratification Offices” to facilitate obtaining necessary approvals, permits, and licenses within 10 days of issuing a Ratification Certificate.

Investors may fulfill the technical requirements of obtaining the required licenses through these Ratification Offices, directly through the concerned authority, or through its representatives at the Investment Window at GAFI.  The Investor Service Center is required to issue licenses within 60 days from submission. Companies can also register online.  GAFI has also launched e-establishment, e-signature, and e-payment services to facilitate establishing companies.

Outward Investment

Egypt promotes and incentivizes outward investment. According to the Egyptian government’s FDI Markets database for the period from January 2003 to January 2021, outward investment featured the following:

  • Egyptian companies implemented 278 Egyptian FDI projects. The estimated total value of the projects, which employed about 49,000 workers, was $24.26 billion.
  • The following countries respectively received the largest amount of Egyptian outward investment in terms of total project value: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kenya, Jordan, Ethiopia, Germany, Libya, Morocco, and Nigeria.
  • The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria accounted for about 28 percent of the total amount.
  • Elsewedy Electric was the largest Egyptian company investing abroad, implementing 21 projects with a total investment estimated to be $2.1 billion.

Egypt does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Egyptian government has made efforts to improve the transparency of government policy and to support a fair, competitive marketplace.  Nevertheless, improving government transparency and consistency has proven difficult, and reformers have faced strong resistance from entrenched bureaucratic and private interests.  Significant obstacles continue to hinder private investment, including the reportedly arbitrary imposition of bureaucratic impediments and the length of time needed to resolve them.  Nevertheless, the impetus for positive change driven by the government reform agenda augurs well for improvement in policy implementation and transparency.

Enactment of laws is the purview of the Parliament, while executive regulations are the domain of line ministries.  Under the Constitution, the president, the cabinet, and any member of parliament can present draft legislation.  After submission, parliamentary committees review and approve, including any amendments.  Upon parliamentary approval, a judicial body reviews the constitutionality of any legislation before referring it to the president for his approval.

Although notice and full drafts of legislation are typically printed in the Official Gazette (similar to the Federal Register in the United States), there is no centralized online location where the government publishes comprehensive details about regulatory decisions or their summaries, and in practice consultation with the public is limited.  In recent years, the Ministry of Trade and other government bodies have circulated draft legislation among concerned parties, including business associations and labor unions. This has been a welcome change from previous practice, but is not yet institutionalized across the government.

While Egyptian parliaments have historically held “social dialogue” sessions with concerned parties and private or civic organizations to discuss proposed legislation, it is unclear to what degree the current Parliament will adopt a more inclusive approach to social dialogue.  Many aspects of the 2016 IMF program and related economic reforms stimulated parliament to engage more broadly with the public, marking some progress in this respect.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms.  The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) supervises and regulates all non-banking financial markets and instruments, including capital markets, futures exchanges, insurance activities, mortgage finance, financial leasing, factoring, securitization, and microfinance.  It issues rules that facilitate market efficiency and transparency. FRA has issued legislation and regulatory decisions on non-banking financial laws which govern FRA’s work and the entities under its supervision. ( http://www.fra.gov.eg/jtags/efsa_en/index_en.jsp  )

The criteria for awarding government contracts and licenses are made available when bid rounds are announced.  The process actually used to award contracts is broadly consistent with the procedural requirements set forth by law.  Further, set-aside requirements for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) participation in GoE procurement are increasingly highlighted. The FRA publishes key laws and regulations to the following website: http://www.fra.gov.eg/content/efsa_en/efsa_pages_en/laws_efsa_en.htm  

http://www.fra.gov.eg/content/efsa_en/efsa_pages_en/laws_efsa_en.htm  

The Parliament and the independent “Administrative Control Authority” both ensure the government’s commitment to follow administrative processes at all levels of government.

The cabinet develops and submits proposed regulations to the president following discussion and consultation with the relevant ministry and informal consultation with other interest groups. Based on the recommendations provided in the proposal, including recommendations by the presidential advisors, the president issues “Presidential Decrees” that function as implementing regulations.  Presidential decrees are published in the Official Gazette for enforcement.

The degree to which ministries and government agencies responsible for drafting, implementing, or enforcing a given regulation coordinate with other stakeholders varies widely.  Although some government entities may attempt to analyze and debate proposed legislation or rules, there are no laws requiring scientific studies or quantitative regulatory impact analyses prior to finalizing or implementing new laws or regulations. Not all issued regulations are announced online, and not all public comments received by regulators are made public.

The government made its budget documents widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online.  Budget documents did not include allocations to military state-owned enterprises, nor allocations to and earnings from state-owned enterprises.  Information on government debt obligations was publicly available online, but up-to-date and clear information on state-owned enterprise debt guaranteed by the government was not available.  According to information the Central Bank has provided to the World Bank, the lack of information available about publicly guaranteed private-sector debt meant that this debt was generally recorded as private-sector non-guaranteed debt, thus potentially obscuring some contingent debt liabilities.

International Regulatory Considerations

In general, international standards are the main reference for Egyptian standards.  According to the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality Control, approximately 7,000 national standards are aligned with international standards in various sectors.  In the absence of international standards, Egypt uses other references referred to in Ministerial Decrees No. 180/1996 and No. 291/2003, which stipulate that in the absence of Egyptian standards, the producers and importers may use European standards (EN), U.S. standards (ANSI), or Japanese standards (JIS).

Egypt is a member of the WTO, participates actively in various committees, and notifies technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.  Egypt ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in June 2017 (Presidential decree No. 149/2017), and deposited its formal notification to the WTO on June 24, 2019.  Egypt notified indicative and definitive dates for implementing Category B and C commitments on June 20, 2019, but to date has not notified dates for implementing Category A commitments.  In August 2020 the Egyptian Parliament passed a new Customs Law, Law 207 of 2020, that includes provisions for key TFA reforms, including advance rulings, separation of release, a single-window system, expedited customs procedures for authorized economic operators, post-clearance audits, and e-payments.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Egypt’s legal system is a civil codified law system based on the French model.  If contractual disputes arise, claimants can sue for remedies through the court system or seek resolution through arbitration.  Egypt has written commercial and contractual laws. The country has a system of economic courts, specializing in private-sector disputes, which have jurisdiction over cases related to economic and commercial matters, including intellectual property disputes.  The judiciary is set up as an independent branch of the government.

Regulations and enforcement actions can be appealed through Egypt’s courts, though appellants often complain about the lengthy judicial process, which can often take years.  To enforce judgments of foreign courts in Egypt, the party seeking to enforce the judgment must obtain an exequatur (a legal document issued by governments allowing judgements to be enforced).  To apply for an exequatur, the normal procedures for initiating a lawsuit in Egypt must be satisfied. Moreover, several other conditions must be satisfied, including ensuring reciprocity between the Egyptian and foreign country’s courts, and verifying the competence of the court rendering the judgment.

Judges in Egypt enjoy a high degree of public trust, according to Egyptian lawyers and opinion polls, and are the designated monitors for general elections.  The Judiciary is proud of its independence and can point to a number of cases where a judge has made surprising decisions that run counter to the desires of the regime.  The judge’s ability to interpret the law can sometimes lead to an uneven application of justice.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

No specialized court exists for foreign investments.

The 2017 Investment Law (Law 72 of 2017) as well as other FDI-related laws and regulations, are published on GAFI’s website,  https://gafi.gov.eg/English/StartaBusiness/Laws-and-Regulations/Pages/default.aspx .

In 2017 the Parliament also passed the Industrial Permits Act, which reduced the time it takes to license a new factory by mandating that the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) respond to a request for a license within 30 days of the request being filed.  As of February 2020, new regulations allow IDA regional branch directors or their designees to grant conditional licenses to industrial investors until other registration requirements are complete.

In 2016, the Import-Export Law was revised to allow companies wishing to register in the Import Registry to be 51 percent owned and managed by Egyptians; formerly the law required 100 percent Egyptian ownership and management.  In November 2016, the inter-ministerial Supreme Investment Council also announced seventeen presidential decrees designed to spur investment or resolve longstanding issues. These include:

  • Forming a “National Payments Council” that will work to restrict the handling of FX outside the banking sector;
  • Producers of agricultural crops that Egypt imports or exports will get tax exemptions;
  • Five-year tax exemptions for manufacturers of “strategic” goods that Egypt imports or exports;
  • Five-year tax exemptions for agriculture and industrial investments in Upper Egypt; and
  • Begin tendering land with utilities for industry in Upper Egypt for free as outlined by the Industrial Development Authority.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Egyptian Competition Law (ECL), Law 3 of 2005, provides the framework for the government’s competition rules and anti-trust policies. The ECL prohibits the abuse of dominant market positions, which it defines as a situation in which a company’s market share exceeds 25 percent and in which the company is able to influence market prices or volumes regardless of competitors’ actions. The ECL prohibits vertical agreements or contracts between purchasers and suppliers that are intended to restrict competition, and also forbids agreements among competitors such as price collusion, production-restriction agreements, market sharing, and anti-competitive arrangements in the tendering process. The ECL applies to all types of persons or enterprises carrying out economic activities, but includes exemptions for some government-controlled public utilities. In early 2019, the Egyptian Parliament endorsed a number of amendments to the ECL, including controls on price hikes and prices of essential products and higher penalties for violations.

In addition to the ECL, other laws cover various aspects of competition policy. The Companies Law (Law 159/1981) contains provisions on mergers and acquisitions; the Law of Supplies and Commerce (Law 17 of 1999) forbids competition-reducing activities such as collusion and hoarding; and the Telecommunications Law (Law 10 of 2003), the Intellectual Property Law (Law 82 of 2002), and the Insurance Supervision and Control Law (Law 10 of 1981) also include provisions on competition.

The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) is responsible for protecting competition and prohibiting the monopolistic practices defined within the ECL. The ECA has the authority to receive and investigate complaints, initiate its own investigations, and take decisions and necessary steps to stop anti-competitive practices. The ECA’s enforcement powers include conducting raids; using search warrants; requesting data and documentation; and imposing “cease and desist orders” on violators of the ECL. The ECA’s enforcement activities against government entities are limited to requesting data and documentation, as well as advocacy.

Expropriation and Compensation

Egypt’s Investment Incentives Law provides guarantees against nationalization or confiscation of investment projects under the law’s domain.  The law also provides guarantees against seizure, requisition, blocking, and placing of assets under custody or sequestration.  It offers guarantees against full or partial expropriation of real estate and investment project property.  The U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty also provides protection against expropriation.  Private firms are able to take cases of alleged expropriation to court, but the judicial system can take several years to resolve a case.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Egypt acceded to the International Convention for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 1971 and is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, which provides a framework for the arbitration of investment disputes between the government and foreign investors from another member state, provided the parties agree to such arbitration. Without prejudice to Egyptian courts, the Investment Incentives Law recognizes the right of investors to settle disputes within the framework of bilateral agreements, the ICSID, or through arbitration before the Regional Center for International Commercial Arbitration in Cairo, which applies the rules of the United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law.

Egypt adheres to the 1958 New York Convention on the Enforcement of Arbitral Awards; the 1965 Washington Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and the Nationals of Other States; and the 1974 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between the Arab States and Nationals of Other States.  An award issued pursuant to arbitration that took place outside Egypt may be enforced in Egypt if it is either covered by one of the international conventions to which Egypt is party or it satisfies the conditions set out in Egypt’s Dispute Settlement Law 27 of 1994, which provides for the arbitration of domestic and international commercial disputes and limited challenges of arbitration awards in the Egyptian judicial system.  The Dispute Settlement Law was amended in 1997 to include disputes between public enterprises and the private sector.

To enforce judgments of foreign courts in Egypt, the party seeking to enforce the judgment must obtain an exequatur.  To apply for an exequatur, the normal procedures for initiating a lawsuit in Egypt and several other conditions must be satisfied, including ensuring reciprocity between the Egyptian and foreign country’s courts and verifying the competence of the court rendering the judgment.

Egypt has a system of economic courts specializing in private-sector disputes that have jurisdiction over cases related to economic and commercial matters, including intellectual property disputes. Despite these provisions, business and investors in Egypt’s renewable energy projects have reported significant problems resolving disputes with the Government of Egypt.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty allows an investor to take a dispute directly to binding third-party arbitration.  The Egyptian courts generally endorse international arbitration clauses in commercial contracts.  For example, the Court of Cassation has, on a number of occasions, confirmed the validity of arbitration clauses included in contracts between Egyptian and foreign parties.

A new mechanism for simplified settlement of investment disputes aimed at avoiding the court system altogether has been established.  In particular, the law established a Ministerial Committee on Investment Contract Disputes, responsible for the settlement of disputes arising from investment contracts to which the State, or a public or private body affiliated therewith, is a party. This is in addition to establishing a Complaint Committee to consider challenges connected to the implementation of Egypt’s Investment Law.  Finally, the decree established a Committee for Resolution of Investment Disputes, which will review complaints or disputes between investors and the government related to the implementation of the Investment Law.  In practice, Egypt’s dispute resolution mechanisms are time-consuming but broadly effective.  Businesses have, however, reported difficulty collecting payment from the government when awarded a monetary settlement.

Over the past 10 years, there have been several investment disputes involving both U.S. persons and foreign investors.  Most of the cases have been settled, though no definitive number is available. Local courts in Egypt recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.  There are no known extrajudicial actions against foreign investors in Egypt during the period of this report.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Egypt allows mediation as a mechanism for alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a structured negotiation process in which an independent person known as a mediator assists the parties to identify and assess options, and negotiate an agreement to resolve their dispute.  GAFI has an Investment Disputes Settlement Center, which uses mediation as an ADR.

The Economic Court recognizes and enforces arbitral awards. Judgments of foreign courts may be recognized and enforceable under local courts under limited conditions.

In most cases, domestic courts have found in favor of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) involved in investment disputes.  In such disputes, non-government parties have often complained about the delays and discrimination in court processes.

Many foreign investors employ clauses that specify that U.S. companies employ contractual clauses that specify binding international (not local) arbitration of disputes in their commercial agreements.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Egypt passed a Bankruptcy Law (Law 11 of 2018) in January 2018, which was designed to speed up the restructuring of troubled companies and settlement of their accounts.  It also replaced the threat of imprisonment with fines in cases of bankruptcy.  As of July 2020, the Egyptian government was considering but had not yet implemented amendments to the 2018 law that would allow debtors to file for bankruptcy protection, and would give creditors the ability to determine whether debtors could continue operating, be placed under administrative control, or be forced to liquidate their assets.

In practice, the paperwork involved in liquidating a business remains convoluted and protracted; starting a business is much easier than shutting one down. Bankruptcy is frowned upon in Egyptian culture, and many businesspeople still believe they may be found criminally liable if they declare bankruptcy.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Investment Law 72/2017 gives multiple incentives to investors as described below.  In August 2019, President Sisi ratified amendments to the Investment Law that allow its incentive programs to apply to expansions of existing investment projects in addition to new investments.

General Incentives:

  • All investment projects subject to the provisions of the new law enjoy the general incentives provided by it.
  • Investors are exempted from the stamp tax, notary fees, registration of the Memorandum of Incorporation of the companies, credit facilities, and mortgage contracts associated with their business for five years from the date of registration in the Commercial Registry, in addition to the registration contracts of the lands required for a company’s establishment.
  • If the establishment is under the provisions of the new investment law, it will benefit from a two-percent unified custom tax over all imported machinery, equipment, and devices required for the set-up of such a company.

Special Incentive Programs:

  • Investment projects established within three years of the date of the issuance of the Investment Law (Law 72 of 2017) will enjoy a perpetual deduction from their net profit subject to the income tax;
  • 50 percent deduction of depreciated investment costs from taxes, infrastructure fees, and cost of lands for projects in regions the government has identified as most in need of development, as well as designated projects in Suez Canal Special Economic Zone and the “Golden Triangle” along the Red Sea between the cities of Safaga, Qena, and El Quseer; or
  • 30 percent deduction of depreciated investment costs from taxes, infrastructure fees, and land costs for projects elsewhere in Egypt; and
  • Provided that such deduction shall not exceed 80 percent of the paid-up capital of the company, the incentive could be utilized over a maximum of seven years.

Additional Incentive Program:

The Cabinet of Ministers may decide to grant additional incentives for investment projects in accordance with specific rules and regulations as follows:

  • The establishment of special customs ports for exports and imports of the investment projects.
  • The state may incur part of the costs of the technical training for workers.
  • Free allocation of land for a few strategic activities may apply.
  • The government may bear in full or in part the costs incurred by the investor to invest in utility connections for the investment project.
  • The government may refund half the price of the land allocated to industrial projects in the event of starting production within two years from receiving the land.

Other Incentives related to Free Zones according to Investment Law 72/2017:

  • Exemption from all taxes and customs duties.
  • Exemption from all import/export regulations.
  • The option to sell a certain percentage of production domestically if customs duties are paid.
  • Limited exemptions from labor provisions.
  • All equipment, machinery, and essential means of transport (excluding sedan cars) necessary for business operations are exempted from all customs, import duties, and sales taxes.
  • All licensing procedures are handled by GAFI. To remain eligible for benefits, investors operating inside the free zones must export more than 50 percent of their total production.
  • Manufacturing or assembly projects pay an annual charge of one percent of the total value of their products excluding all raw materials. Storage facilities are to pay one percent of the value of goods entering the free zones, while service projects pay one percent of total annual revenue.
  • Goods in transit to specific destinations are exempt from any charges.

Other Incentives related to the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone): 100 percent foreign ownership of companies allowed.

  • 100 percent foreign ownership of companies allowed.
  • 100 percent foreign control of import/​export activities allowed.
  • Imports are exempted from customs duties and sales tax.
  • Customs duties on exports to Egypt imposed on imported components only, not the final product.
  • Fast-track visa services.
  • A full service one-stop shop for registration and licensing.
  • Allowing enterprises access to the domestic market; duties on sales to domestic market will be assessed on the value of imported inputs only.

The Tenders Law (Law 89/1998) requires the government to consider both price and best value in awarding contracts and to issue an explanation for refusal of a bid. However, the law contains preferences for Egyptian domestic contractors, who are accorded priority if their bids do not exceed the lowest foreign bid by more than 15 percent.

The Ministry of Industry & Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Finance’s Decree No. 719/2007 provides incentives for industrial projects in the governorates of Upper Egypt (Upper Egypt refers to governorates in southern Egypt). The decree provides an incentive of 15,000 EGP (approx. $940) for each job opportunity created by the project, on the condition that the investment costs of the project exceed 15 million EGP (approx. $940,000). The decree can be implemented on both new and ongoing projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Public and private free-trade zones are authorized under GAFI’s Investment Incentive Law No. 72 of 2017. Free zones are located within the national territory, but are considered to be outside Egypt’s customs boundaries, granting firms doing business within them more freedom on transactions and exchanges. Companies producing largely for export (normally 80 percent or more of total production) may be established in free-trade zones and operate using foreign currency. Free-trade zones are open to investment by foreign or domestic investors. Companies operating in free-trade zones are exempted from sales taxes or taxes and fees on capital assets and intermediate goods. The Legislative Package for the Stimulation of Investment, issued in 2015, stipulated a one-percent duty paid on the value of commodities upon entry for storage projects and a one-percent duty upon exit for manufacturing and assembly projects.

There are currently nine public free trade zones in operation in the following locations: Alexandria; Damietta; Ismailia; Qeft; Media Production City; Nasr City; Port Said; Shebin el Kom; and Suez. Private free-trade zones may also be established with a decree by GAFI but are usually limited to a single project. Export-oriented industrial projects are given priority.  There is no restriction on foreign ownership of capital in private free zones.

The Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Law 83/2002 allows establishment of special zones for industrial, agricultural, or service activities designed specifically with the export market in mind.  The law allows firms operating in these zones to import capital equipment, raw materials, and intermediate goods duty free. Companies established in the SEZs are also exempt from sales and indirect taxes and can operate under more flexible labor regulations. The first SEZ was established in the northwest Gulf of Suez.

Investment Law 72 of 2017 authorized creation of investment zones with Prime Ministerial approval. The government regulates these zones through a board of directors, but the zones are established, built, and operated by the private sector. The government does not provide any infrastructure or utilities in these zones. Investment zones enjoy the same benefits as free zones in terms of facilitation of license-issuance, ease of dealing with other agencies, etc., but are not granted the incentives and tax/custom exemptions enjoyed in free zones. Projects in investment zones pay the same tax/customs duties applied throughout Egypt. The aim of the law is to assist the private sector in diversifying its economic activities. There are currently five investment zones located in Cairo, Giza, and Ismailia, and in 2019 GAFI approved the development of an additional 12 investment zones in the Alexandria, Dakhalia, Damietta, Fayoum, Giza, Qalyubia, and Sharkia governorates.

The Suez Canal Economic Zone ( http://www.sczone.com.eg/English/Pages/default.aspx) , a major industrial and logistics services hub announced in 2014, includes upgrades and renovations to ports located along the Suez Canal corridor, including West and East Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, Adabiya, and Ain Sokhna. The Egyptian government has invited foreign investors to take part in the projects, which are expected to be built in several stages, the first of which was scheduled to be completed by mid-2020. Reported areas for investment include maritime services like ship repair services, bunkering, vessel scrapping and recycling; industrial projects, including pharmaceuticals, food processing, automotive production, consumer electronics, textiles, and petrochemicals; IT services such as research and development and software development; renewable energy; and mixed use, residential, logistics, and commercial developments.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Egypt has rules on national percentages of employment and difficult visa and work permit procedures. The government plans to phase out visas for unskilled workers, but as yet has not done so. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis, but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period. Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers. The application of these regulations is inconsistent. The Labor Law allows Ministers to set the maximum percentage of foreign workers that may work in companies in a given sector. There are no such sector-wide maximums for the oil and gas industry, but individual concession agreements may contain language establishing limits or procedures regarding the proportion of foreign and local employees.

No performance requirements are specified in the Investment Incentives Law, and the ability to fulfill local content requirements is not a prerequisite for approval to set up assembly projects. In many cases, however, assembly industries still must meet a minimum local content requirement in order to benefit from customs tariff reductions on imported industrial inputs.

Decree 184/2013 allows for the reduction of customs tariffs on intermediate goods if the final product has a certain percentage of input from local manufacturers, beginning at 30 percent local content. As the percentage of local content rises, so does the tariff reduction, reaching up to 90 percent if the amount of local input is 60 percent or above. Exporters receive additional subsidies if they use a greater portion of local raw materials. In certain cases, a minister can grant tariff reductions of up to 40 percent in advance.

Prime Minister issued Decision No. 3053 of 2019 regarding the formation of joint committees in the inspection yards at each customs port. These committees include representatives of the customs authority and the concerned authorities and bodies according to type of goods. The committees are responsible for completing inspection and control procedures for imported or exported goods within a period not exceeding three working days from the date of the customs declaration was registered.

Manufacturers wishing to export under trade agreements between Egypt and other countries must complete certificates of origin and satisfy the local content requirements contained therein. Oil and gas exploration concessions, which do not fall under the Investment Incentives Law, have performance standards specified in each individual agreement, which generally include the drilling of a specific number of wells in each phase of the exploration period stipulated in the agreement.

Egypt does not impose localization barriers on ICT firms. Egypt’s Personal Data Protection Act (Law 151/2020), signed into law in July 2020, will require licenses for cross-border data transfers once the law’s executive regulations are finalized, but it will not impose any data localization requirements. Similarly, Egypt does not make local production a requirement for market access, does not have local content requirements, and does not impose forced technology or intellectual property transfers as a condition of market access. But there are exceptions where the government has attempted to impose controls by requesting access to a company’s servers located offshore, or requested servers to be located in Egypt and thus under the government’s control.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Egyptian legal system provides protection for real and personal property. Laws on real estate ownership are complex and titles to real property may be difficult to establish and trace. According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Egypt ranks 130 of 190 for ease of registering property.

The National Title Registration Program introduced by the Ministry of State for Administrative Development has been implemented in nine areas within Cairo. This program is intended to simplify property registration and facilitate easier mortgage financing. Real estate registration fees, long considered a major impediment to development of the real estate sector, are capped at no more than 2,000 EGP ($120), irrespective of the property value.

Foreigners are limited to ownership of two residences in Egypt, and specific procedures are required for purchasing real estate in certain geographical areas.

The mortgage market is still undeveloped in Egypt, and in practice most purchases are still conducted in cash. Real Estate Finance Law 148/2001 authorized both banks and non-bank mortgage companies to issue mortgages. The law provides procedures for foreclosure on property of defaulting debtors, and amendments passed in 2004 allow for the issuance of mortgage-backed securities. According to the regulations, banks can offer financing in foreign currency of up to 80 percent of the value of a property.

Presidential Decree 17/2015 permitted the government to provide land free of charge, in certain regions only, to investors meeting certain technical and financial requirements. In order to take advantage of this provision companies must provide cash collateral for five years following commencement of either production (for industrial projects) or operation (for all other projects).

The ownership of land by foreigners is governed by three laws: Law 15/1963, Law 143/1981, and Law 230/1996. Law 15/1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land. Law 143/1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is approximately equal to one acre) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships and corporations. Partnerships are permitted to own up to 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own up to 50,000 feddans.

Partnerships and joint stock companies may own desert land within these limits, even if foreign partners or shareholders are involved, provided that at least 51 percent of the capital is owned by Egyptians. Upon liquidation of the company, however, the land must revert to Egyptian ownership. Law 143 defines desert land as the land lying two kilometers outside city borders. Furthermore, non-Egyptians owning non-improved real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public. Non-Egyptians may only sell their real estate five years after registration of ownership unless the Prime Minister consents to an exemption.

Intellectual Property Rights

Egypt remains on the Special 301 Watch List in 2021. Egypt’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation generally meets international standards, and the government has made progress enforcing those laws, reducing patent application backlogs, and, in 2020, shut down a number of online illegal streaming websites. It has also made progress establishing protection against the unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products. Stakeholders note continued challenges with widespread counterfeiting, biotechnology patentability criteria, patent and trademark examination criteria, and pharmaceutical-related IP issues.

Multinational pharmaceutical companies in the past have complained that local generic drug-producing companies infringe on their patents. The government has not yet established a system linking pharmaceutical marketing applications with patent licenses, and as a result permits for the sale of pharmaceuticals are generally issued without first cross-checking patent filings.

Decree 251/2020, issued in January 2020, established a ministerial committee to review petitions for compulsory patent licenses. According to Egypt’s 2002 IPR Law (Law 82 of 2002), which allows for compulsory patent licenses in some cases, the committee has the power to issue compulsory patent licenses according to a number of criteria set forth in the law; to determine financial remuneration for the original patent owners; and to approve the expropriation of the patents.

Book, music, and entertainment software piracy is prevalent in Egypt, and a significant portion of the piracy takes place online. American film studios represented by the Motion Pictures Association of America are concerned about the illegal distribution of American movies on regional satellite channels.

Eight GoE ministries have the responsibility to oversee IPR concerns: Supply and Internal Trade for trademarks; Higher Education and Research for patents; Culture for copyrights; Agriculture for plants; Communications and Information Technology for copyright of computer programs; Interior for combatting IPR violations; Customs for border enforcement; and Trade and Industry for standards and technical regulations. Article 69 of Egypt’s 2014 Constitution mandates the establishment of a “specialized agency to uphold [IPR] rights and their legal protection.” A National Committee on IPR was established to address IPR matters until a permanent body is established. All IPR stakeholders are represented in the committee, and members meet every two months to discuss issues. The National Committee on IPR is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

The Egyptian Customs Authority (ECA) handles IPR enforcement at the national border and the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Investigation handles domestic cases of illegal production. The ECA cannot act unless the trademark owner files a complaint. ECA’s customs enforcement also tends to focus on protecting Egyptian goods and trademarks. The ECA is taking steps to adopt the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Interface Public-Members platform, which allows customs officers to detect counterfeit goods by scanning a product’s barcode and checking the WCO trademark database system.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://wipo.int/directory/en/.

IPR Contact at Embassy Cairo:  Christopher Leslie

Trade & Investment Officer

20-2-2797-2735

LeslieCG@state.gov 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

To date, high returns on Egyptian government debt have crowded out Egyptian investment in productive capacity.  Consistently positive and relatively high real interest rates have attracted large foreign capital inflows since 2017, most of which has been volatile portfolio capital.  Returns on Egyptian government debt have begun to come down, which could presage investment by Egyptian capital in the real economy.

The Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) is Egypt’s registered securities exchange. Some 240 companies were listed on the EGX, including Nilex, as of February 2021. There were more than 500,000 investors registered to trade on the exchange in 2019, and the Egyptian market attracted 28,240 new investors in 2020.  Stock ownership is open to foreign and domestic individuals and entities.  The Government of Egypt issues dollar-denominated and Egyptian Pound-denominated debt instruments, for which ownership is open to foreign and domestic individuals and entities. The government has developed a positive outlook toward foreign portfolio investment, recognizing the need to attract foreign capital to help develop the Egyptian economy.  Foreign investors conducted 16 percent of sales on the EGX in 2020.

The Capital Market Law 95/1992, along with Banking Law 94 that President Sisi ratified in September 2020, constitute the primary regulatory frameworks for the financial sector.  The law grants foreigners full access to capital markets, and authorizes establishment of Egyptian and foreign companies to provide underwriting of subscriptions, brokerage services, securities and mutual funds management, clearance and settlement of security transactions, and venture capital activities.  The law specifies mechanisms for arbitration and legal dispute resolution and prohibits unfair market practices.  Law 10/2009 created the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA) and brought the regulation of all non-banking financial services under its authority.  In 2017, EFSA became the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA).

Settlement of transactions takes one day for treasury bonds and two days for stocks.  Although Egyptian law and regulations allow companies to adopt bylaws limiting or prohibiting foreign ownership of shares, virtually no listed stocks have such restrictions.  A significant number of the companies listed on the exchange are family-owned or -dominated conglomerates, and free trading of shares in many of these ventures, while increasing, remains limited.  Companies are de-listed from the exchange if not traded for six months.

Prior to November 2020, foreign companies enlisting on the EGX had to possess minimum capital of $100 million. With the FRA’s passage of new rules, foreign companies joining the EGX must now meet lesser requirements matching those for Egyptian companies: $6.4 million (100 million EGP) for large companies and between $63,000 and $6.4 million (1-100 million EGP) for smaller companies, depending on their size. Foreign businesses are only eligible for these lower minimum capital requirements if the EGX is their first exchange and if they attribute more than 50 percent of their shareholders’ equites, revenues, and assets to Egyptian subsidiary companies.

The Finance Ministry announced in May 2020 the suspension of stock market capital gains taxes for Egyptian tax residents until December 31, 2021, and made stock market capital gains permanently tax-exempt for non-tax residents and foreigners. The government also set the stamp tax on stock market transactions by non-tax residents at 0.125 percent and at 0.05 percent for tax residents.

Foreign investors can access Egypt’s banking system by opening accounts with local banks and buying and selling all marketable securities with brokerages.  The government has repeatedly emphasized its commitment to maintaining the profit repatriation system to encourage foreign investment in Egypt, especially since the pound flotation and implementation of the IMF loan program in November 2016.  The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock exchange transactions.  The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates.  The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in fewer than two days, though in practice some firms have reported significant delays in repatriating profits due to problems with availability.  Foreign firms and individuals continue to report delays in repatriating funds and problems accessing hard currency for the purpose of repatriating profits.

The Egyptian credit market, open to foreigners, is vibrant and active. Repatriation of investment profits has become much easier, as there is enough available hard currency to execute foreign exchange (FX) trades. Since the flotation of the Egyptian Pound in November 2016, FX trading is considered straightforward, given the re-establishment of the interbank foreign currency trading system.

Money and Banking System

Benefitting from the nation’s increasing economic stability over the past two years, Egypt’s banks have enjoyed both ratings upgrades and continued profitability. Thanks to economic reforms, a new floating exchange system, and a new Investment Law (Law 72/2017) passed in 2017, the project finance pipeline is increasing after a period of lower activity. Banking competition is serving a largely untapped retail segment and the nation’s challenging, but potentially rewarding, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) requires that banks direct 25 percent of their lending to SMEs.  In December 2019, the Central Bank launched a $6.4 billion (100 billion EGP) initiative to spur domestic manufacturing through subsidized loans. Also, with only about a quarter of Egypt’s adult population owning or sharing an account at a formal financial institution (according press and comments from contacts), the banking sector has potential for growth and higher inclusion, which the government and banks discuss frequently. A low median income plays a part in modest banking penetration.

The CBE has taken steps to work with banks and technology companies to expand financial inclusion.  The employees of the government, one of the largest employers, must now have bank accounts because salary payment is through direct deposit. The CBE approved new procedures in October 2020 to allow deposits and the opening of new bank accounts with only a government-issued ID, rather than additional documents. The maximum limits for withdrawals and account balances also increased. In July 2020, President Sisi ratified a new Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Development Law (Law 152 of 2020) that will provide incentives, tax breaks, and discounts for small, informal businesses willing to register their businesses and begin paying taxes.

As an attempt to keep pace with best practice and international norms, President Sisi ratified a new Banking Law, Law 94 of 2020, in September 2020. The law establishes a National Payment Council headed by the President to move Egypt away from cash and toward electronic payments; establishes a committee headed by the Prime Minister to resolve disputes between the CBE and the Ministry of Finance; establishes a CBE unit to handle complaints of monopolistic behaviors; requires banks to increase their cash holdings to $320 million (5 billion EGP), up from the prior minimum of $32 million (500 million EGP); and requires banks to report deficiencies in their own audits to the CBE.

Egypt’s banking sector is generally regarded as healthy and well-capitalized, due in part to its deposit-based funding structure and ample liquidity, especially since the flotation and restoration of the interbank market.  The CBE declared that 3.6 percent of the banking sector’s loans were non-performing by December 2020. However, since 2011, a high level of exposure to government debt, accounting for over 40 percent of banking system assets, at the expense of private-sector lending, has reduced the diversity of bank balance sheets and crowded out domestic investment. Given the flotation of the Egyptian Pound and restart of the interbank trading system, Moody’s and S&P have upgraded the outlook of Egypt’s banking system to stable from negative to reflect improving macroeconomic conditions and ongoing commitment to reform. In December 2020, Moody’s affirmed Egypt’s government issuer rating of B2 stable due to the government’s relatively low issuance of foreign currency loans and relatively low external government debt.

Thirty-eight banks operate in Egypt, including several foreign banks. The CBE has not issued a new commercial banking license since 1979. The only way for a new commercial bank, whether foreign or domestic, to enter the market (except as a representative office) is to purchase an existing bank. To this end, in 2013, QNB Group acquired National Société Générale Bank Egypt (NSGB). That same year, Emirates NBD, Dubai’s largest bank, bought the Egypt unit of BNP Paribas. In 2015, Citibank sold its retail banking division to CIB Bank. In 2017, Barclays Bank PLC transferred its entire shareholding to Attijariwafa Bank Group.  In January 2021, Bahrain’s bank ABC completed its purchase of the Egypt-based, Lebanon-owned BLOM bank, while First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) signed an agreement to acquire Bank Audi in Egypt. In 2016 and 2017, Egypt indicated a desire to partially (less than 35 percent) privatize at least one state-owned bank and a total of 23 firms through either expanded or new listings on the Egypt Stock Exchange. As of April 2020 the only step towards implementing this privatization program was the offering of 4.5 percent of the shares of state-owned Eastern Tobacco Company on the stock market. The state-owned Banque du Caire postponed plans to offer some of its shares on the EGX due to the novel coronavirus.

According to the CBE, banks operating in Egypt held nearly $446 billion (7 trillion EGP) in total assets as of December 2020, with the five largest banks holding more than 69 percent, or $309 billion (4.86 trillion EGP), of holdings by the end of 2020.

The chairman of the EGX recently stated that Egypt is exploring the use of block chain technologies across the banking community. The FRA will review the development and most likely regulate how the banking system adopts the fast-developing block chain systems into banks’ back-end and customer-facing processing and transactions. Seminars and discussions are beginning around Cairo, including visitors from Silicon Valley. While not outright banning cryptocurrencies, authorities caution against speculation in unknown asset classes.

Alternative financial services in Egypt are extensive, given the large informal economy, estimated to account for between 30 and 50 percent of GDP. Informal lending is prevalent, but the total capitalization, number of loans, and types of terms in private finance is less well known.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There had been significant progress in accessing hard currency since the flotation of the pound and re-establishment of the interbank currency trading system in November 2016. While the immediate aftermath saw some lingering difficulty of accessing currency, as of 2017 most businesses operating in Egypt reported having little difficulty obtaining hard currency for business purposes, such as importing inputs and repatriating profits. There are no dollar deposit limits on households and firms importing priority goods such as food products, pharmaceuticals, and basic raw materials. With net foreign reserves of $40.2 billion as of February 2021, Egypt’s foreign reserves appear to be well capitalized, although recent inflows are in part due to assistance payments by international financial institutions such as the IMF.

Funds associated with investment can be freely converted into any world currency available on the local market. Some firms and individuals report the process is slow. But the interbank trading system works in general, and currency is available as the foreign-exchange markets continue to react positively to the government’s commitment to macroeconomic and structural reform.

The value of the EGP generally fluctuates depending on market conditions, without direct market intervention by authorities. In general, the EGP has stabilized within an acceptable exchange rate range, which has increased the foreign exchange market’s liquidity. Since the early days following the flotation, there has been very low exchange-rate volatility.

Remittance Policies

The 1992 U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty provides for free transfer of dividends, royalties, compensation for expropriation, payments arising out of an investment dispute, contract payments, and proceeds from sales. Prior to reform implementation throughout 2016 and 2017, large corporations had been unable to repatriate local earnings for months at a time, but repatriation of funds is no longer restricted.     The Investment Incentives Law (Law 72 of 2017) (IIL) stipulates that non-Egyptian employees hired by projects established under the law are entitled to transfer their earnings abroad. Conversion and transfer of royalty payments are permitted when a patent, trademark, or other licensing agreement has been approved under the IIL.

The Investment Incentives Law (Law 72 of 2017) (IIL) stipulates that non-Egyptian employees hired by projects established under the law are entitled to transfer their earnings abroad. Conversion and transfer of royalty payments are permitted when a patent, trademark, or other licensing agreement has been approved under the IIL.   Banking Law 94 of 2020 regulates the repatriation of profits and capital. The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock-exchange transactions. The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit-repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates. The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in less than two days, though in practice some firms have reported short delays in repatriating profits due to the steps involved in processing.

Banking Law 94 of 2020 regulates the repatriation of profits and capital. The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock-exchange transactions. The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit-repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates. The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in less than two days, though in practice some firms have reported short delays in repatriating profits due to the steps involved in processing.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF), approved by the Cabinet and launched in late 2018, holds 200 billion EGP ($12.5 billion) in authorized capital as of December 2020.  The SWF aims to invest state funds locally and abroad across asset classes and manage underutilized government assets.  The sovereign wealth fund focuses on sectors considered vital to the Egyptian economy, particularly industry, energy, and tourism, and has established four new sub-funds covering healthcare, financial services, tourism, real estate, and infrastructure. The SWF participates in the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds. The government is currently in talks with regional and European institutions to take part in forming the fund’s sector-specific units.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State and military-owned companies compete directly with private companies in many sectors of the Egyptian economy. Although Public Sector Law 203/1991 states that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) should not receive preferential treatment from the government or be accorded exemptions from legal requirements applicable to private companies, in practice SOEs and military-owned companies enjoy significant advantages, including relief from regulatory requirements. Forty percent of the banking sector’s assets are controlled by three state-owned banks (Banque Misr, Banque du Caire, and National Bank of Egypt).  SOEs and other state-controlled “economic entities” in Egypt subject to Law 203/1991 are affiliated with 10 ministries and employ 450,000 workers.  The Ministry of Public Business Sector controls 90 SOEs operating under eight holding companies that employ 209,000 workers. The most profitable sectors include tourism, real estate, and transportation. The ministry publishes a list of SOEs and holding companies on its website, http://www.mpbs.gov.eg/Arabic/Affiliates/HoldingCompanies/Pages/default.aspx and http://www.mpbs.gov.eg/Arabic/Affiliates/AffiliateCompanies/Pages/default.aspx.   In an attempt to encourage growth of the private sector, privatization of state-owned enterprises and state-owned banks accelerated under an economic reform program that took place from 1991 to 2008. Following the 2011 revolution, third parties have brought cases in court to reverse privatization deals, and in a number of these cases, Egyptian courts have ruled to reverse the privatization of several former public companies. Most of these cases are still under appeal.

In an attempt to encourage growth of the private sector, privatization of state-owned enterprises and state-owned banks accelerated under an economic reform program that took place from 1991 to 2008. Following the 2011 revolution, third parties have brought cases in court to reverse privatization deals, and in a number of these cases, Egyptian courts have ruled to reverse the privatization of several former public companies. Most of these cases are still under appeal.

The state-owned telephone company, Telecom Egypt, lost its legal monopoly on the local, long-distance, and international telecommunication sectors in 2005, but held a de facto monopoly until late 2016, when the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) implemented a unified license regime that allows companies to offer both fixed line and mobile networks. The agreement allowed Telecom Egypt to enter the mobile market and the three existing mobile companies to enter the fixed-line market.  

 

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs 

SOEs in Egypt are structured as individual companies controlled by boards of directors and grouped under government holding companies that are arranged by industry, including Petroleum Products & Gas, Spinning & Weaving; Metallurgical Industries; Chemical Industries; Pharmaceuticals; Food Industries; Building & Construction; Tourism, Hotels, & Cinema; Maritime & Inland Transport; Aviation; and Insurance. The holding companies are headed by boards of directors appointed by the Prime Minister with input from the relevant Minister.

Privatization Program

The Egyptian government last attempted to privatize stakes in SOEs in March 2018 with the successful public offering of a minority stake in the Eastern Tobacco Company. The government has indefinitely delayed plans for privatizing stakes in 22 other SOEs, including up to 30 percent of the shares of Banque du Caire, due to adverse market conditions and increased global volatility. Egypt’s privatization program is based on Public Enterprise Law 203/1991, which permits the sale of SOEs to foreign entities.

Law 32/2014 limits the ability of third parties to challenge privatization contracts between the Egyptian government and investors. The law was intended to reassure investors concerned by legal challenges brought against privatization deals and land sales dating back to the pre-2008 period. Court cases at the time Parliament passed the law had put many of these now-private firms, many of which are foreign-owned, in legal limbo over concerns that they may be returned to state ownership.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) programs have grown in popularity in Egypt over the last ten years.  Most programs are limited to multinational and larger domestic companies as well as the banking sector and take the form of funding and sponsorship for initiatives supporting entrepreneurship and education and other social activities.  Environmental and technology programs are also garnering greater participation.  The Ministry of Trade has engaged constructively with corporations promoting RBC programs, supporting corporate social responsibility conferences and providing Cabinet-level representation as a sign of support to businesses promoting RBC programming.   A number of organizations and corporations work to foster the development of RBC in Egypt.  The American Chamber of Commerce has an active corporate social responsibility committee.  Several U.S. pharmaceutical companies are actively engaged in RBC programs related to Egypt’s hepatitis-C epidemic.  The Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center, which is the UN Global Compact local network focal point in Egypt, aims to empower businesses to develop sustainable business models as well as improve the national capacity to design, apply, and monitor sustainable responsible business conduct policies.  In March 2010, Egypt launched an environmental, social, and governance index, the second of its kind in the world after India’s, with training and technical assistance from Standard and Poor’s.  Egypt does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Public information about Egypt’s extractive industries remains limited to the government’s annual budget.

A number of organizations and corporations work to foster the development of RBC in Egypt.  The American Chamber of Commerce has an active corporate social responsibility committee.  Several U.S. pharmaceutical companies are actively engaged in RBC programs related to Egypt’s hepatitis-C epidemic.  The Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center, which is the UN Global Compact local network focal point in Egypt, aims to empower businesses to develop sustainable business models as well as improve the national capacity to design, apply, and monitor sustainable responsible business conduct policies.  In March 2010, Egypt launched an environmental, social, and governance index, the second of its kind in the world after India’s, with training and technical assistance from Standard and Poor’s.  Egypt does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Public information about Egypt’s extractive industries remains limited to the government’s annual budget.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Trafficking in Persons Report

Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities

North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory 

Department of Labor

Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor Report;

List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor

Sweat & Toil: Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Around the World and;

Comply Chain

9. Corruption

Egypt has a set of laws to combat corruption by public officials, including an Anti-Bribery Law (articles 103 through 111 of Egypt’s Penal Code), an Illicit Gains Law (Law 62/1975 and subsequent amendments in Law 97/2015), and a Governmental Accounting Law (Law 27/1981), among others.  Countering corruption remains a long-term focus. However, corruption laws have not been consistently enforced.  Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Egypt 106 out of 198 in its 2019 survey.  Transparency International also found that approximately 50 percent of Egyptians reported paying a bribe in order to obtain a public service.

Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. There is no government requirement for private companies to establish internal codes of conduct to prohibit bribery.

Egypt ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2005.  It has not acceded to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery or any other regional anti-corruption conventions.

While NGOs are active in encouraging anti-corruption activities, dialogue between the government and civil society on this issue is almost non-existent, the OECD found in 2009 in a trend that continues to this day.  While government officials publicly asserted they shared civil society organizations’ goals, they rarely cooperated with NGOs, and applied relevant laws in a highly restrictive manner against NGOs critical of government practices.  Media was also limited in its ability to report on corruption, with Article 188 of the Penal Code mandating heavy fines and penalties for unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI in Egypt. Companies might encounter corruption in the public sector in the form of requests for bribes, using bribes to facilitate required government approvals or licenses, embezzlement, and tampering with official documents.  Corruption and bribery are reported in dealing with public services, customs (import license and import duties), public utilities (water and electrical connection), construction permits, and procurement, as well as in the private sector.  Businesses have described a dual system of payment for services, with one formal payment and a secondary, unofficial payment required for services to be rendered.

Resources to Report Corruption

Several agencies within the Egyptian government share responsibility for addressing corruption.  Egypt’s primary anticorruption body is the Administrative Control Authority (ACA), which has jurisdiction over state administrative bodies, state-owned enterprises, public associations and institutions, private companies undertaking public work, and organizations to which the state contributes in any form.  2017 amendments to the ACA law grant the organization full technical, financial, and administrative authority to investigate corruption within the public sector (with the exception of military personnel/entities).  The ACA appears well funded and well trained when compared with other Egyptian law enforcement organizations.  Strong funding and the current ACA leadership’s close relationship with President Sisi reflect the importance of this organization and its mission.  However, it is small (roughly 300 agents) and is often tasked with work that would not normally be conducted by a law enforcement agency.

The ACA periodically engages with civil society.  For example, it has met with the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt and other organizations to encourage them to seek it out when corruption issues arise.

In addition to the ACA, the Central Auditing Authority (CAA) acts as an anti-corruption body, stationing monitors at state-owned companies to report corrupt practices. The Ministry of Justice’s Illicit Gains Authority is charged with referring cases in which public officials have used their office for private gain.  The Public Prosecution Office’s Public Funds Prosecution Department and the Ministry of Interior’s Public Funds Investigations Office likewise share responsibility for addressing corruption in public expenditures.

Resources to Report Corruption

Minister of Interior

General Directorate of Investigation of Public Funds

Telephone: 02-2792-1395 / 02-2792 1396

Fax: 02-2792-2389

10. Political and Security Environment

Stability and economic development remain Egypt’s priorities. The Egyptian government has taken measures to eliminate politically motivated violence while also limiting peaceful protests and political expression. Egypt’s presidential elections in March 2018 and senatorial elections in August 2020 proceeded without incident. Militant groups also committed attacks in the Western Desert and Sinai. The government has been conducting a comprehensive counterterrorism offensive in the Sinai since early 2018 in response to terrorist attacks against military installations and personnel by ISIS-affiliated militant groups. In February 2020, ISIS-affiliated militants claimed responsibility for an attack against a domestic gas pipeline in the northern Sinai. Although the group claimed that the attack targeted the recently opened natural gas pipeline connecting Egypt and Israel, the pipeline itself was undamaged, and the flow of natural gas was not interrupted.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Official statistics put Egypt’s labor force at approximately 29 million, with an official unemployment rate of 7.3 percent at the end of 2020. Women accounted for 25 percent of those unemployed as of May 2020, according to statistics from Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). Accurate figures are difficult to determine and verify given Egypt’s large informal economy, in which some 62 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is engaged, according to International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates.

The government bureaucracy and public sector enterprises are substantially over-staffed compared to the private sector and international norms. According to the World Bank, Egypt has the highest number of government workers per capita in the world. Businesses highlight a mismatch between labor skills and market demand, despite high numbers of university graduates in a variety of fields. Foreign companies frequently pay internationally competitive salaries to attract workers with valuable skills.

The Unified Labor Law 12/2003 provides comprehensive guidelines on labor relations, including hiring, working hours, termination of employees, training, health, and safety. The law grants a qualified right for employees to strike and stipulates rules and guidelines governing mediation, arbitration, and collective bargaining between employees and employers. Non-discrimination clauses are included, and the law complies with labor-related ILO conventions regulating the employment and training of women and eligible children. Egypt ratified ILO Convention 182 on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in 2002. In 2018, Egypt launched the first National Action Plan on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The law also created a national committee to formulate general labor policies and the National Council of Wages, whose mandate is to discuss wage-related issues and national minimum-wage policy, but it has rarely convened, and a minimum wage has rarely been enforced in the private sector.

Parliament adopted a new Trade Unions Law (Law 213/2017) in late 2017, replacing a 1976 law, which experts said was out of compliance with Egypt’s commitments to ILO conventions. After a 2016 Ministry of Manpower and Migration (MOMM) directive not to recognize documentation from any trade union without a stamp from the government-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the new law established procedures for registering independent trade unions, but some of the unions noted that the directorates of the MOMM did not implement the law and placed restrictions on freedoms of association and organizing for trade union elections. Executive regulations for trade union elections stipulate a very tight deadline of three months for trade union organizations to legalize their status, and one month to hold elections, which, critics said, restricted the ability of unions to legalize their status or to campaign. In 2018, the government registered its first independent trade union in more than two years.

In July 2019 the Egyptian Parliament passed a series of amendments (Law 142/2019) to the 2017 Trade Unions Law that reduced the minimum membership required to form a trade union and abolished prison sentences for violations of the law. The amendments reduced the minimum number of workers required to form a trade union committee from 150 to 50, the number of trade union committees to form a general union from 15 to 10 committees, and the number of workers in a general union from 20,000 to 15,000. The amendments also decreased the number of unions necessary to establish a trade union federation from 10 to 7 and the number of workers in a trade union from 200,000 to 150,000. Under the new law, a trade union or workers’ committee may be formed if 150 employees in an entity express a desire to organize.

Based on the new amendments to the Trade Unions Law and a request from the Egyptian government for assistance implementing them and meeting international labor standards, the International Labor Organization’s and International Finance Corporation’s joint Better Work Program launched in Egypt in March 2020.

The Trade Unions law explicitly bans compulsory membership or the collection of union dues without written consent of the worker and allows members to quit unions. Each union, general union, or federation is registered as an independent legal entity, thereby enabling any such entity to exit any higher-level entity.

The 2014 Constitution stipulated in Article 76 that “establishing unions and federations is a right that is guaranteed by the law.” Only courts are allowed to dissolve unions. The 2014 Constitution maintained past practice in stipulating that “one syndicate is allowed per profession.” The Egyptian constitutional legislation differentiates between white-collar syndicates (e.g. doctors, lawyers, journalists) and blue-collar workers (e.g. transportation, food, mining workers). Workers in Egypt have the right to strike peacefully, but strikers are legally obliged to notify the employer and concerned administrative officials of the reasons and time frame of the strike 10 days in advance. In addition, strike actions are not permitted to take place outside the property of businesses. The law prohibits strikes in strategic or vital establishments in which the interruption of work could result in disturbing national security or basic services provided to citizens. In practice, however, workers strike in all sectors, without following these procedures, but at risk of prosecution by the government.

Collective negotiation is allowed between trade union organizations and private sector employers or their organizations. Agreements reached through negotiations are recorded in collective agreements regulated by the Unified Labor law and usually registered at MOMM. Collective bargaining is technically not permitted in the public sector, though it exists in practice. The government often intervenes to limit or manage collective bargaining negotiations in all sectors.

MOMM sets worker health and safety standards, which also apply in public and private free zones and the Special Economic Zones (see below). Enforcement and inspection, however, are uneven. The Unified Labor Law prohibits employers from maintaining hazardous working conditions, and workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment.

Egyptian labor laws allow employers to close or downsize operations for economic reasons. The government, however, has taken steps to halt downsizing in specific cases. The Unemployment Insurance Law, also known as the Emergency Subsidy Fund Law 156/2002, sets a fund to compensate employees whose wages are suspended due to partial or complete closure of their firm or due to its downsizing. The Fund allocates financial resources that will come from a one percent deduction from the base salaries of public and private sector employees. According to foreign investors, certain aspects of Egypt’s labor laws and policies are significant business impediments, particularly the difficulty of dismissing employees. To overcome these difficulties, companies often hire workers on temporary contracts; some employees remain on a series of one-year contracts for more than 10 years. Employers sometimes also require applicants to sign a “Form 6,” an undated voluntary resignation form which the employer can use at any time, as a condition of their employment. Negotiations on drafting a new Labor Law, which has been under consideration in the Parliament for two years, have included discussion of requiring employers to offer permanent employee status after a certain number of years with the company and declaring Form 6 or any letter of resignation null and void if signed prior to the date of termination.

Egypt has a dispute resolution mechanism for workers. If a dispute concerning work conditions, terms, or employment provisions arises, both the employer and the worker have the right to ask the competent administrative authorities to initiate informal negotiations to settle the dispute. This right can be exercised only within seven days of the beginning of the dispute. If a solution is not found within 10 days from the time administrative authorities were requested, both the employer and the worker can resort to a judicial committee within 45 days of the dispute. This committee comprises two judges, a representative of MOMM, and representatives from the trade union and one of the employers’ associations. The decision of this committee is provided within 60 days. If the decision of the judicial committee concerns discharging a permanent employee, the sentence is delivered within 15 days. When the committee decides against an employer’s decision to fire, the employer must reintegrate the latter in his/her job and pay all due salaries. If the employer does not respect the sentence, the employee is entitled to receive compensation for unlawful dismissal.

Labor Law 12/2003 sought to make it easier to terminate an employment contract in the event of “difficult economic conditions.” The Law allows an employer to close his establishment totally or partially or to reduce its size of activity for economic reasons, following approval from a committee designated by the Prime Minister. In addition, the employer must pay former employees a sum equal to one month of the employee’s total salary for each of his first five years of service and one and a half months of salary for each year of service over and above the first five years. Workers who have been dismissed have the right to appeal. Workers in the public sector enjoy lifelong job security as contracts cannot be terminated in this fashion; however, government salaries have eroded as inflation has outpaced increases.

Egypt has regulations restricting access for foreigners to Egyptian worker visas, though application of these provisions has been inconsistent. The government plans to phase out visas for unskilled workers, but as yet has not done so. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis, but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period. Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers. Application of these regulations is inconsistent.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $319,056 2019 $335,175 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 11 2019 $11,000 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $1 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 41% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx 

* Sources for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Egypt; CAPMAS; GAFI

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars, 2019)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 985 100% All Countries 377 100% All Countries 608 100%
United States 242 25% International Organizations 216 57% United States 233 38%
International Organizations 216 22% Saudi Arabia 27 7% Saudi Arabia 92 15%
Saudi Arabia 120 12% Italy 23 6% United Arab Emirates 56 9%
United Arab Emirates 59 6% Switzerland 17 5% United Kingdom 46 8%
United Kingdom 50 5% Singapore 16 4% China 40 7%

14. Contact for More Information 

Chris Leslie, Economic Officer, U.S. Embassy Cairo

02-2797-2735

LeslieCG@state.gov 

Ghana

Executive Summary

Ghana’s economy had expanded at an average of seven percent per year since 2017 until the coronavirus pandemic reduced growth to 0.9 percent in 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance. Between 2017 and 2019, the fiscal deficit narrowed, inflation came down, and GDP growth rebounded, driven primarily by increases in oil production. The economy remains highly dependent on the export of primary commodities such as gold, cocoa, and oil, and consequently is vulnerable to slowdowns in the global economy and commodity price shocks. Growth is expected to rebound to 4.6 percent in 2021 from the shocks of COVID-19, according to the IMF, as a result of improved port activity, construction, imports, manufacturing, and credit to the private sector. In general, Ghana’s investment prospects remain favorable, as the Government of Ghana seeks to diversify and industrialize through agro-processing, mining, and manufacturing. It has made attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) a priority to support its industrialization plans and to overcome an annual infrastructure funding gap.

Remaining challenges to Ghana’s economy include high government debt, particularly energy sector debt, low internally generated revenue, and inefficient state-owned enterprises. Ghana has a population of 31 million, with over six million potential taxpayers, only 3.7 million of whom 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 capacity to meet current demand, but it needs to make the cost of electricity more affordable through more effective management of its state-owned power distribution system.

Among the challenges hindering foreign direct investment are: costly and difficult financial services, lack of government transparency, corruption, under-developed infrastructure, a complex property market, costly and intermittent power and water supply, the high costs of cross-border trade, a burdensome bureaucracy, and an unskilled labor force. Enforcement of laws and policies is weak, even where good laws exist on the books. Public procurements are sometimes opaque, and there are often issues with delayed payments. In addition, there have been troubling trends in investment policy over the last six years, with the passage of local content regulations in the petroleum, power, and mining sectors that may discourage needed future investments.

Despite these challenges, Ghana’s abundant raw materials (gold, cocoa, and oil/gas), relative security, and political stability, as well as its hosting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat make it stand out as one of the better locations for investment in sub-Saharan Africa. 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, although international companies have reported high levels of corruption in dealing with Ghanaian government institutions. Among the most promising sectors are agribusiness and food processing; textiles and apparel; downstream oil, gas, and minerals processing; construction; and mining-related services subsectors.

The government has acknowledged the need to strengthen its enabling environment to attract FDI, and is taking steps to overhaul the regulatory system, improve the ease of doing business, and restore fiscal discipline.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 75 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 118 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 108 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $1,602 https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $2,220 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 made increasing FDI a priority and acknowledges 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 Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) Act requires the 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-bank 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 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 collaborate more closely 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, www.gipcghana.com .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Most of Ghana’s major sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation.

U.S. investors in Ghana are treated the same as other foreign investors. 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, who 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 met 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.

Real Estate

The 1992 Constitution recognized existing private and traditional titles to land. Given this mix of private and traditional land titles, land rights to any specific area of land can be opaque. Freehold acquisition of land is not 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. Ghanaian nationals are allowed to enter into 99-year leases. The Ghanaian government has been working since 2017 on developing a digital property address and land registration system to reduce land disputes and improve efficiency. (See “Protection of Property Rights p. 14)

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, and a local equity partner holds a minimum interest of five percent. The Petroleum Commission issues all licenses. Exploration licenses must also 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 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.

Mining

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). In 2019, the criminal penalty for non-compliance with these regulations was increased to a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and maximum of 25 years, from a maximum of five years, to discourage illegal small-scale mining. The Act mandates local participation, whereby the government acquires 10 percent equity in ventures at no cost in all mineral rights. In order to qualify for any mineral 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. Non-Ghanaians may apply for industrial mineral rights only if the proposed investment is USD 10 million or above.

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. The Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act (Act 900) of 2015 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 2020, Ghana passed the Minerals and Mining (Local Content and Local Participation) Regulations, 2020 (L.I. 2431) to expand the specific provisions under the mining regulations that require mining entities to procure goods and services from local sources. The Minerals Commission publishes a Local Procurement List, which identifies items that must be sourced from Ghanaian-owned companies, whose directors must all be Ghanaians.

Power Sector

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 10-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 Distribution 30 51
Electricity Transmission 15 49
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, post-construction, 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.

Insurance

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 50 million Ghana cedis (approximately USD 9 million).

Telecommunications

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.

Banking and Electronic Payment Service Providers

The Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), establishes requirements for the licensing and authorization of electronic payment services. Act 987 ( https://www.bog.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Payment-Systems-and-Services-Act-2019-Act-987-.pdf ) imposes limitations on foreign investment and establishes residency requirements for company senior officials or members of the board of directors. Specifically, Act 987 mandates electronic payment services companies to have at least 30 percent Ghanaian ownership (either from a Ghanaian corporate or individual shareholder) and requires at least two of its three board directors, including its chief executive officer, be resident in Ghana.

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 minimal 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: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp398_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

Although registering a business is a relatively easy procedure and can be done online through the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) at https://egovonline.gegov.gov.gh/RGDPortalWeb/portal/RGDHome/eghana.portal  (this would be controlled by the new Office of the Registrar of Companies in 2021), 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 2020 , it takes eight procedures and 13 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) to engage in international trade in Ghana. In 2019, Ghana passed a new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), which among other things created a new independent office called the Office of the Registrar of Companies, responsible for the registration and regulation of all businesses. The new office is expected to be in place in 2021, and would separate the registration process for companies from the Registrar General’s Department; the latter would continue to serve as the government’s registrar for non-business transactions such as marriages. The new law also simplifies some registration processes by scrapping the issuance of a certificate to commence business and the requirement for a company to state business objectives, which limited the activities in which a company could engage. The law also expands the role of the company secretary, which now requires educational qualifications with some background in company law practice and administration or having been trained under a company secretary for at least three years. 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 confirms 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 http://www.gipcghana.com/ . While the registration process is designed to be completed within five business days, but there are often bureaucratic delays.

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 United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/). Specific information about setting up a business is available at the GIPC website: http://www.gipcghana.com/invest-in-ghana/doing-business-in-ghana.html .

Ghana Investment Promotion Centre
Post: P. O. Box M193, Accra-Ghana
Note: Omit the (0) after the country code when dialing from abroad.
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 665 125, +233 (0) 302 665 126, +233 (0) 302 665 127, +233 (0) 302 665 128, +233 (0) 302 665 129, +233 (0) 244 318 254/ +233 (0) 244 318 252
Email: info@gipc.gov.gh
Website: www.gipcghana.com 

Note that mining or oil/gas sector companies are required to obtain licensing/approval from the following relevant bodies:

Petroleum Commission Head Office
Plot No. 4A, George Bush Highway, Accra, Ghana
P.O. Box CT 228 Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 953 392 | +233 (0) 302 953 393
Website: http://www.petrocom.gov.gh/ 

Minerals Commission
Minerals House, No. 12 Switchback Road, Cantonments, Accra
P. O. Box M 248
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 772 783 /+233 (0) 302 772 786 /+233 (0) 302 773 053
Website: http://www.mincom.gov.gh/ 

Outward Investment

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. Some Ghanaian companies have established operations in other West African countries.

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 by the Ghana Publishing Company, while the notice of publication of the law, bills or regulations are made in the Ghana Gazette (equivalent of the U.S. Federal Register). The non-profit Ghana Legal Information Institute ( HYPERLINK “https://ghalii.org/gh/gazette/GHGaz” https://ghalii.org/gh/gazette/GHGaz) re-publishes hard copies of the Ghana Gazette. The Government of Ghana does not publish draft regulations online, and the Parliament only publishes some draft bills ( https://www.parliament.gh/docs?type=Bills&OT ), which inhibits transparency in the approval of laws and regulations.

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 the bodies’ susceptibility to political influence undermine 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. The government continues to work towards achieving these goals and in 2020 established the centralized public consultation web portal ( www.bcp.gov.gh ), the Ghana Business Regulatory Reforms platform. It is an interactive platform to allow policymakers to consult businesses and individuals in a transparent, inclusive, and timely manner on policy issues. Ghana adopted International Financial Reporting Standards in 2007 for all listed companies, government business enterprises, banks, insurance companies, security brokers, pension funds, and public utilities.

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 https://www.mofep.gov.gh/investor-relations/annual-public-debt-report . However, information on contingent liabilities from state-owned enterprises is not explicit and is not consolidated in one report.

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 lower courts and 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 and some cases that involve the highest levels of the government – which go to the Supreme Court. There is a history of government intervention in the court system, although somewhat less so in commercial matters. The courts have entered judgments against the government. However, the courts have been slow in disposing of cases and at times face challenges in having their decisions enforced, 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 Ghanaian citizens, and further delineates incentives and guarantees that relate to taxation, transfer of capital, profits and dividends, and guarantees against expropriation.

GIPC helps to facilitate the business registration process and provides economic, commercial, and investment information for companies and businesspeople 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 .

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 is reportedly working on a new competition law to replace the existing legislation, the Protection Against Unfair Competition Act, 2000 (Act 589); however, the new bill 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 county 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, but the process for determining adequate compensation and making payments can be complicated and lengthy in practice. 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.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Ghana is a member state of 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).

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.

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, which 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 Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, 2010 (Act 798) provides for the settlement of disputes by mediation and customary arbitration, in addition to regular arbitration processes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Ghana does not have a bankruptcy statute. A new insolvency law, the Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency Act, 2020 (Act 1015), was passed to replace the Bodies Corporate (Official Liquidations) Act, 1963 (Act 180). The new law, unlike the previous one, provides for reorganization of a company before liquidation when it is unable to pay its debts, as well as cross-border insolvency rules. The new law does not have a U.S. Chapter 11-style bankruptcy provision, but allows for a process that puts the company under administration for restructuring. The new law complements the law for private liquidations under the Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), but does not apply to businesses that are under specialized regulations such as banks and insurance companies.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

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. 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 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. In 2015, the Government of Ghana imposed a new five percent import duty on some items that were previously zero-rated to conform to the new Economic Community of West African States (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 eight percent thereafter.

The corporate tax rate is 25 percent, and this applies to all sectors, except income from non-traditional exports (eight percent tax rate), companies principally engaged in the hotel industry (22 percent 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). In December 2019, to attract investments under the Ghana Automotive Development Policy, corporate tax holidays among other import duty and value-added tax exemptions were granted to manufacturers or assemblers of semi-knocked-down vehicles (0 percent for three years) and complete-knocked down vehicles (0 percent for ten years). 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 Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896), all businesses can carry forward tax losses for at least three years.

Ghana has no discriminatory or excessively burdensome visa requirements. While ECOWAS nationals do not require a visa to enter Ghana, they need a work and residence permit to live and work in Ghana. The current fees for work and residence permit for ECOWAS nationals is USD 500 while that for non-ECOWAS nationals is USD 1,000. A foreign investor who invests under the GIPC Act 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 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.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Free Trade Zones (called Free Zones in Ghana) were first 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 in Accra 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.gov.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 required to purchase from local sources or employ prescribed levels of local content, except in the mining sector, 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 at least 70 percent of their products. Government officials have intimated that local content requirements should be applied to sectors other than petroleum, power, and mining, but 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.

Data Storage and Access

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). Section 50 of the Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), however, requires electronic payment systems service providers to allow the Bank of Ghana to inspect the “premises, equipment, computer hardware, software, any communication system, books of accounts, and any other document or electronic information which the Bank of Ghana may require in relation to the system.” During the coronavirus outbreak, to achieve its goal of contact tracing, the government issued Executive Instrument E.I. 63 that requires all telecommunication network operators to make available to the National Communications Authority (NCA) Common Platform mobile users location log and roaming files, caller or called numbers, Merchant Codes (of mobile money vendors), Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number Codes, International Mobile Equipment Identity Codes and site location. Executive Instrument 63 is being challenged in court.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

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. Ghana passed a new land law, Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), which revised, harmonized, and consolidated laws on land to ensure sustainable land administration and management. The new law makes it possible to transfer and create or register interests in land by electronic means to speed up conveyancing, supports decentralized land service delivery, and includes provisions relating to property rights of spouses by ensuring that spouses are deemed to be party to the interest in land that is jointly acquired during the marriage. These changes are expected to improve accessibility and secured tenure.

Mortgages exist, although there are only a few thousand due to factors such as land ownership issues and scarcity of long-term finance. Mortgages are regulated by the Home Mortgages Finance Act, 2008 (Act 770), which has enhanced the process of foreclosure. A mortgage must be registered under the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), 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. There has been progress 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. 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. IPR holders have access to local courts for redress of grievances, although the few trademark, patent, and copyright infringement cases that U.S. companies have filed in Ghana 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 IPR issues:

Shona Carter
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy, Economic Section
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233(0) 302 741 000 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: AccraICS@state.gov

The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/).

American Chamber of Commerce Ghana
5th Crescent Street, Asylum Down
P.O. Box CT2869, Cantonments-Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233 (0) 302 247 562/ +233 (0) 307 011 862 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: info@amchamghana.org
Website: http://www.amchamghana.org/. 

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

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 in nominal terms, levels as percentage of GDP have remained stagnant over the last decade, and high government borrowing has driven interest rates above 21 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 41-year maturities. Foreign investors are permitted to participate in auctions of bonds only with maturities of two years or longer. In November 2020, foreign investors held about 17.9 percent (valued at USD 4.6 billion) of the total outstanding domestic securities. In 2015, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) added the Ghana Fixed-Income Market (GFIM), a specialized platform for secondary trading in debt instruments to improve liquidity.

The rapid accumulation of debt over the last decade, and particularly the past three years, 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. In February 2020, Ghana sold sub-Saharan Africa’s longest-ever Eurobond as part of a $3 billion deal with a tenor of 41 years. In 2020, total public debt, roughly evenly split between external and domestic, stood at approximately 76 percent of GDP, partly as a result of the economic shock of COVID-19 as revenue declined and expenditures spiked.

The Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) has 31 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 eight 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 in terms of operating assets, Ecobank Ghana Ltd., holding assets of about USD 2.1 billion in 2019. The Central Bank increased the minimum capital requirement for commercial banks from 120 million Ghana cedis (USD 22 million) to 400 million (USD 70 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 19.8 percent as of December 2020, above the 11.5 percent prudential and statutory requirement. The non-performing loans ratio increased from 14.3 percent in December 2019 to 14.5 percent as of December 2020. 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 has almost completed actions 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 village 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, although, as noted above, the Payments Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), does require a 30 percent Ghanaian company or Ghanaian holding by any electronic payments service provider, including banks or special deposit-taking institutions.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Ghana operates a managed-float exchange rate regime. The Ghana cedi can be exchanged for dollars and major 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.gov.gh ). 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.

Remittance Policies

There is a single formal system for transferring currency out of the country through the banking system. The Foreign Exchange Act, 2006 (Act 723) provides 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 be made only 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 Ghana Stabilization Fund. The Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), 2011 (Act 815), 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.

For additional information regarding Ghana Petroleum Fund, please visit the 2019 Petroleum Annual Report at: https://www.mofep.gov.gh/publications/petroleum-reports .

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Ghana has 86 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), 45 of which are wholly owned, while 41 are partially owned. Thirty-six 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 2019 the government embarked on an exercise to tackle weak corporate governance in the SOEs as well as created the State Interests and Governance Authority (SIGA), a single institution, to monitor all SOEs, replacing both the State Enterprises Commission and the Divestiture Implementation Committee.

As of April 2021, 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. The list of SOEs can be found at: https://siga.gov.gh/state-interest/ .

While the Government of Ghana does not actively promote adherence to the OECD Guidelines, SIGA oversees corporate governance of SOEs and encourages them to be managed like Limited Liability Companies so as to be profit-making. In addition, beginning in 2014, most SOEs were required to contract and service direct and government-guaranteed loans on their own balance sheet. The government’s goal is to stop adding these loans to “pure public” debt, paid by taxpayers directly through the budget.

Privatization Program

Ghana has no formal privatization program. The government has announced its intention, however, to prioritize the creation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to restructure and privatize non-performing SOEs, although progress to implement this goal has been slow. 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.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is gaining more attention 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, with 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.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Corruption in Ghana is comparatively less prevalent than in most other countries in the region, according to Transparency International’s Perception of Corruption Index, but remains a serious problem, scoring 45 on a scale of 100 and ranking 75 out of 180 countries in 2020. The government has a relatively strong anti-corruption legal framework in place, but enforcement of existing laws is rare and inconsistent. 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 (OSP) in 2017 to investigate and prosecute corruption cases and passing a Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) (similar to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act) to increase transparency. The OSP has been without a Special Prosecutor since late 2020 and has still not prosecuted a significant anti-corruption case. In addition, the Auditor-General was placed on accrued annual leave in mid-2020 and then removed from office in March 2021 after a controversy related to his date of birth and mandatory retirement age.

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.

The Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914) was passed to address the shortcomings identified over a decade of implementation of the original 2003 law aimed at harmonizing the many public procurement guidelines used in the country and to bring public procurement into conformity with WTO standards. Nevertheless, complete transparency is lacking 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 alleged national interest. The Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) provided for stiffer sanctions and penalties for breaches, but its effectiveness in stemming corruption has yet to be demonstrated. In 2016, Ghana amended the company registration law (which has been retained in the new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992)) to include the disclosure of beneficial owners. In September 2020, Ghana deployed a Central Beneficial Ownership Register to collect and maintain a national database on beneficial owners for all companies operating in Ghana. The law requires each person who creates a company in Ghana to report the identities of the company’s beneficial owners on the Beneficial Ownership Declaration form at the Registrar-General’s Department (RGD). Existing companies are also required to provide this information by the end of June 2021. There are different types of thresholds for reporting beneficial owners, depending on the sector the company belongs to and the type of person the beneficial owner is. For the general threshold, a person who has direct or indirect interest of 10 percent or more in a company must be registered as a beneficial owner. A Politically Exposed Person (PEP) in Ghana who has any shares or any form of control over a company in any sector must be registered as a beneficial owner, while for a foreign PEP, shares must be five percent or more. For companies in the extractive industry, financial institutions, and businesses operating in sectors listed as high risk by the RGD, the threshold for reporting beneficial owners is five percent. Failure to comply with the requirements may attract a fine of up to 6,000 cedis (USD 1,050) or two years in prison, or both.

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 hampered 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 Parliament approved in July 2014, but many of its provisions have not been implemented due to lack of resources. In November 2015, then-President John 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. The SFO’s name was changed to the 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.

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 contact the U.S. Commercial Service in Ghana ( https://www.trade.gov/ghana ), 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 purchasing the U.S. Commercial Service’s International Company Profile (ICP). Requests for ICPs should be made through the nearest United States Export Assistance Center (USEAC), which can be found at https://www.trade.gov. For more information about the U. S. Commercial Service office at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, visit www.export.gov/ghana .

Resources to Report Corruption

Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ)
Old Parliament House, High Street, Accra
Postal Address: Box AC 489, Accra
Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad: Phone: +233 (0) 242 211 534
Email: info@chraj.gov.gh
Website: http://www.chraj.gov.gh 

Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO)
Behind Old Parliament House, Accra
Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad:
Tel +233 (0) 302 665559, +233 (0) 302 634 363
Email: eoco@eoco.org.gh
Website: www.eoco.org.gh

10. Political and Security Environment

Ghana offers a relatively stable and predictable political environment for American investors, and has a solid democratic tradition. In December 2020, Ghana completed its eighth consecutive peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections and transfer of power since 1992, with power transferred between the two main political parties three times during that period. On December 7, 2020 New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate (and incumbent) Nana Akufo-Addo was re-elected over the National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate, former President John Mahama. The NDC disputed the 2020 presidential election result. The Supreme Court heard the case and ruled that Akufo-Addo had, indeed, won the election. There were isolated cases of violence during the election but no widespread civil disturbances. The next general elections are scheduled for December 7, 2024.

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, nationwide illiteracy remains high at 33 percent. Labor regulations and policies are generally favorable to business. Although labor-management relationships are generally positive, occasional labor disagreements stem 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. Some categories of workers, including trades 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 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 fishing. 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 U.S. Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/).

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $66,984 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $1,602 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 -$1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 59% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
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), 2018
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 18,299 % Total Outward Data not available %
United Kingdom 6,675 36% N/A
Belgium 2,585 14%
France 1,629 9%
Cayman Islands 1,208 7%
Isle of Man 984 5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Shona Carter
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy, Economic Section
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233 (0) 302 741 000 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: AccraICS@state.gov 

Liberia

Executive Summary

Liberia’s developing economy offers a wide variety of opportunities for investment, especially in natural resources such as mining, agriculture, and forestry (timber), but also in more specialized sectors such as infrastructure (including energy and telecommunications) and financial services. With its largely commodities-based economy, Liberia relies heavily on imports, including for more than half of its cereal needs like rice, Liberia’s most important staple food. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many sectors of the economy, which contracted in 2019 and 2020. However, the International Monetary Fund projects a return to positive growth in 2021.

Given its limited capacities, Liberia is also heavily dependent on foreign direct investment (FDI) to fulfill its development goals and growth potential, but foreign investors generally find the country a very difficult place to do business.  Investors report negotiations with government are often lengthy, and long-established concession agreements can subsequently face calls from government officials and lawmakers for unilateral changes. They also report resistance from local communities, which claim the government has not consulted with them about land use.  Communities and employees often expect concessionaires and other large investors to provide significant support including education, healthcare, and housing. Foreign investors report that the government sides with communities and employees when such issues arise, irrespective of concession or contractual agreements.

Low human development indicators, expensive and unreliable electricity, poor roads, a lack of reliable internet access (especially outside urban areas), and pervasive government corruption constrain investment and development. Most of Liberia lacks reliable power supply, though efforts to expand access to the electricity grid are ongoing through extension of a grid from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, the West Africa Power Pool’s cross border electrification projects, and other internationally supported energy projects. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Survey ranked Liberia 175th out of the 190 economies surveyed. Public perception of corruption in the public sector is high, as indicated by Liberia’s poor showing in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Low public trust in the banking sector has resulted in most cash being held outside the banks. This, combined with high banknote mutilation, inadequate currency replacement planning, and low use of mobile money platforms, means hard currency is regularly in short supply.

The government-backed Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) continues to work with both public and private sector stakeholders to explore opportunities for creating a business-friendly environment.  Increased collaboration between business chambers, industry associations, and the Liberian government could improve the investment climate, and international donors continue to work on investment climate issues as well. Despite the abundance of challenges, Liberia remains a country rich in natural resources, agricultural land, and abundant rainfall. Agribusiness and extractive industries investors, in particular, can find that Liberia merits careful consideration. Several large international concessionaires have invested successfully in these sectors in Liberia.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 137 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 175 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in Liberia ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 -$94 Million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $580 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Government officials describe Liberia as “open for business” and the government supports a Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) to improve the investment climate. A March 2019 BCWG-led forum resulted in an executive order which cancelled Import Permit Declaration requirements and extended residency visas and work permits from one to five years. These improvements have since been renewed. Charged with facilitating foreign investment in Liberia, the National Investment Commission (NIC) develops investment strategies, policies, and programs to attract foreign investment and negotiate investment contracts or concessions. The NIC, the BCWG and other private sector groups, such as the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), facilitate dialogues through formal business roundtables on investment climate issues. They also meet with investors and government officials to discuss and suggest solutions to critical policy issues.

However, some business leaders report difficulties in obtaining meetings with government representatives to discuss new policies perceived to damage the business climate. In 2020, the BCWG was not actively engaged except that it convened infrequent meetings to discuss and resolve critical regulatory issues affecting the business climate. A weak legal and regulatory framework, lack of transparency in contract award processes, and corruption continue to inhibit foreign direct investment. The 2010 Investment Act prohibits and restricts market access for foreign investors, including U.S. investors, in certain economic sectors or industries. See “Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Foreign Ownership and Establishment” below for more detail.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities may own and establish business enterprises in many sectors. The Liberian constitution restricts land ownership to citizens, but non-Liberians may hold long-term leases. See Real Property, below for further detail. Liberia does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment. Per the Investment Act (“The Act”) and Revenue Code, only Liberian citizens may operate businesses in the following sectors and industries:

  1. Supply of sand
  2. Block making
  3. Peddling
  4. Travel agencies
  5. Retail sale of rice and cement
  6. Ice making and sale of ice
  7. Tire repair shops
  8. Auto repair shops with an investment of less than USD 550,000
  9. Shoe repair shops
  10. Retail sale of timber and planks
  11. Operation of gas stations
  12. Video clubs
  13. Operation of taxis
  14. Importation or sale of second-hand or used clothing
  15. Distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products
  16. Importation and sale of used cars (except authorized dealerships, which may deal in certified used vehicles of their make)

The Act also sets minimum capital investment thresholds for foreign investors in certain other business activities, industries, and enterprises. (See Section 16 of the Act: http://www.moci.gov.lr/doc/TheInvestmentActof2010(1).pdf .) For enterprises owned exclusively by non-Liberians, the Act requires no less than USD 500,000 in investment capital. For foreign investors partnering with Liberians, the Act requires no less than USD 300,000 in total capital investment and at least 25 percent aggregate Liberian ownership.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The government appears not to have undergone a third-party investment policy review to date.

Business Facilitation

All businesses must register with and obtain authorization from the  Liberia Business Registry (LBR)  to conduct business or provide services in Liberia.  LBR services are available to local and foreign companies at its head office in Monrovia. See  http://lbr.gov.lr/ .

Most of Liberia’s commercial laws and regulations are not publicly available online. The NIC chairs an ad hoc cabinet-level Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC) that convenes often lengthy bidding and negotiation processes for long term investment contracts such as concessions.  The establishment of a concession requires ratification by the national legislature, approval by the President, and printing of handbills. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) handles tax payment processes and administration. The National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) handles related social security processes.

According to the World Bank, establishing a business requires five procedures and 18 days. Foreign companies must obtain investment approval from the NIC if they seek investment incentives. Foreign companies must use local counsel when establishing a subsidiary. If the subsidiary will engage in manufacturing and international trade, it must obtain a trade license from the LBR. For more information about investment laws, bilateral investment treaties, and other treaties with investment provisions, please see  https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/121/liberia .

Outward Investment

The government neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment but neither does it restrict Liberian citizens from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Liberia has bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with France, Germany, and Switzerland. It also has a BIT with the European Union under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Economic Partnership Agreement. See: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/118/liberia . Liberia is a party to the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with ECOWAS, the ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Investment, the Liberia-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, the ECOWAS Energy Protocol, the Cotonou Agreement, the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, the African Union (AU) Treaty, and the ECOWAS Protocol on Movement of Persons, Right of Residence, and Establishment. See: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/121/liberia .

Liberia is a signatory to the following investment-related instruments (IRIs): the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention), the New York Convention, the UN Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ILO Tripartite Declarations on Multinational Enterprises, the World Bank Investment Guidelines, the New International Economic Order UN Resolution, the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU, the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, and the Permanent Sovereignty UN Resolution.

Liberia enjoys preferential access to the U.S. market under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Liberia and the United States do not have a bilateral taxation treaty.  See https://www.irs.gov/businesses/international-businesses/united-states-income-tax-treaties-a-to-z .

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Companies are required to adhere to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) consistent with international norms. In many instances, however, authorities do not consistently enforce or apply national laws and international standards. Further, no systemic oversight or enforcement mechanisms exist to ensure that government authorities follow administrative processes. Some government ministries and agencies often have overlapping responsibilities, resulting in inconsistent application of the laws. Although ministries and agencies usually publish finalized regulations, no prior public comment period is required.  No central clearinghouse exists to access proposed regulations. Government revenues and debts, while partially captured in national budgets, are not fully transparent.  Some budget documents are accessible online. For more information on regulatory transparency. See: https://rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/liberia .

International Regulatory Considerations

Liberia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  regional economic block, as well as the Mano River Union (MRU) .  The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA)  continues to standardize and harmonize the country’s customs and tariff systems to incorporate Liberia’s tax regime into the ECOWAS External Tariff. Liberia currently uses a goods and services tax (GST) system but is required under ECOWAS standards to adopt a value-added tax (VAT). The adoption of VAT is a topic of ongoing political discussions, but it has not yet occurred. Under its tax system modernization program, the LRA has undertaken new efficiency measures including adopting a Mobile Tax Payment option for citizens to pay taxes and fees via their mobile phones. The Government of Liberia has acceded to WTO terms and conditions including on technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Liberia’s legal system uses common and regulatory law as well as local customary law.  The common law-based court system operates in parallel with local customary law, which incorporates unwritten, indigenous practices, culture, and traditions. The 2001 Revised Rules and Regulation Governing the Hinterland of Liberia govern the traditional court system. See  https://www.documents.clientearth.org/library/download-info/regulation-2001-revised-rules-and-regulations-governing-the-hinterland-of-liberia/ . Adjudication of law under these two systems often results in conflicting decisions between Monrovia-based entities, local communities outside of Monrovia, and within individual communities.

The Commercial Court hears commercial and contractual issues, including debt disputes of USD 15,000 and above. A commission under the Ministry of Labor hears claims of unfair labor practices. In theory, the Commercial Court presides over all financial, contractual, and commercial disputes, serving as an additional avenue to expedite commercial and contractual cases. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all cases and it hears all appeals, which places a significant burden on its panel of five judges. The judicial branch remains officially independent of the executive, but there have been reports of executive branch interference in judicial matters. Cases can be subject to extensive delays and procedural and other errors, and investors report doubts of the fairness and reliability of judicial decisions. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and appeals are adjudicated in the Supreme Court.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

No major laws or judicial decisions pertaining to foreign direct investment have come out in the past year. The government does not maintain a “one-stop-shop” website for investment laws, rules, procedures, or reporting requirements.  The NIC provides sector-specific investment counseling and/or advisory services upon request. The LCC explains relevant information on the regulatory processes and procedures relating to exports, and assists importers in processing documents to comply with Liberian customs regulations.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There were no significant competition cases during the review period. Liberia does not have anti-trust laws.

Expropriation and Compensation

The 2010 Investment Act protects and guarantees foreign enterprises against expropriation or nationalization. The act clearly specifies that the government shall not engage in any expropriation of an enterprise “unless the expropriation is in the national interest for a public purpose, is the least burdensome available means to satisfy that overriding public purpose and is made on a non-discriminatory basis in accordance with due process of law.”  Liberia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention.

Dispute Settlement

Liberia is a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) – also known as the Washington Convention – and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards – also known as the New York Arbitration Convention.  The Commercial Code provides for enforcement of awards under either convention. The Investment Act provides that “the courts of Liberia shall have jurisdiction over the resolution of business disputes, parties to an investment disputes may however specify any arbitration or other dispute resolution procedure upon which they may agree.” The Commercial Code is the specific domestic legislation that provides for the enforcement of awards under the 1958 New York Convention and/or under the ICSID Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Liberia is a member of the ICSID Convention and a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention that guarantee the protection of foreign investment.  The Civil Procedure Law governs both domestic and international arbitrations, but there is not a stand-alone arbitration law.  Enforcing foreign or domestic arbitration awards may require several years, from filing an application with the court of first instance to obtaining a writ of execution, with provision for an appeal. Under the ICSID and the New York Arbitration Conventions, Liberian courts are bound to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. Liberia is also a signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty, which contains investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. There have been no recent extrajudicial actions against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Investment Act provides for trade dispute settlement between two private parties through either the judicial system or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Other codes, statutes, and legislative provisions, including the Liberian Civil Procedure Law, govern commercial arbitration and recognize arbitration as a means of resolution between private parties in commercial transactions, based on the model of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL model law).

Investment contracts between private entities and the government frequently include arbitration clauses specifying dispute settlement outside of Liberia. Given the limited capacity of the judiciary, investors often prefer not to rely on domestic judicial processes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Liberia does not have a bankruptcy law. The Commercial Court has limited experience protecting the rights of creditors, equity holders, and holders of other financial contracts.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The government provides tax deductions for equipment, machinery, cost of buildings and fixtures used in manufacturing. It also provides exemptions on import duties and goods and services taxes as investment incentives for the following sectors:

  • Tourism
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy
  • Hospitals and Medical
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Information Technology
  • Banking
  • Agriculture and Agro-processing (fisheries, poultry, aquaculture, food processing)

A government-owned investment promotion website, www.visitliberia.net , lists the following specific tax regime and investment incentives (investors should verify these claims with government officials before relying on them):

  • Liberia’s profit tax rate is 25 percent or 2 percent turnover.
  • Thirty (30) percent tax deduction on up to 100 percent cost of equipment and machinery for investments above USD 1 million.
  • Investments exceeding USD 10 million automatically qualif

Investments in economically-deprived regions also qualify for additional incentives of up to 12.5 percent. Additional investment incentives are available if an investment creates more than 100 direct jobs, or if an investment uses at least 60 percent local materials to manufacture finished products.

The government does not issue guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In 2019, the government established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Steering Committee, “to create, drive, guide, enhance, coordinate, and manage single, multiple and mixed-use [SEZs] in Liberia.” The government identified the port city of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County for the first special economic zone (Buchanan Special Economic Zone). In September 2020, in response to the government’s request, USAID prepared a Feasibility Study for the Special Economic Zone  which concluded that an SEZ located at the Buchanan port site represents the most economically feasible option for an SEZ in Liberia. The report assessed, analyzed, and identified the conditions and arrangements that will best ensure the zone’s viability.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Decent Work Act gives preference to employing Liberians; the act states that the Ministry of Labor “shall not issue a permit to work in Liberia unless it is satisfied that no suitably qualified Liberian is available to carry out the work required by the employer and the applicant satisfies the requirements for foreign residence in Liberia.” However, these requirements are not always strictly enforced. Visa, residence, and work permit procedures do not generally inhibit mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

Liberia has no data localization requirements.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Liberian law protects property rights and interests, but with weak enforcement mechanisms. “Long term” mortgages or construction loans of up to 10 years are only available through the  Liberia Bank for Development and Investment .  Only Liberians may own land, with the limited exception provided in Article 22(c) of the Constitution that non-citizen missionary, educational, and other benevolent institutions shall have the right to own property, if that property is used for the purposes for which acquired; property no longer so used shall revert to the Government of Liberia. Other foreigners and non-resident investors may acquire land on leases, which ordinarily run for 25-50 years.  Liberian law provides for no official waiver mechanisms to limitations on foreign land ownership.

The Liberia Land Authority (LLA) , a one-stop-shop for all land related matters, is working with international partners including USAID, to implement strategic and targeted programs aimed at resolving critical land issues. Although the LLA encourages property owners to identify and register land titles, it does not have systemic enforcement programs.  The LLA estimates that less than 20 percent of the country’s total land is formally registered. Conflicting land ownership records are common. Investors sometimes experience costly and complex land dispute issues, even after concluding agreements with the government.

The Land Rights Act, enacted in 2018, was designed to resolve historical land disputes that have caused conflict and communal strife in the past. The Act defines four categories of land ownership as follows:

  • Public land, which is owned, but currently not used by the government
  • Government land, which is used by government agencies (for office buildings or other purposes)
  • Customary land, on which the livelihoods of most rural communities depend
  • Private land owned by private citizens.

Public awareness of the Land Rights Act is growing, but still limited. In February 2021, the LLA rolled out nationwide sensitization and education programs to raise public awareness on the Land Rights Act and the 2016 Liberia Land Authority Act, which consolidated all GOL land governance functions under the LLA.

See Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment, above, for further information, including implementation of the Land Rights Act. See also, https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/liberia#DB_rp     .

Foreign companies seeking to lease land may lease privately- or publicly-held land. Frequently, foreign companies seeking to acquire land leases do so through direct negotiations with the relevant landlords/owners.

Intellectual Property Rights

Liberia has a weak legal structure, regulatory environment, and enforcement mechanism for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The Liberia Intellectual Property Act covers domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, patents and copyrights.  The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) operates as a semi-autonomous agency functioning under the administrative oversight of MOCI. LIPO lacks both technical and financial capacity to address IPR infringements.  The Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL) is collaborating with the MOCI and LIPO to develop legal and international frameworks agreements to guide the collection and distribution of royalties. In February 2021, LIPO and COSOL rolled out nationwide public awareness and inspection campaigns to remove pirated copyright materials and illegal contents from the Liberian market. In 2019, the government also committed to fast-tracking the ratification of outstanding international IP treaties and legal instruments in line with WTO standards, but ratification remains pending.

There is no system to track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. The government does not prosecute IPR violations.  Many Liberians are unfamiliar with IPR, and IP infringement is prevalent, including unauthorized duplication of movies, music, and books. Counterfeit drugs, apparel, cosmetics, mobile phones, computer software, and hardware are sold openly.

Liberia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the notorious market report (see the 2019 Report:  https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2019/april/ustr-releases-annual-special-301 ).

For additional information about national laws and local IPR points of contact, see WIPO’s country profiles at  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .  

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Liberian government welcomes foreign investment, although Liberia’s domestic capital market is not well developed. Private sector investors have limited credit and investment options. The government does not hold foreign portfolio investments abroad. Liberia offers no domestic capital market or portfolio investment option, such as a stock market, in the country. In 2019, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) began issuing CBL bills, but in 2020, the CBL reported a declining trend in the issuance of its bills, partly due to sluggish commercial activities occasioned by COVID-19 and low demand from the commercial banks. The CBL respects IMF Article VIII and does not implement restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Many foreign investors prefer to obtain credit from, and retain profits, in foreign banking institutions.

Money and Banking System

Nine commercial banks, branch outlets including payment windows/annexes, a development finance company, and a deposit taking microfinance institution provide banking services within Liberia.  Eight of the commercial banks are foreign banks. Numerous licensed foreign exchange bureaus, microfinance institutions, credit unions, rural community finance institutions, and village savings and loan associations (“susus”) also provide financial services.  Foreign banks or branches can establish operations in Liberia, subject to regulations set out by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).  There are no restrictions on foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account with any of the commercial banks.

The commercial banking system in Liberia is small, and although generally stable, chronic shortages of Liberian dollar currency in the past several years have undermined confidence in the banking sector. The CBL describes the banking industry as “generally safe, sound and viable” based on its published indicators of financial health. At the end of calendar year 2020, the capital adequacy ratio was approximately three times higher than the regulatory minimum, and the liquidity ratio was 2.5 times higher.

According to a 2019 report by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), a significant number of commercial bank assets were held in Liberian government bonds which cannot easily be converted into liquid assets (cash), due to cash availability issues. As of December 2020, the CBL reported L$6 billion (approx. USD 35 million) in outstanding treasury bills. Starting in 2018, commercial banks and businesses have reported considerable difficulty in accessing Liberian dollars.  In addition, since 2019, commercial banks, businesses, and private individuals have had difficulties accessing U.S. dollars. Beginning June 2020, it became increasing difficult for businesses and private individuals to access Liberian dollars through commercial banks due to continued shortage in currency in the banking system. Also in 2020, banks reported shortages in both Liberian and the U.S. dollars liquidity and attributed the shortage to hoarding of large amounts of currency by large businesses and individuals. In addition, some commercial bank representatives have expressed concern about the CBL’s capability to manage the banking sector effectively.

The CBL has engaged several short- and long-term measures, including printing of a small amount of Liberian dollar banknotes and promoting the usage of electronic payment platforms (mobile money, electronic fund transfers, etc.), in its attempt to restore public confidence in the banking system and mitigate the liquidity pressure in the economy. Liberia’s constitution requires that the legislature authorize the printing of currency, which the CBL officially proposed on February 4. The country awaits the Legislature’s authorization to print new banknotes followed by a procurement and printing process to partially relieve its currency issues.

Commercial banks face persistent challenges in profit generation and loan repayment. The issue of non-performing loans (NPLs) remains a major challenge in the banking sector and continues to negatively affect profitability.  Although NPLs are down from their peak in the summer of 2020, they remain more than double the CBL’s threshold.

The CBL reported a NPL ratio of 15% in December 2020, down from the previous high of over 20% earlier in the year. These are still more than double the CBL’s threshold.

Foreign banks or branches can establish operations in Liberia, subject to regulations set out by the CBL. There are no restrictions on foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account with any of the commercial banks, beyond standard know your customer rules.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign investors may convert, transfer, and repatriate funds associated with an investment (e.g., remittances of investment capital, earnings, loans, lease payments, and royalties).  Liberian law allows for the transfer of dividends and net profits after tax to investors’ home countries.

Liberia has a floating exchange rate system. Both the Liberian Dollar (LD) and U.S. Dollar (USD) are legal tender. Market supply and demand dictates the exchange rate. The CBL sets and displays official, indicative exchange rates (thresholds) on daily basis. It requires commercial banks and licensed money exchange bureaus to display their daily LD to USD market exchange rates which generally are close to CBL threshold rates.  In addition to commercial banks, licensed foreign exchange bureaus, petrol stations, supermarkets, and other stores provide exchange services. Many unregistered or unlicensed money exchangers exchange money throughout the country.

Remittance Policies

Liberia permits 100 percent repatriation of funds and does not have currency exchange restrictions. Remittances may be sent to Liberia through Western Union, MoneyGram, RIA Money Transfer, and wire transfer.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Government of Liberia does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or similar entity.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The country has approximately 20 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) which are governed by boards of directors with oversight provided by sector ministries. The President of Liberia appoints members of the boards to govern wholly-government-owned and semi-autonomous state-owned enterprises (SOEs).  The Public Financial Management (PFM) Act SOE requirements, but few SOE statements are made public.

SOEs employ more than 10,000 people in sea and airport services, electricity supply, oil and gas, water and sewage, agriculture, forestry, maritime, petroleum importation and storage, and information and communication technology services. Not all SOEs are profitable. Some SOEs maintain their own websites. Liberia does not have a clearly defined corporate code for its SOEs. Reportedly, high level officials, including some who sit on SOE boards, influence those enterprises to conduct their business and revenue disbursements in ways not consistent with standard corporate governance.

Privatization Program

The Government of Liberia does not have a privatization program or policy.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Liberian authorities have not clearly defined responsible business conduct (RBC) nor established policies or a national action plan to promote or encourage them.  The government does not factor RBC concepts into its procurement decisions, nor does it effectively and fairly enforce domestic laws regarding human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, or environmental protections intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts.  Foreign companies are encouraged, but not required, to publicly disclose their policies, procedures, and practices to highlight their RBC practices.  Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and workers organizations/unions promote or monitor foreign company RBC policies and practices. However, NGOs and CSOs monitoring or advocating for RBC do not conduct their activities in a structured and coordinated manner, nor do they tend to monitor locally-owned companies.

Most Liberians are generally unaware of RBC standards.  Generally, the government expects foreign investors to offer social services to local communities and contribute to a government-controlled social development fund for the area in which the enterprise conducts its business. Some communities complain that these contributions to social development funds do not reach them.  The government frequently includes clauses in concession agreements that oblige investors to provide social services such as educational facilities, health care, and other services which other governments frequently provide. Foreign investors have reported that local communities expect benefits in addition to those outlined in formal concession agreements.

Liberia is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The  National Bureau of Concessions  monitors and evaluates concession company compliance with concession agreements, but it does not design policies to promote and encourage RBC. Some NGOs report that several concessions have violated human or labor rights, including child labor and environmental pollution. Liberia has several private security companies, but the country is not a signatory to the Montreux Document on Private and Security Companies. Private security companies are regulated by the Ministry of Justice and they perform a range of tasks such as providing security or surveillance to large businesses, international organizations, diplomatic missions, and some private homes.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Liberia has laws against economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts, including conflicts of interest. However, Liberia suffers from corruption in both the public and private sectors. The government does not implement its laws effectively and consistently, and there have been numerous reports of corruption by public officials, including some who engage in corrupt practices with impunity. On December 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned prominent Liberian lawyer, senator, and Chair of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee Varney Sherman for offering bribes to multiple judges, including in a case against him regarding a 2010 bribery scheme. He continues to serve in those same official capacities. In 2020, Liberia ranked 137 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index – a decline from its already low 120th ranking. See http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview.

The  Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission     (LACC) currently cannot directly prosecute corruption cases without first referring cases to the  Ministry of Justice     (MOJ) for prosecution. If the MOJ does not prosecute within 90 days, the LACC may then take those cases to court, although it has not exercised this right to date. The LACC continues to seek public support for the establishment of a specialized court to exclusively try corruption cases. In September 2020, integrity institutions including the LACC developed an anti-corruption roadmap that requires significant amendments in the LACC Act. The draft amendments to the law would empower LACC to directly prosecute cases without awaiting MOJ investigations and recommends the passage into law of the Whistleblowers and Witness Protection Bill. It also would mandate the LACC to administer the Asset Declaration requirement for appointed officials and ensure compliance across the three branches of government, and not just the executive branch.

Foreign investors generally report that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, contract and concession awards, customs and taxation systems, regulatory systems, performance requirements, and government payments systems.  Multinational firms often report paying fees not stipulated in investment agreements. Private companies do not have generally agreed and structured internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of public officials. No laws explicitly protect NGOs that investigate corruption. Liberia is signatory to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the Fight against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Baba Borkai, Chief Investigator
Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Monrovia,
http://lacc.gov.lr/  
bborkai@lacc.gov.lr 
Tel: (+231) 777-313131
Email:  bborkai@lacc.gov.lr 

Contact at a “watchdog” organization (local or nongovernmental organization operating in Liberia that monitors corruption):

Anderson Miamen, Executive Director
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)
Tel: (+231) 886-818855
Email:  admiamen@gmail.com 

10. Political and Security Environment

President George Manneh Weah’s inauguration in January 2018 marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another since 1944. Increasing freedom of speech for Liberians as well as the relatively free media landscape in the country has led to vigorous pursuit of civil liberties, resulting in active, often acrimonious political debates and organized, non-violent demonstrations.  In 2019, the government signed into law the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom to strengthen its commitment to several legal instruments it previously signed, such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Table Mountain Declaration.  Numerous radio stations and newspapers distribute news throughout the country. The government has identified land disputes and high rates of youth and urban unemployment as potential threats to security, peace, and political stability.

The Government of Liberia has shouldered national security responsibility since the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) officially withdrew from the country in March 2018.  Protests and demonstrations may occur with little warning. The United States and other international donors continue to assist in the education and training of the Armed Forces of Liberia and law enforcement agencies. Security is being maintained throughout the country by members of the Liberian National Police, Liberia Immigration Service and other state-owned security apparatus. However, the majority of the security personnel are based in and around the capital city region, largely due to funding gaps and the poor state of infrastructure in other areas.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

With a literacy rate of just under 50 percent, much of the Liberian labor force is unskilled.  Most Liberians, particularly those in rural areas, lack basic vocational or computer skills.  Liberia has no reliable or official data on labor force statistics, such as unemployment rates.  Government workers comprise the majority of formally employed Liberians.

An estimated four out of five Liberian workers (80 percent) engage in “vulnerable” and/or “informal” employment. Many in the informal and vulnerable employment sectors suffer from inadequate earnings as well as difficult and/or dangerous conditions that undermine workers’ basic rights.  The Ministry of Labor (MOL) largely attributes high levels of vulnerable and informal employment to the private sector’s inability to create employment.  An acute shortage of specialized labor skills, particularly in medicine, information and communication technology, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) remains a challenge. Migrant workers are employed throughout the country, particularly in service industries, artisanal diamond and gold mining, timber, and fisheries.

Liberia’s labor law, the 2015 Decent Work Act, gives preference to employing Liberian citizens and most investment contracts require companies to employ a defined percentage of Liberians, including in top management positions.  Foreign companies often report difficulty finding local skilled labor as one of their most significant operational hindrances. Child labor remains a problem, particularly in the extractive industries.

The Decent Work Act guarantees freedom of association and gives employees the right to establish labor unions. Employees can become members of organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization. Workers, except for civil servants and employees of state-owned enterprises, are covered by the Act.  The Act allows workers’ unions to conduct activities without interference by employers. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of membership in or affiliation with a labor organization. Unions are independent from the government and political parties.  Employees, through their associations or unions, often demand and sometimes strike for better compensation. When company ownership changes, workers sometimes seek payment of obligations owed by previous owners or employers.

The Decent Work Act provides that labor organizations, including trade or employees’ associations, have the right to draw up constitutions and rules regarding electing representatives, organizing activities, and formulating programs.

There were no major labor union-related negotiations affecting workers or the labor market during 2020, though public teachers and health workers went briefly on strike. Additionally, in September 2020, the Dock Workers Union of Liberia (DOWUL) staged a go-slow strike action against APM Terminals (APMT) at over a salary dispute.  The union alleged that dock workers had not received their “13th month salary” bonus, though APMT explained that the company pays the 13th month bonus in installments throughout the year and not in a lump sum.  Instead of engaging with APMT management, the union presented the workers’ grievances directly to the Liberian Senate. The Senate then charged the company’s position as offensive and penalized APMT with community service at a local high school. Another foreign company experienced a labor dispute in which officials from the Labor and Justice ministries appeared to encourage union members to push for higher pay, despite the fact that the union protests were based on a misunderstanding of salary packages.

In 2019, Firestone Liberia, the country’s largest private sector employer, worked closely with the Ministry of Labor and the Agricultural Agro-Processing and the Industrial Workers Union of Liberia (AAIWUL) to ensure that a 13 percent reduction of force was completed in accordance with Liberian labor laws, company policies, and the company’s collective bargaining agreement with AAIWUL.  Firestone plans to cut its losses through further reduction of its workforce and the use of contract tapping firms have met with strong resistance from Liberia’s legislature.

While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed because of union activities, it allows for dismissal without cause provided the company pays statutory severance packages. The Decent Work Act sets out fundamental rights of workers and contains provisions on employment and termination of employment, minimum conditions of work, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, industrial relations, and employment agencies.  It also provides for periodic reviews of the labor market as well as adjustments in wages as the labor conditions dictate. The government does not waive labor laws in order to attract or retain investment, but the National Investment Commissions (NIC) provides investment incentives based on economic sectors and geographic areas (see Investment Incentives in section 4 above).

The MOL does not have an adequate or effective inspection system to identify and remedy labor violations and hold violators accountable. It lacks the capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or dismissal of union members or instances of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking. The MOL is charged with coordinating the government’s efforts on trafficking in persons and it made some progress in 2019 in coordinating efforts across the Government of Liberia, case tracking, service provision, and referring hotline cases to the Liberia National Police.  No new labor-related laws or regulations were enacted during the last year.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Liberia Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $1.416 billion 2019 $3.071 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country; https://www.cbl.org.lr/doc/
2019annualreport.pdf
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Liberia ($M USD, stock positions) NA NA 2019 -$94 million BEA data available at:
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Liberia’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) NA NA 2019 $461 million BEA data available at:
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP NA NA 2019 5.2% UNCTAD data available at:

https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html    

* Source for Liberia Data: Central Bank of Liberia, Annual Report 2019 covering January 1 to December 31, 2019, Published January 27, 2020.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information
Email:  Monrovia-Commerce@state.gov 
Phone: (+231) 77-677-7000

Mozambique

Executive Summary

Mozambique’s vast natural resources, lengthy coastline with deep water ports, favorable climate, rich soil, and premiere geographic location as the gateway to landlocked countries in southern Africa make it an attractive investment target. While the country welcomes foreign investment, investors must factor in corruption, an underdeveloped financial system, poor infrastructure, frequent natural disasters, and significant operating costs.  Transportation inside the country is unreliable and expensive, while bureaucracy, port inefficiencies, and corruption complicate imports.  Local labor laws remain an impediment to hiring foreign workers, even when domestic labor lacks the requisite skills.  In the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted investment amid an economic downturn. A surging terrorist movement in the same northern province that is home to Mozambique’s nascent natural gas industry has also delayed expected investment.

In April 2021, Total, the lead operator for the USD 20 billion Mozambique LNG project in northern Mozambique, withdrew its staff from the project site, putting construction on hold until the government can guarantee the security necessary for the project to continue. While no formal announcements have been made yet, the move likely delays the project and any future government revenues. Earlier, in April 2020, ExxonMobil announced it would delay the long-awaited final investment decision in its separate USD 25 billion LNG project mostly because of the poor market conditions. A smaller floating LNG platform remains on track to produce first gas in 2023. However, with both major projects on pause, Mozambique’s hopes for a gas bonanza have been delayed.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Mozambique’s formal economy built around the extractive industries and tourism, but other sectors have seen unexpected benefits. For example, Mozambique’s ports have seen increased volume despite the global slowdown because they remained open while competing ports in South Africa closed. The Mozambican government also launched a new rural development program, Sustenta, supported by a USD 500 million World Bank Loan. Sustenta aims to integrate small holder farmers into robust supply chains to create up to 200,000 jobs and boost annual growth in the critical agricultural sector from 2.3 percent to 5 percent.

Despite the pandemic and terrorism, Mozambique has a decent mid-term outlook. Following four years of reforms since the hidden debt scandal, Mozambique has made progress in the fight against corruption. Thanks in part to these efforts, the IMF and Mozambique entered into discussions to re-launch a new lending program, potentially the first non-emergency budgetary assistance to the government in five years.  If Mozambique continues on this path of reform, it will be better placed to manage its eventual resource income and attract other foreign investments.

U.S. businesses are poised to play a key role in this country’s transformation.  In June 2019, Mozambique signed a commercial Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce, outlining six key areas for investment including energy, infrastructure, financial services, agri-business, tourism, and fisheries, opening the door to increased cooperation and U.S. investment.  In December 2020, the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation also announced it would focus on rural transport and agriculture for its second compact.  While still under development, this compact will make a significant investment in key sectors and help create the enabling environment for additional investments.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 149 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 138 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 124 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 $491M USD https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $490 USD 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 the Republic of Mozambique (GRM) welcomes foreign investment and sees it as a key driver of economic growth and job creation.  With the exception of a few sectors related to national security, all business sectors are open to foreign investment.  Mozambique’s 1993 Law on Investment, No. 3/93, and its related regulations, govern foreign investment.  In 2009, Decree No. 43/2009 replaced earlier amendments from 1993 and 1995, providing new regulations to the Investment Law.

In general, large investors receive more support from the government than small and medium-sized investors.  Government authorities must approve all foreign and domestic investment requiring guarantees and incentives.  Regulations for the 2009 Code of Fiscal Benefits, Law No. 4/2009, were established in 2009 under Decree No. 56/2009.

The Agency for Promotion of Investments and Exports (APIEX, Agencia para a Promocao de Investimentos e Exportacoes) is the primary investor contact within the GRM, operating under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.  Its objective is to promote and facilitate private and public investment.  It also oversees the promotion of national exports.  APIEX can assist with administrative, financial, and property issues.  Through APIEX, investors can receive exemptions from some customs and value-added tax (VAT) duties when importing “Class K” equipment, which includes capital investments.

Contact information for APIEX is:

Agency for Promotion of Investments and Exports
http://www.apiex.gov.mz/ 
Rua da Imprensa, 332 (ground floor)
Tel: (+258) 21313310
Ahmed Sekou Toure Ave., 2539
Telephone: (+258) 21 321291
Mobile: (+258 ) 823056432

Government dialogue with the private sector is primarily coordinated by Mozambique’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Most businesses in Mozambique interact with the government via the country’s largest business association, the Confederation of Economic Associations (CTA, Confederação das Associações Económicas de Moçambique). CTA was formed in 1996 and continues to be the dominant and most influential business association in Mozambique.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Mozambique investment law and its regulations generally do not distinguish between investor origin or limit foreign ownership or control of companies.  With the exception of security, safety, media, entertainment, and certain game hunting concessions, there were no legal requirements that Mozambican citizens own shares of foreign investments until 2011, when the government adopted Law No. 15/2011, otherwise known as the “Mega-Projects Law.” This law governs public-private partnerships, large scale ventures, and major business concessions and states that Mozambican persons must hold between 5 percent to 20 percent of the equity capital of the project company.  Implementing regulations were approved by the Council of Ministers in 2012.

Article 4.1 of Law 14/2014, often referred to as the “Petroleum Law,” states that the GRM regulates the exploration, research, production, transportation, trade, refinery, and transformation of liquid hydrocarbons and their by-products, including petrochemical activities.  Article 4.6 established the state-owned oil company, the National Hydrocarbon Company (ENH, Empresa National das Hidorcorbonetos) as the government’s exclusive representative for investment and participation in oil and gas projects.  ENH typically owns up to 15 percent of shares in oil and gas projects in the country.

Depending on the size of the investment, the government approves both domestic and foreign investments at the provincial or national level, but there is no other formal investment screening process.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Mozambique has not undergone a third-party investment policy review in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

Starting a business in Mozambique is a lengthy and bureaucratically complex process which has led to Mozambique’s relatively low score on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. In the 2020 report, Mozambique ranked 176 out of 190 economies worldwide in terms of starting a new business, scoring well below the regional average for sub-Saharan Africa, in particular due to the relatively high cost of registering a business and number of procedures required to complete the process.

Registering a business typically involves reserving a name, signing an incorporation contract, payment of registration fees, publishing the company’s name and statutes in the national gazette, registering with the tax authority, and then notifying relevant agencies of the start of activity including the municipality’s one-stop-shop, the municipality’s labor office, national tax authority, and social security institute. According to the World Bank’s estimates, this process takes approximately 17 days. There is no single business registration website.

In May 2020, the Maputo City “one stop shop” known as the balcão de atendimento unico (BAU) introduced reforms that effectively reduced the number of procedures required to set up a new company from 11 to four by consolidating several steps required to register a new business.

Outward Investment

The government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.  It also does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  However, Mozambique does require domestic investors to remit investment income from overseas, except for amounts required to pay debts, taxes, or other expenses abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Investors face myriad requirements for permits, approvals, and clearances that take substantial time and effort to obtain.  The difficulty of navigating the system provides opportunities for corruption and bribery, a scenario that is aggravated by the prevailing low wages for administrative clerks.  Labor, health, safety, and environmental regulations often go unenforced, or are selectively enforced.  In addition, civil servants have threatened to enforce antiquated regulations that remain on the books to obtain favors or bribes.

The private sector, through CTA, maintains an ongoing dialogue with the government, holding quarterly meetings with the Prime Minister and an annual meeting with the President. CTA provides feedback to the GRM on laws and regulations that impact the business environment on behalf of its members and other business associations. However, because of its exclusive role in communicating with the government on behalf of the private sector, some businesses have expressed concern that minority voices are not heard and that CTA, because of its close relationship with the government, is no longer an effective advocate. In 2019, an American Chamber of Commerce formed in Mozambique to represent the interests of the growing U.S. business community.

Draft bills are usually made available for public comments through the business associations or relevant sectors or in public meetings.  Changes to laws and regulations are published in the National Gazette.  Public comments are usually limited to input from a few private sector organizations, such as CTA.  There have been complaints of short comment periods and that comments are not properly reflected in the National Gazette.  The government is considering a law that would make public consultation on future legislation mandatory.

Overall fiscal transparency in Mozambique is improving in the wake of the 2016 hidden debt crisis which saw the government own up to contracting over USD 2 billion dollars in secret loans in 2013 and 2014.  Publicly available budget documents provide an incomplete picture of the government’s revenue streams, especially with regard to natural resource revenues and allocations to and earnings from state-owned enterprises (SOE), which generally did not have publicly available audited financial statements. Government reporting on debt, however, has improved with SOE debt now included in the national budget. The government also maintains off-budget accounts not subject to adequate audit or oversight.  For portions of the budget that were relatively complete, the provided information is generally reliable.

International Regulatory Considerations

Mozambique is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  In 2016, the SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Group, which includes Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland, signed an EPA with the European Union.  Mozambique exports aluminum under this EPA agreement.

The GRM ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in July 2016 and notified the WTO in January 2017.  A National Trade Facilitation Committee was established to coordinate the implementation of the TFA.

Mozambique is a member of the WTO and generally notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The National Institute of Norms and Quality (Instituto Nacional de Normalização e Qualidade, INNOQ) falls under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and it is the WTO enquiry point for TBT-related issues. INNOQ is a member of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and carries the mandate to issue ISO 9001 certificates. According to the WTO’s 2017 Trade Policy Review of Mozambique no specific trade concerns have been raised about Mozambique’s TBT measures in the WTO TBT Committee.

Like most countries in Africa, Mozambique leans toward the use of standards based on existing ISO and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards for most products.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Mozambique’s legal system is based on Portuguese civil law and customary law.  In 2005, the Parliament approved major revisions to the Commercial Code which went into effect in 2006.  The previous Commercial Code from the colonial period had clauses dating back to the 19th century and did not provide an effective basis for modern commerce or resolution of commercial disputes. In 2018, the Council of Ministers passed new provisions for the Commercial Code, which were debated and approved in Parliament.

In recent years Mozambique’s legal system has shown a degree of independence. For example, the GRM has pursued some politically connected former officials and their family members for their role in the hidden debt scandal. The Attorney General has also prosecuted several lower level officials, including those connected with wildlife trafficking.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 2009 Code of Fiscal Benefits, Law No. 4/2009, and Decree No. 56/2009 form the legal basis for foreign direct investment in Mozambique. Operating within these regulations, APIEX analyzes the fiscal and customs incentives available for a particular investment.  Investors must establish foreign business representation and acquire a commercial representation license.  During project development, investors must document their community consultation efforts related to the project.  If the investment requires the use of land, the investor will also have to present, among other documents, a topographic plan or an outline of the site where the project will be developed.

If the investment involves an area under 1,000 hectares and the investment is under approximately USD 25 million, the governor of the province where it will be located can approve the investment.  There has been no update to the law since the introduction of provincial-level State Secretaries with the new government in 2020. APIEX has the authority to approve any project between roughly USD 25 million – USD 40 million. The Minister of Economy and Finance must approve national or foreign investment between USD 40 – USD 225 million.  If the investment (national or foreign) occupies an area of 10,000 hectares or an area superior to 100,000 hectares for a forestry concession, or it amounts to more than USD 225 million, the project must be approved by the Council of Ministers.  More detailed information regarding all requirements to invest in Mozambique can be found on the APIEX website: http://invest.apiex.gov.mz/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2019/08/Leis-e-Regulamentos-Relacionados-com-Investimento-Directo-Estrangeiro.pdf .

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The so called “Competition Law,” Law No. 10/2013, adopted in 2013 established a modern legal framework for competition and created the Competition Regulatory Authority. A budget has still not been allocated to this body, but the government appointed a director in April 2020.

The framework is inspired by the Portuguese competition enforcement system.  Violating the prohibitions contained in the Competition Law (either by entering into an illegal agreement or practice or by implementing a concentration subject to mandatory filing) could result in a fine of up to 5 percent of the turnover of the company in the previous year.  Competition Regulatory Authority decisions may be appealed in the Judicial Court in Maputo, for cases leading to fines or other sanctions, or to the Administrative Court for merger control procedures.

Expropriation and Compensation

While there have been no significant cases of nationalization since the adoption of the 1990 Constitution, Mozambican law holds that “when deemed absolutely necessary for weighty reasons of national interest or public health and order, the nationalization or expropriation of goods and rights shall (result in the owner being) entitled to just and equitable compensation.” No U.S. companies have been subject to expropriation issues in Mozambique since the adoption of the 1990 Constitution.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Mozambique acceded to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 1998.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

For disputes between U.S. and Mozambican companies where a BIT violation is alleged, recourse via the international Alternative Dispute Resolution may also be available.  No investment disputes in the past ten years have involved U.S. investors. Investors who feel they have a dispute covered under the BIT should contact the U.S. Embassy.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In 1999 the Parliament passed Law No. 11/99 known as the Law on Arbitration. This law allows access to modern commercial arbitration for foreign investors.  The Judicial Council approved Resolutions No. 1/CJ/2017 and No. 2/CJ/2017 in 2017, creating the Regulations of Mediation Services in Judicial Courts and the Judicial Mediators’ Code of Conduct.  These new resolutions are designed to promote the mediation process as an alternative to litigation.  Labor and commercial arbitration are recognized by local courts as well as cases judged internationally.

The Center of Arbitration, Conciliation, and Mediation (Centro de Arbitragem, Conciliação e Mediação, CACM) offers commercial arbitration. In 2020, CACM handled 38 cases of commercial arbitration, and 24 additional cases are in process.  CACM has 316 arbitrators, 12 of which are international.  However, many contracts do not incorporate a clause that allows conflicts to be resolved via arbitration instead of in the courts which limits the use of arbitration.

Bankruptcy Regulations

In 2013, the GRM adopted a comprehensive legal regime for bankruptcy known as the “Insolvency Law,” Law No. 1/2013. This law streamlined the bankruptcy process and set the rules for business recovery.  The law facilitates potential recovery for struggling businesses and establishes legal methods to declare bankruptcy. Rather than being forced to immediately sell assets or declare insolvency, entrepreneurs now have options to recover normal economic activity and maintain jobs. Under the law, creditors can approve any proposed rescue plan, request that a debtor be declared insolvent, and challenge suspicious transactions. In the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, Mozambique ranked 86 overall for resolving insolvency, scoring well above average for sub-Saharan Africa.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The 2009 Code of Fiscal Benefits, Law No. 4/2009, contains specific incentives for entities that intend to invest in certain geographical areas within Mozambique that have natural resource potential, but lack infrastructure and have low levels of economic activity.  Rapid Development Zones (RDZ) were also created to facilitate investment.  Investments in these zones are exempt from import duties on certain goods and are granted an investment tax credit equal to 20 percent of the total investment (with a right to carry the credit forward for five years).  Additional modest incentives are available for professional training and the construction and rehabilitation of public infrastructure, including, but not limited to roads, railways, water supply, schools, and hospitals.

The Regulations for the Code of Fiscal Benefits are set forth in Decree No. 56/2009, which was approved in October 2009.  APIEX can assist companies with the investment incentives stipulated in the Code of Fiscal Benefits.

With the exception of sectors like oil and gas where government participation is mandatory, the government does not issue joint guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Mozambique’s eight free trade zones provide a variety of fiscal exemptions depending on the sector of investment as well as the project location.  Investors should pay close attention to documents and procedures requested in order to establish a business locally or to request fiscal and customs incentives if investing in an industrial free zone. Investors have complained that certain government officials may not be aware of some of the benefits conferred by tax free status, in particular related to customs and duty-free imports.

In January 2021, the government of Mozambique approved the Limpopo Valley Agribusiness Economic Zone with the main objective to explore and develop the agricultural potential of the Limpopo Valley. The newly approved zone falls under the 2009 Code of Fiscal Benefits. According to the government, studies are now under way to identify new infrastructure investments and potential incentives to realize the agro-ecological potential of the region and maximize economic efficiency and social wellbeing.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

In general, the government generally does not require investors to purchase from local sources, nor does it require technology or proprietary business information to be transferred to a local company.  However, within certain sectors, the government has implemented specific local content requirements. In the oil and gas sector in particular, the government’s 2014 Petroleum Law, Law No. 21/2014, requires oil and gas companies to give preference to Mozambican individuals and companies if the goods or services are of an internationally comparable quality and competitively priced. The exact local content requirements for each project operating under this law are negotiated within the so-called “Local Content Working Group,” an inter-ministerial body responsible for implementing the government’s local content strategy. The government continues to debate the idea of a local content law which could create additional requirements and consolidate the various requirements across sectors into a single law. The proposed law has been drafted and presented at the Council of Ministers but as of April 2021 has not been finalized or adopted.

Companies may hire foreign workers only when there are not sufficient Mozambican workers available that meet specific job qualifications.  The Ministry of Labor enforces quotas for foreign workers as a percentage of the workforce within companies that varies based on the size of the company.  Per the 2007 Labor Law, Law No. 23/2007, companies with 10 employees or fewer can employ no more than 10 percent expatriates (effectively one person in a 10-person company), companies with 11-100 employees may employ up to 8 percent expatriates, and large companies with over 100 employees may employ no more than 10 percent expatriates.  Many companies use foreigners as outside consultants, which allows them to get around the quota system by hiring a “company” instead of a foreigner who would be subject to the quota requirement.  Work permits for foreigners cost approximately USD 370 and take at least one month to be issued.  All investments must specify the number and category of Mozambican and foreign workers.

There are currently no data localization policies in effect in Mozambique.  Several international companies offer cloud services to Mozambique; however, none operate in-country data centers. In addition to the government operated Maluana Park and Teledata centers, Mozambique hosts three data centers: SEACOM, Webmasters, and Eduardo Mondlane University. As part of the e-Government strategy, Maluana Park aims to ensure the migration of computing systems used in public administration. None of Mozambique’s facilities are carrier neutral and they do not host individual servers.

The government agency responsible for enforcing IT policies and rules is:

UTICT – Unidade Tecnica de Implementacao da Politica de Informatica
Technical Implementation Unit for IT Policy
Tel: (258) 21 309 398; 21 302 241
Mobile (258) 305 3450
Email: cpinfo@infopol.gov.mz 

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The legal system recognizes and protects property rights to buildings and movable property. Private ownership of land, however, is not allowed in Mozambique.  Land is owned by the State. The government grants land-use concessions called Direitos de Uso e Aproveitamento de Terra (DUAT) for periods of up to 50 years, with options to renew for an additional 50 years. Essentially, land-use concessions serve as proxies for land titles.  There is no robust market in land use rights and land use titles are not easily transferable.  The process to award land concessions is not transparent and the government at times has granted overlapping land concessions that often require lengthy negotiation to resolve.  It takes an average of 90 days to issue a land title for most of the concessions. Banks in Mozambique rely on property other than land – cars, private houses, and infrastructure – as collateral, as it is not currently possible to securitize property for lending purposes.

In urban areas, the DUAT of a plot passes automatically to the purchaser following the sale of a house or building.  In rural areas, the purchaser of physical infrastructure or improvements and crops must request authorization from the government for the DUAT to be transferred.  This requirement is often cited as a barrier for loans in the agricultural sector and is seen as a potential barrier to investment and the transition to more intensive, commercial forms of agriculture.

Investors should be aware of the requirement to obtain endorsement of their projects in terms of land use and allocation at a local level from the affected communities.  APIEX assists investors in finding land for development and obtaining appropriate documentation, including agricultural land.  The government advises companies on relocating individuals currently occupying land designated for development; however, companies are ultimately responsible for planning and executing resettlement programs.

According to data from the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, Mozambique ranked 136 out of 190 countries on Registering Property, with the country achieving more or less the average continent-wide score. While Mozambique scored relatively well in terms of the time and cost of the property registration process, Mozambique lost points for number of procedures involved in registering property and the quality of the country’s land administration index.

Intellectual Property Rights

Despite enforceable laws and regulations protecting Intellectual property rights (IPR) and a relatively simple registration process, it remains difficult for investors to protect their IPR in Mozambique. Private sector organizations work with various government entities on an IPR taskforce to combat IPR infringement and related public safety issues stemming from the use of counterfeit products, but enforcement in Mozambique remains sporadic and inconsistent. Mozambique’s National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) has increased seizures, confiscating fake Hewlett-Packard (HP) toner cartridges, Nike, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, and other falsely branded merchandise in several raids in 2019. However, in general, enforcement and prosecutions are limited.  Pirated DVDs and other counterfeit goods are commonly sold in Mozambique.

The Parliament passed a copyright and related rights bill in 2000, which, when combined with the 1999 Industrial Property Act, brought Mozambique into compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).  The law provides for the security and legal protection of industrial property rights, copyrights, and other related rights.  In addition, Mozambique is a signatory to the Bern Convention, as well as the New York and Paris Conventions.

Mozambique joined the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in February 2020. Joining ARIPO paved the way for Mozambique to implement the Banjul Protocol and the government deposited its instrument of accession to the protocol at ARIPO in May 2020. Mozambique’s adhesion to ARIPO should facilitate filing trademarks as ARIPO processes are standardized across all member states and valid across all jurisdictions.

Mozambique is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=MZ  .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Mozambique Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Valores de Mocambique, BVM) is a public institution under the guardianship of the Minister of Economy and Finance and the supervision of the Central Bank of Mozambique.  In general, the BVM is underutilized as a means of financing and investment.  However, the government has expressed interest in reforming market rules in an effort to increase capitalization and potentially prepare the ground for new rules that would require foreign companies active in Mozambique to be listed on the local stock exchange. Corporate and government bonds are traded on the BVM and there is only one dealer that operates in the country, with all other brokers incorporated into commercial banks, which act as the primary dealers for treasury bills.  The secondary market in Mozambique remains underdeveloped.  Available credit instruments include medium and short-term loans, syndicated loans, foreign exchange derivatives, and trade finance instruments, such as letters of credit and credit guarantees.  The BVM remains illiquid, in the sense that very limited activity occurs outside the issuing time.  Investors tend to hold their instruments until maturity.  The market also lacks a bond yield curve as government issuances use a floating price regime for the coupons with no price discovery for tenures above 12 months.

The GRM notified the IMF that it has accepted the obligations of Article VIII sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement, effective May 20, 2011.

Money and Banking System

According to the Mozambican Bank Association December 2020 bank survey, there are 19 commercial banks operating in Mozambique. The top three banks – Banco Comercial e de Investimentos (BCI), Banco Internacional de Mocambique SA (BIM), and Standard Bank – account for 69 percent of the total assets, total loans and advances, and total deposits held by commercial banks in Mozambique.

Between 2018-2019, the value of non-performing loans (NPL) decreased by 2 percent, but the NPL ratio worsened from 8.5 percent to 9.1 percent over the same period.  Banking sector profits have dropped by 2 percent due to the reduction of prime lending rates, costs of rehabilitation of branches and property damage from cyclones Idai and Kenneth, and reduced commission income following new Central Bank legislation limiting charges for certain services to promote financial inclusion.

In 2016, Mozambique launched a six-year National Financial Inclusion Strategy which has led to limited improvements in access to formal financial services. According to 2019 FinScope data, 21 percent of the population has access to a bank account, still well below the country’s 2022 target of 60 percent. As of March 2020, Mozambique had 706 bank agencies, 1,755 ATMs and 36,701 point of sale devices. Most banking locations are concentrated in provincial capitals and rural districts often have no banks at all.  Thanks to the partnership between mobile communications companies and banks for electronic or mobile-money transactions, access to financial services is improving. The number of services available from ATMs is also increasing. There are also 1,697 banking agents in the country that provide basic banking services to customers without access to a bank branch.

Credit is allocated on market terms, but eligibility requirements exclude much of the population from obtaining credit. Banks request collateral, but since land cannot be used as collateral, the majority of individuals do not qualify for loans. Foreign investor export activities in critical areas related to food, fuel, and health markets have access to credit in foreign and local currencies.  All other sectors have access to credit only in the local currency.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In 2017 Mozambique approved new foreign exchange control rules in Law No. 49/2017. Under the terms of the new law, Mozambican residents are now required to deposit export earnings into an export earnings account in foreign currency, which can only be used for specifically defined purposes.  Under the new decree, foreign exchange operations will now be processed electronically in real time by the commercial banks.  Applications for capital operations are now processed by commercial banks and forwarded to the Central Bank. Foreign direct investment (FDI) up to USD 250,000 no longer requires prior authorization from the Bank of Mozambique and only needs to be registered with the commercial bank handling the transactions.  Shareholder and intercompany loans made by foreign entities up to USD 5 million require no authorization from the Central Bank, provided the loans are interest free or lower than the base lending rate for the relevant currency, the repayment period is at least three years, and no other fees or charges apply.

A special foreign exchange regime for oil, gas, and mining sectors allows for greater flexibility in foreign exchange and financing operations.  The law, which went into force in January 2018, stipulates that profits from petroleum rights are entirely taxed at an autonomous tax rate of 32 percent.  The law also guarantees tax stabilization for up to 10 years, starting from the beginning of commercial production with an investment amount of USD 100 million.  The Ministry of Economy and Finance can also approve the use of U.S. dollars, if the company has invested at least USD 500 million and more than 90 percent of its transactions are in U.S. dollars.  The law also revoked a 50 percent tax rate reduction related to the production tax that was available when extracted products were used locally.

Remittance Policies

The 2021 Central Bank’s Aviso 6/GBM/2020 requires at least 30 percent of export proceeds to be converted into local currency.  However, per the Central Bank Circular issued in February 2021, this conversion rule does not apply for rent paid in a foreign currency by non-resident entitles to a Mozambican landlord.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In October 2020, Mozambique’s Central Bank published an initial proposal for a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to manage the expected increase in government revenues from the natural gas projects in northern Mozambique. As of April 2021, the government is currently revising the proposal and aims to put forward a formal legislative proposal by the end of the year for review and approval by Mozambique’s National Assembly.

The initial draft from the Central Bank calls for 50 percent of government revenue from the natural gas sector as well as other extractive industries to be used to fund the SWF for a period of 20 years and sets up strict payout criteria for any withdrawals from the SWF before it reaches maturity. In general, the government’s proposal follows the Santiago Principles and the government is working with the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds to refine its proposal. In total, the government estimates it will receive USD 96 billion from the Rovuma Basin natural gas projects over the lifetime of the projects. Delays in construction and evolving international energy prices, however, could lead to lower-than-expected returns from the natural gas projects.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Mozambique’s SOEs have their origin in the Marxist-Leninist government established after independence in 1975, with a variety of SOEs competing with the private sector in the Mozambican economy.  Government participation varies depending on the company and sector. SOEs are managed by the Institute for the Management of State Participation (Instituto de Gestão das Participações do Estado, IGEPE).  According IGEPE’s 2019 annual report, IGEPE manages 12 public SOEs, 16 wholly or majority state-owned enterprises, and 23 other enterprises which are partially state-owned.  IGEPE’s holdings are partially detailed on its website:  http://www.igepe.org.mz/ 

Some of the largest SOEs, such as Airports of Mozambique (Aeroportos de Moçambique) and Electricity of Mozambique (Electricidade de Moçambique) have monopolies in their respective industries.  In some cases, SOEs enter into joint ventures with private firms to deliver certain services.  For example, Ports and Railways of Mozambique (CFM, Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique) offers concessions for some of its ports and railways. Many SOEs benefit from state subsidies.  In some instances, SOEs have benefited from non-compete contracts that should have been competitively tendered.  SOE accounts are generally not transparent and not thoroughly audited by the Supreme Audit Institution.  SOE debt represents a potentially significant liability for the GRM.  SOEs were also at the heart of the hidden debt scandal revealed in 2016.

In 2018, the Parliament passed a Law No. 3/2018, which broadens the definition of SOEs to include all public enterprises and shareholding companies.  The law seeks to unify SOE oversight and harmonize the corporate governance structure, placing additional financial controls, borrowing limits, and financial analysis and evaluation requirements for borrowing by SOEs.  The law requires the oversight authority to publish a consolidated annual report on SOEs, with additional reporting requirements for individual SOEs.  The Council of Ministers approved regulations for the SOE law in early 2019, and in 2020 the Ministry of Economy and Finance published limited information on SOE debt.

Privatization Program

Mozambique’s privatization program has been relatively transparent, with tendering procedures that are generally open and competitive.  Most remaining parastatals operate as state-owned public utilities, with government oversight and control, making their privatization more politically sensitive.  While the government has indicated an intention to include private partners in most of these utility industries, progress has been slow.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Larger companies and foreign investors in Mozambique tend to follow their own responsible business conduct (RBC) standards.  For some large investment projects, RBC-related issues are negotiated directly with the GRM.  RBC is an increasingly high-profile issue in Mozambique, especially in the extractive industries, with some projects requiring resettlement of communities.

The Government of Mozambique (GRM) joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in May 2009.  The EITI Governing Board labeled Mozambique as a compliant country in 2012.

Following the emergence of a violent extremist group in northern Mozambique in 2017, the government turned to private military companies (PMCs) to provide logistical and tactical support to Mozambican military and police forces. In March 2021, one PMC operating in Mozambique was accused of carrying out indiscriminate attacks on civilians by Amnesty International. The government’s contract with this PMC ended on April 6, 2021. Mozambique is not a signatory of the Montreaux Document on Private Military and Security Companies, does not support of the International Code of Conduct or Private Security Service Providers, nor does it participate as a government in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association. In March 2021, officials from the Ministries of Defense, Justice, and the semi-independent Human Rights Commission participated in a series of workshops organized by the Center for Democracy and Development on the the Voluntary Principles of Security and Human Rights in Cabo Delgado Province.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Corruption is a major concern in Mozambique.  Though Mozambique has made progress developing the legal framework to combat corruption, the policies and leadership necessary to ensure effective implementation have been insufficient.  While the 2016 hidden debt scandal involving a cadre of former government officials is the most infamous example of government corruption, it is not the only case.

In a February 2021 interview, the spokesperson for Mozambique’s Central Office for Combatting Corruption (Gabinete Central de Combate à Corrupção, GCC) called the cost of corruption in Mozambique “violent.” According to GCC estimates, corruption led to the loss of over USD 15 million in state revenue in 2020. Mozambique fell three places on Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index and now ranks 149 out of 180 countries. In releasing the 2020 report, Transparency International highlighted concerns about the alleged role of senior government officials in controlling lucrative business deals, reports of rushed public procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic that did not follow guidelines, and persistent rumors surrounding the role of police in a recent string of kidnappings of business people in Mozambique. In 2019, the government in cooperation with the IMF, also released a Diagnostic Report on Transparency, Governance and Corruption outlining 29 measures to fight corruption and improve transparency.  The full report is available online at: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2019/08/23/Republic-of-Mozambique-Diagnostic-Report-on-Transparency-Governance-and-Corruption-48613 .

Mozambique’s civil society and journalists remain vocal on corruption-related issues.  Action related to the hidden debt scandal is being led by a civil society umbrella organization known as the Budget Monitoring Forum (Forum de Monitoria de Orcamento, FMO) that brings together around 20 different organizations for collective action on transparency and corruption related issues.  A civil society organization that participates in the FMO, the Center for Public Integrity (Centro de Integridade Publica, CIP), also continues to publicly pressure the government to act against corrupt practices.  CIP finds that many local businesses are closely linked to the government and have little incentive to promote transparency.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Ana Maria Gemo
Central Anti-Corruption Office (Gabinete Central de Combate a Corrupcao)
Avenida 10 de Novembro, 193
+258 82 3034576
gabinetecorrupção@yahoo.com.br

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Borges Nhamirre
Project Coordinator Extractive Industries
Center for Public Integrity (CIP, Centro de Integridade Publica)
Rua Fernão Melo e Castro, 124
+258 84 8866440
borgesfaduco@gmail.com 

10. Political and Security Environment

Terrorism in northern Mozambique poses a significant threat to investment, in particular in Cabo Delgado Province. A March 24 attack on Palma town, where many expatriate LNG workers stayed, in the vicinity of the Total camp, led Total to suspend operations and temporarily evacuate all personnel from Cabo Delgado Province (CDP) in April 2021.

The United States designated the Islamic State in Mozambique (ISIS-M) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorists in March 2021. ISIS provides support to the combatants in northern Mozambique and occasionally claims credit for their attacks.  The violence has resulted in an estimated 2,500 deaths and nearly 700,000 internally displaced persons.  Since 2017, the ISIS affiliate carried out more than 500 deliberate attacks against unarmed civilians.

ISIS-M operates in CDP, which is also the site of the two onshore LNG projects led by Total and ENI/ExxonMobil. The March 24 attack on the district capital of Palma in the vicinity of the LNG project site in March 2021 marked a significant escalation in the level of violence in close proximity to the project and several expatriates were killed.  However, to date, the insurgents’ primary target remains villages and government forces and institutions.

Following the ceasefire and peace agreement signed in August 2019, Mozambique continues to make strong progress in the disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration (DDR) of ex-combatants from Renamo. Although a violent splinter group’s leader remains at large, a significant drop in the number of attacks on road transport along major highways in Manica and Sofala provinces has occurred in early 2021.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The labor market is dominated by the informal economy with the vast majority of people (approximately 70 percent) working in subsistence agriculture, particularly in rural areas.  People in cities often work in informal trade.

There is an acute shortage of skilled labor in Mozambique.  As a result, many employers hire foreign employees to fill these skill gaps.  The government limits the number of expatriates a business can employ in relation to the number of Mozambican citizens it employs.  The government passed a labor regulation in 2016 strengthening the requirement for employers to devise a skills transfer program that trains Mozambican nationals to eventually replace the foreign workers.

The constitution and law provide that workers, with limited exceptions, may form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively.  The law requires government approval to establish a union.  The government has 45 days to register employers’ or workers’ organizations, a delay the International Labor Organization (ILO) deemed excessive. Approximately three percent of the labor force is affiliated with trade unions.  An employee fired with cause does not have a right to severance, while employees terminated without cause do.  Unemployment insurance does not exist and there is not a social safety net program for workers laid off for economic reasons.

The Government of Mozambique is reviewing the Labor Law to align it with international conventions related to forced labor, health and safety issues in mining, and the worst forms of child labor.  The proposed law would also extend the maternity leave period from 60 to 90 days.  The new labor law will also address sexual harassment.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $14.27 billion 2019 $15.29 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 $4.375 2018 $491 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 $-1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 288% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/topic/investment/
world-investment-report
 

* Source for Host Country Data: National Statistical Institute (INE, Instituto National de Estatistica), 2019 Annual Statistics published November 2020. http://www.ine.gov.mz/estatisticas/estatisticas-economicas/contas-nacionais/anuais-1 ; APIEX

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 43,742 100% Total Outward
Not available.
United Arab Emirates 9,095 21%
South Africa 7,004 16%
Mauritius 3,943 9%
Portugal 3,943 9%
The Netherlands 3,656 8%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

The IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey results for 2019 track loosely with the FDI reported by APIEX—with both sources listing South Africa, Mauritius, Portugal, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) among Mozambique’s top five foreign investors. However, local data from APIEX diverges significantly in terms of the value of FDI as well as the relative share of each country. According to APIEX, in 2019 FDI in Mozambique totaled USD 637 million, with South Africa accounting for 58 percent of total foreign investment in Mozambique, followed by China, Mauritius, Portugal, and the UAE.

The large share of investment listed from UAE and Mauritius likely is linked to the fact that the Exxon Mobil/ENI and Total led natural gas projects have set up special purpose vehicles for their natural gas projects in these countries.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Elizabeth Filipe
Economic Assistant
U.S. Embassy Maputo
Avenida Kenneth Kaunda, 193
+32 258 21 29 27 97
filipeec@state.gov 

Zambia

Executive Summary

Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa that shares a border with eight countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. The country has an estimated population of 17.86 million and GDP per capita of USD 1,430, according to the World Bank.

Despite broad economic reforms in the early 2000s, Zambia has struggled to diversify its economy from mining and accelerate private-led growth to address the poverty of its people. Cumbersome administrative procedures and unpredictable legal and regulatory changes inhibit Zambia’s immense potential for private sector investment. This is compounded by insufficient transparency in government contracting, ongoing lack of reliable electricity, and the high cost of doing business due to poor infrastructure, the high cost of capital, and lack of skilled labor.

Zambia’s already struggling economy was deeply impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates Zambia’s economy contracted by 3.5 percent in 2020, after previously slowing to 1.8 percent in 2019 in a marked decline from the 4.0 percent growth seen in 2018. Inflation rose from 9.2 percent in 2019 to 19.2 percent by December 2020, well above the Bank of Zambia’s target range of 6.0 to 8.0 percent for 2020. In 2018 and 2019, Zambia’s economy was hit by a severe nationwide drought that considerably lowered agricultural production and hydropower electricity generation; electricity rationing continued in 2020, which dampened activity in almost all economic sectors. Copper is the country’s largest export; copper production in 2020 increased in the face of rising global copper prices to 10.8 percent over 2019’s anemic levels. Production in 2019 suffered a 12.5 percent decline from 2018 levels due in part to an onerous mining tax regime and falling global demand.

Zambia’s external debt grew to USD 11.98 billion in 2020, up from USD 11.2 billion at the end of 2019. The fiscal deficit at the end of 2020 was 11 percent of GDP, well above the government’s 6.5 percent target. The Zambian kwacha depreciated against the dollar by 34.1 percent in 2020, increasing the cost of external debt service and reducing the purchase power of Zambian businesses and consumers. Investor appetite for domestic bonds continued to shrink, and short- and long-term domestic borrowing costs rose. In November 2020 Zambia defaulted on a USD 42.5 million payment on its Eurobond, and the country has defaulted on numerous other commercial loans with foreign creditors. Fiscal responsibility is key to ensuring that macroeconomic fundamentals do not deteriorate further. At the end of 2020, foreign exchange reserves stood at USD 1.18 billion (representing 2.4 months of import cover), compared to USD 1.45 billion as of year-end 2019.

Budget execution by the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has historically been poor and is widely viewed as aspirational rather than accurate, with documented extra budgetary spending. The GRZ continues to negotiate a potential loan package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) intended to put Zambia on a path of debt sustainability and improved fiscal governance.

The U.S. Embassy works closely with the American Chamber of Commerce of Zambia (AmCham) to support its 65+ American and Zambian members seeking to increase two-way trade. Agriculture and mining remain headlining sectors for the Zambian economy. U.S. firms are present or exploring new projects in tourism, power generation, agriculture, and services.

Note: The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic brought not only health but additional economic challenges. The GRZ in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conducted a business survey in May 2020 to provide data on measures to help businesses respond during and after the pandemic. The report indicates that the pandemic has adversely affected business operations, with 71 percent of respondents indicating they partially closed their businesses, while another 14 percent of respondents noted that they closed their businesses totally. The GRZ is currently seeking emergency funding, debt relief, and debt restructuring to mitigate the pandemic’s economic impact.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 117 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 85 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 85 of 190 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019      $42 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm
World Bank GNI per capita 2019      $1,430 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

In general, Zambian law does not restrict foreign investors in any sector of the economy, although there are a few regulations and practices limiting foreign control laid out below. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) continues to play an important role in Zambia’s economy. The Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) is charged with attracting more FDI to Zambia, in addition to promoting trade and investment and coordinating the country’s private sector-led economic development strategy.

Zambia has undertaken certain institutional reforms aimed at improving its attractiveness to investors; these reforms include the Private Sector Development Reform Program (PSDRP), which addresses the cost of doing business through legislation and institutional reforms, and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which addresses issues relating to transparency and good governance ( https://data.mcc.gov/evaluations/index.php/catalog/72/study-description ). However, frequent government policy changes have created uncertainty for foreign investors. Recent examples include a rapid transition from a value-added tax regime to a sales tax that was slated to take effect in July 2019, but ultimately scrapped in September 2019 after multiple last minute delays and stakeholder backlash; taxes and royalty increases in the mining sector that took effect in January 2019 and marked the tenth significant change to mining taxes and regulations in 16 years; a labor law update with insufficient public consultation that significantly increased hiring costs for formal businesses; and unpredictable changes to limits on various crop exports.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The ZDA does not discriminate against foreign investors, and all sectors are open to both local and foreign investors. Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activities, and no business ventures are reserved solely for the government. Although private entities may freely establish and dispose of interests in business enterprises, investment board approval is required to transfer an investment license for a given enterprise to a new owner.

Currently, all land in Zambia is considered state land and ownership is vested in the president. Land titles held are for renewable 99-year leases; ownership is not conferred. According to the government, the current land administration system leaves little room for the empowerment of citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable rural communities. The government began reviewing the current land policy in earnest in March 2017; though shorter terms continue to be suggested, no changes have been adopted to date.

Foreign investors in the telecom sector are required to disclose certain proprietary information to the ZDA as part of the regulatory approval process. Further information regarding information and communication regulation can be found at the website of the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority at http://www.zicta.zm 

The ZDA board screens all investment proposals and usually makes its decision within 30 days. The reviews appear to be routine and non-discriminatory and applicants have the right to appeal investment board decisions. Investment applications are screened, with effective due diligence to determine the extent to which the proposed investment will help to create employment; the development of human resources; the degree to which the project is export-oriented; the likely impact on the environment; the amount of technology transfer; and any other considerations the Board considers appropriate.

The following are the requirements for registering a foreign company in Zambia:

  1. At least one and not more than nine local directors must be appointed as directors of a majority foreign-owned company. At least one local director of the company must be resident in Zambia, and if the company has more than two local directors, more than half of them shall be residents of Zambia.
  2. There must be at least one documentary agent (a firm, corporate body registered in Zambia, or an individual who is a resident in Zambia).
  3. A certified copy of the Certificate of Incorporation from the country of origin must be attached to Form 46.
  4. The charter, statutes, regulations, memorandum and articles, or other instrument relating to a foreign company must be submitted.
  5. The Registration Fee of K5,448.50 (~ USD 250.00) must be paid.
  6. The issuance and sealing of the Certificate of Registration marks the end of the process for registration.

This information can also be found at the web address of the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA), http://www.pacra.org.zm 

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The GRZ conducted a trade policy review through the World Trade Organization (WTO) in June 2016. The report found that Zambia recorded relatively strong economic growth at an average rate of 6.6 percent per year up to 2015. The improvement was attributed to growing demand for copper (the main export product) and its spillover effects on some other sectors such as transport, communications, and wholesale and retail trade. Buoyant construction activity and higher agricultural production also helped.

The trade policy review report of 2016 reached the following conclusions: the government should continue to implement programs and initiatives directed at attaining inclusive growth and job creation and pay particular attention to macroeconomic stability, diversification of the economy, support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), engagement with cooperating partners, and promotion of investment. Zambia also uses bilateral, regional, and multilateral frameworks to support economic growth and development.

Report found here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp440_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

The Zambian government, often with support from cooperating partners, has undertaken economic reforms to improve its business facilitation process and attract foreign investors, including steps to support more transparent policymaking and to encourage competition. The impact of these progressive policies, however, has been undermined by persistent fiscal deficits, struggling economy, high cost of doing business and widespread corruption. Business surveys, including TRACE International, generally indicate that corruption in Zambia is a major obstacle for conducting business in the country.

The Zambian Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) manages Regulatory Services Centers (RSCs) that serve as a one-stop shop for investors. RSCs provide an efficient regulatory clearance system by streamlining business registration processes; providing a single licensing system; reducing the procedures and time it takes to complete the registration process; and increasing accessibility of business registration institutions by placing them under one roof.

The government established RSCs in Lusaka, Livingstone, Kitwe, and Chipata, and has plans to establish additional RSCs so that there is at least one in each of the country’s 10 provinces. Information about the RSCs can be found at the following links:

The Companies Act No. 10 of 2017 was operationalized through a statutory instrument (June 2018) and implementing regulations (February 2019) aimed at fostering accountability and transparency in the management of companies. Companies are required to maintain a register of beneficial owners, and persons holding shares on behalf of other persons or entities must now disclose those beneficial owners.

In order to facilitate improved access to credit, the Patents and Company Registration Office (PACRA) established the collateral registry system, a central database that records all registrations of charges or collaterals created by borrowers to secure credits provided by lenders. This service allows lenders to search for collateral offered by loan applicants to see if that collateral already has an existing claim registered against it. Creditors can also register security interests against the proposed collateral to protect their priority status in accordance with the Movable Property (Security Interest) Act No. 3 of 2016. Generally, the first registered security interest in the collateral has first priority over any subsequent registrations.

Parliament passed the Border Management and Trade Facilitation Act in December 2018. The Act, among other things, calls for coordinated border management and control to facilitate the efficient movement and clearance of goods; puts into effect provisions for one-stop border posts; and simplifies clearance of goods with neighboring countries. While one-stop border posts have existed for several years and agencies are co-located at some border crossings, the new law seeks to harmonize conflicting regulations and processes within the interagency.

Outward Investment

Through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), the government continues to undertake a number of activities to promote investment through provision of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, establishment of Multi-Facility Economic Zones (MFEZs), the development of SMEs, as well as the promotion of skills development, productive investment, and increased trade. However, there is no incentive for outward investment nor is there any known government restriction on domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Zambia has signed Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with fifteen countries (six in force and nine not yet in force). Six countries have BITs in force with Zambia: France, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Zambia has signed bilateral reciprocal promotional and protection of investment protocols with most of the member states of both the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In 2000, Zambia became a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) market access treaty with the United States and was again found eligible for continuous benefits under AGOA in 2021. In 2001, COMESA, of which Zambia is a member, signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States. Zambia initiated market access through the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the European Union on September 30, 2008. In completing these negotiations, the provisions of the trade in goods chapter and related annexes of the ESA IEPA now apply to Zambia. Zambia has signed protective agreements with Chinese, Nigerian, Libyan, and Indian investors.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Proposed laws and other statutory instruments are often insufficiently vetted with interest groups or are not released in draft form for public comment. Proposed bills are published on the National Assembly of Zambia website ( http://www.parliament.gov.zm/ ) for public viewing and to facilitate public submissions to parliamentary committees reviewing the legislation. Hard copies of the documents are delivered by courier to the stakeholders’ premises/mailboxes. Finalized statutory instruments can be purchased through the Printing Department under the Ministry of Works and Supply or viewed online via https://www.enotices.co.zm/categories/statutory-instruments-2020/ .

Opportunities for comment on proposed laws and regulations sometimes exist through trade associations and policy thinktanks such as the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Chamber of Mines, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Zambia. Stakeholder consultation in developing legislation and regulation has, however, generally been poor under the current administration. The government established the Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) in 2014 with the mandate to administer the Business Regulatory Act. The Act requires public entities to submit for Cabinet approval a policy or proposed law that regulates business activity, after the policy or proposed law has BRRA approval. A public entity that intends to introduce any policy or law for regulating business activities should give notice, in writing, to the BRRA at least two months prior to submitting it to Cabinet; hold public consultations for at least 30 days with relevant stakeholders; and perform a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The BRRA works in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, which does not approve any proposed law to regulate business activity without the approval of BRRA. While this framework exists on paper, the BRRA and the consultative process is still relatively new and unknown even by other government officials, and in some cases, it appears that the BRRA was informed after the Ministry of Justice had already approved a law.

While there are clear public procurement guidelines, concerns persist regarding transparency and a level playing field for U.S. firms. To enhance the transparency, integrity, and efficiency of Zambia’s procurement system, the GRZ launched the Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) in July 2016. In 2018, Cabinet approved legislation to repeal the Public Procurement Act of 2008 in order to introduce price benchmarking and expert estimates in tendering for capital projects and other high value goods and services, and to make the use of e-GP mandatory. President Lungu assented to the Bill in October 2020 effectively passing it into law, but as of April 2021 the Act’s Implementation still awaits the commencement order and regulations from Ministries of Finance and Justice respectively.

International Regulatory Considerations

Zambia is a member of a number of regional and international groupings aimed at expanding markets for domestically produced goods and services. These include membership in both COMESA and SADC Free Trade Areas (FTAs). Zambia is also an active participant in the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area between COMESA, SADC, and the East African Community (EAC).

In February 2019, Zambia signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and on February 05, 2021, Zambia deposited the instruments of ratification to the AfCFTA to the African Union, making Zambia the 36th African Union member to fully accede to the agreement. The trade agreement among 54 African Union member states creates a continent-wide single market, followed by the free movement of people and a single-currency union; much work remains to develop implementation protocols and mechanisms across Africa.

At the multilateral level, Zambia has been a WTO member since January 1, 1995. Zambia’s investment incentives program is transparent and has been included in the WTO’s trade policy reviews. The incentive packages are also subject to reviews by the Board of the ZDA and to periodic reviews by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Zambia is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), but still faces major challenges in expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, which is a major requisite of the TFA. Zambia has benefited from duty-free and quota-free market access to the EU through its Everything but Arms FTA, and to the United States via the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and AGOA agreements.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Zambia has a dual legal system that consists of statutory and customary law enforced through a formal court system. Statutory law is derived from the English legal system with some English Acts of Parliament still deemed to be in full force and effect within Zambia. Traditional and customary laws, which remain in a state of flux, are generally not written or codified, although some of them have been unified under Acts of Parliament. No clear definition of customary law has been developed by the courts, and there has not been systematic development of this subject.

Zambia has a written commercial law. The Commercial Court, a division of the High Court, deals with disputes arising out of commercial transactions. All commercial matters are registered in the commercial registry and judges of the Commercial Court are experienced in commercial law. Appeals from the Commercial Court, based on the amended January 2016 constitution, now fall under the recently established Court of Appeals, comprised of eight judges. The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, Chapter 76, makes provision for the enforcement in Zambia of judgments given in foreign countries that accord reciprocal treatment. The registration of a foreign judgment is not automatic. Although Zambia is a state party to international human rights and regional instruments, its dualist system of jurisprudence considers international treaty law as a separate system of law from domestic law. Domestication of international instruments by Acts of Parliament is necessary for these to be applicable in the country. Systematic efforts to domesticate international instruments have been slow but continue to see progress.

The courts support Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and there has been an increase in the use of arbitration, mediation, and tribunals by litigants in Zambia. Arbitration is common in commercial matters and the proceedings are governed by the Arbitration Act No. 19 of 2000. The Act incorporates United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Zambian courts have no jurisdiction if parties have agreed to an arbitration clause in their contract. The establishment of the fee-based judicial commercial division in 2014 to adjudicate high-value claims has helped accelerate resolution of such cases.

The courts in Zambia are generally independent, but contractual and property rights enforcement is weak and final court decisions can take a prohibitively long time. At times, politicians have exerted pressure on the judiciary in politically controversial cases. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and adjudication depends on the matter at hand and the principal law or act governing the regulations.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The major laws affecting foreign investment in Zambia include:

  1. The Zambia Development Agency Act of 2006, which offers a wide range of incentives in the form of allowances, exemptions, and concessions to companies.
  2. The Companies Act of 1994, which governs the registration of companies in Zambia.
  3. The Zambia Revenue Authority’s Customs and Excise Act, Income Tax Act of 1966, and the Value Added Tax of 1995 provide for general incentives to investors in various sectors.
  4. The Employment Code Act of 2019, Zambia’s basic employment law that provides for required minimum employment contractual terms.
  5. The Immigration and Deportation Act, Chapter 123, regulates the entry into and residency in Zambia of visitors, expatriates, and immigrants.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Market competition operates under a relatively weak regulatory framework, although there is freedom of pricing, currency convertibility, freedom of trade, and free use of profits. A fairly strong institutional framework is provided for strategic sectors, such as mining and mining supply industries, and large-scale commercial farming. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is a statutory body established with a unique dual mandate to protect the competition process in the economy and to protect consumers. The CCPC’s mandate cuts across all economic sectors in an effort to avoid restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant position of market power, anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and cartels, and to enhance consumer protection and safeguard competition.

In 2016 the CCPC published a series of guidelines and policies that included adoption of a formal Leniency Policy intended to encourage persons to report information that may help to uncover prohibited agreements. In certain circumstances the person receives immunity from prosecution, imposition of fines, or the guarantee of a reduction in fines. The policy also calculates administrative penalties. In addition, the CCPC in 2016 published draft Settlement Guidelines, which provide a formal framework for parties seeking to engage the CCPC to reach a settlement.

The Competition and Fair Trading Act, Chapter 417, prevents firms from distorting the competitive process through conduct or agreements designed to exclude actual or potential competitors, and applies to all entities, regardless of whether private, public, or foreign. Although the CCPC largely opens investigations when a complaint is filed, it can also open investigations on its own initiative. Zambian competition law can also be enforced by civil lawsuits in court brought by private parties, while criminal prosecution by the CCPC is possible in cartel cases without the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecution under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No. 24 of 2010. However, the general perception is that the Commission may be restricted in applying the competition law against government agencies and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), especially those protected by other laws.

Expropriation and Compensation

Zambia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank and other international agreements. This guarantees foreign investment protection in cases of war, strife, disasters, and other disturbances, or in cases of expropriation. Zambia has signed bilateral reciprocal promotional and protection of investment protocols with a number of countries. The ZDA also offers further security for investments in the country through the signing of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs).

Investments may only be legally expropriated by an act of Parliament relating to the specific property expropriated. Although the ZDA Act states that compensation must be at a fair market value, the method for determining fair market value is ill-defined. Compensation is convertible at the current exchange rate. The ZDA Act also protects investors from being adversely affected by any subsequent changes to the Investment Act of 1993 for seven years from their initial investment.

Leasehold land, which is granted under 99-year leases, may revert to the government if it is determined to be undeveloped after a certain amount of time, generally five years. Land title is sometimes questioned in court, and land is re-titled to other owners.

There is no pattern of discrimination against U.S. persons by way of an illegal expropriation by the government or authority in the country. There are no high-risk sectors prone to expropriation actions.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Zambia is party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1958, and party to the Convention of the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States of 1965. These are enforced through the Investment Disputes Convention Act Chapter 42.

Zambia is a member state of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a signatory to the United Nations Commission of International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law). In 2002 Zambia ratified the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Over the past ten years, U.S. specific investment disputes involved delayed payments from SOEs to U.S. companies for goods and services and the delayed deregistration of a U.S.-owned aircraft that was leased to a Zambian airline company that went bankrupt. Currently, a U.S. company is in dispute over the refusal of payment by its local joint venture partner that resulted from goods delivered to the government of Zambia. The case, however, has not officially reached Zambian courts.

Relatively few investment disputes involving U.S. companies have occurred since Zambia’s economy was liberalized following the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1991. The Zambian Investment Code stipulates that claimants must first file internal dispute claims with the Zambian High Court. Failing that, the parties may go to international arbitration. However, U.S. companies can encounter difficulties in receiving payments from the government for work performed or products and services rendered. This can be due to inefficient government bureaucracy or, more often, due to a lack of funds available to the government to meet its obligations.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Zambian Arbitration Act Number 19 of 2000 incorporates the UNCITRAL and the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The Act applies to both domestic and international arbitration and is based on the UNCITRAL model law. Foreign lawyers cannot be used to represent parties in domestic or international arbitrations taking place in Zambia. There are no facilities that provide online arbitration, although the Zambia Institute of Arbitrators promotes and facilitates arbitration and other forms of ADR. The New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards has been domesticated into Zambian legislation by virtue of Section 31 of the Arbitration Act. Arbitration awards are enforced in the High Court of Zambia, and judgments enforcing or denying enforcement of an award can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Bankruptcy Act, Chapter 82, provides for the administration of bankruptcy of the estates of debtors and makes provision for punishment of offenses committed by debtors. It also provides for reciprocity in bankruptcy proceedings between Zambia and other countries and for matters incidental to and consequential upon the foregoing. This applies to individuals, local, and foreign investors. Bankruptcy judgments are made in local currency but can be paid out in any internationally convertible currency. Under the Bankruptcy Act, a person can be charged as a criminal. A person guilty of an offense declared to be a felony or misdemeanor under the Bankruptcy Act in respect of which no special penalty is imposed by the Act shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Zambia has made strides in improving its credit information system. Since 2008, the credit bureau, TransUnion, requires banks and some non-banks to provide loan requirement information and consult it when making loans. The credit bureau eventually captures data from other institutions, such as utilities. However, the bureau’s coverage is still less than ten percent of the population, the quality of its information is suspect, and there it lacks clarity on data sources and the inclusion of positive information.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The ZDA Act provides for a number of incentives available to both local and foreign investors.

Under the Income Tax Act, Chapter 323, or the Customs and Excise Act, Chapter 322, investors who invest not less than USD 500,000 in a Multi-Facility Economic Zones (MFEZ), an industrial park, a priority sector, or who invest in a Rural Enterprise under the ZDA Act, are entitled to the following fiscal incentives:

  1. A corporate tax rate of 0 percent for five years from commencement of operations.
  2. Taxation on only 50 percent of profits in year six through year eight from commencement of operations and only 75 percent for years nine and ten.
  3. Five-year exemption on dividend taxes following the first year of declaration.
  4. Five-year customs duties exemption on imported machinery and equipment.
  5. Improvement allowance of 100 percent of capital expenditure on improvements or upgrading of infrastructure.

In addition to fiscal incentives, the above category of investors, along with those who invest an amount not less than USD 250,000 in any sector or product not provided for as a priority sector or product under the Act, are entitled to investment guarantees and protection against state nationalization along with free facilitation for application of immigration permits, secondary licenses, land acquisition, and utilities. For major investments the Minister of Finance may specify additional incentives for investment in an identified sector or product of not less than USD 10 million or equivalent in convertible currency in new assets that qualify for those incentives.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

An investor may apply to be appointed and licensed by the Commissioner General to establish and operate a bonded factory under Section 65 of the Customs and Excise Act. The GRZ created MFEZs in 2007 that provide investors with waivers on customs duty on imported equipment, excise duty, and value added tax, among other concessions. It is currently unclear if the government will maintain these incentives (see Investment Incentives section).

There are four MFEZs currently operating: the Chambishi MFEZ in Copperbelt Province, the Lusaka South MFEZ which houses a mix of multi-national firms, and the Lusaka East MFEZ located near Lusaka’s international airport and Chibombo MFEZ in Central Province which are heavily (if not exclusively) dominated by Chinese-owned enterprises. Foreign-owned firms enjoy the same investment opportunities as domestic firms in MFEZs. The ZDA Act is the primary legislation for investment in Zambia. An investor, foreign or local, is free to identify and suggest any other location in the country deemed economical for MFEZ development, although the government has prioritized designated areas in Lusaka, Chibombo, Ndola, Mpulungu, Chembe, Nakonde, Kasumbalesa, and Mwinilunga. Investors are encouraged to provide local employment and skills transfer to local entrepreneurs and communities. Investors are also encouraged to utilize local raw materials and intermediate goods and engage in technology transfer to qualify to operate in an MFEZ.

Zambia is active in several key regional organizations that promote regional trade and regulatory harmonization. COMESA launched its FTA in October 2000 and established a customs union in June 2009. The top five intra-COMESA exports from Zambia include tobacco, raw sugarcane, wire, refined copper, and cement. The SADC Protocol on Trade came into force in 2008. The Trade Protocol promotes regional integration through trade development and develops natural and human resources for the mutual benefit of their people. Trade among SADC member states is conducted on reciprocal preferential terms. Rules of Origin define the conditions for products to qualify for preferential trade in the SADC region. Products have to be “wholly produced” or “sufficiently processed” often warranting change in tariff heading in the SADC region to be considered compliant with the SADC Rules of Origin. The SADC Rules of Origin are product-specific and not generic, like the Rules of Origin for COMESA.

COMESA, the EAC, and SADC member states agreed in October 2008 to negotiate a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) covering half of Africa. The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was launched in June 2015 in Egypt; to date, Zambia is one of the 22 out of the 27 member states which have signed the agreement. The Agreement will enter into force once it has been ratified by 14 Member States; only Egypt and Uganda have ratified the Agreement thus far. In February 2019, Zambia signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and deposited the instruments of ratification to the African Union in February 2021, becoming the 36th African Union member to fully accede to the Agreement. The trade agreement between 49 African Union member states plans to create a single market, followed by the free movement of people and a single-currency union; much work remains to develop implementation protocols and mechanisms continent-wide. The TFTA and AfCFTA have yet to enter into effect.

According to OECD trade facilitation indicators, Zambia performs better than the average sub-Saharan African and lower middle-income countries in the areas of information availability, involvement of the trade community, appeal procedures, and automation. Zambia’s performance for internal border agency co-operation and governance and impartiality is below average for sub-Saharan African and lower middle-income countries.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Although performance requirements are not imposed, authorities expect commitments made in applications for investment licenses to be fulfilled. Foreign contractors bidding on infrastructure projects are required by law to give 20 percent of works to Zambian small contractors. Outside of infrastructure projects, no requirements currently exist for local content, equity, financing, employment, or technology transfers. However, in January 2018 the government issued a Statutory Instrument (SI) instructing all industries to transport 30 percent of their cargo by rail. The Data Protection Bill, which was signed into law in March 2021, mandates data localization for sensitive personal data, but also outlines conditions for the cross-border transfer of other kinds of personal data. The government does not impose offset or local content requirements or preconditions for permission to invest in a specific geographic area, but investors are encouraged to employ local nationals. There is no legal definition of local content, and the most comprehensive local content legislation is contained in the Mines and Minerals Development Act of 2008. The Citizens Economic Empowerment Act of 2006 and Statutory Instrument of 2008 also contain local content provisions.

The GRZ favors the use of local workers for unskilled labor as well as for skilled middle or senior management workers. Under the ZDA Act, any foreign investor who invests a minimum of USD 250,000 or its equivalent and employs a minimum of 200 employees at certain technical or managerial levels is entitled to a self-employment permit or resident permit. The ZDA assists the qualifying investor to obtain work permits for up to five expatriate employees. In practice, however, some foreign companies, especially smaller-scale investors, have had difficulty securing these permits. Any entry permit holder can apply for a dependent’s pass for each of his dependents. The government is considering limiting foreigners to obtain work permits only for rare skills not found in Zambia. While not yet implemented, the GRZ has at times denied work permits or work permit renewals. The ZDA is also in the process of developing standards regarding investment performance benchmarks that it seeks to establish within an MFEZ to assist the government in monitoring company performance against the commitments made when investment incentives are granted.

The GRZ encourages investors where possible to use domestic content in goods or technology if available. In 2017 the government started the formulation of a local content strategy to promote inclusive and sustainable growth through increased use of locally available goods and services in development sectors. According to the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, and Industry, once the strategy is developed, a law will be passed to compel businesses to use a certain percentage of local inputs and products in the production and provision of goods and services. In a speech to Parliament in March 2018, the president criticized a perceived influx of foreign workers into Zambia’s mining industry; the government followed with a month-long review of foreign labor quotas in the sector. They developed sustained opposition to working practices by domestic unions and civil society organizations. While this was not the first time that scrutiny of foreign labor has surfaced as a strategic issue for the government, the latest review is a reminder of the burgeoning pressures that continue to underpin sector management and policymaking.

Currently, there is no requirement for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance. The telecommunications sector is governed by the Information and Communications Technology Act No. 15 of 2009 (ICT Act) and falls under the Ministry of Communications and Transport.

The government strives to be consistent with Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) requirements and generally abides by the WTO’s TRIMS obligation. Although performance requirements are not imposed, authorities expect commitments made in applications for investment licenses to be fulfilled.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and the regulation of property are well defined in principle, but face problems in implementation. Contractual and property rights are weak. Courts are often inexperienced in commercial litigation and are frequently slow in reaching their decisions. The ZDA Act ensures investors’ property rights are respected. Secured interests in property, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced. Property can be owned individually, jointly in undivided shares, or by an entity such as a company, close corporation or trust, or similar entity registered outside Zambia. The ZDA Act provides for legal protection and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights such as land, buildings, and mortgages. The Lands and Deeds Registry Act of Zambia states that a mortgage is only to operate as security and not a transfer or lease of the estate or interest mortgaged. There are two types of mortgages in Zambia, a legal and an equitable mortgage. A legal mortgage is created in respect to a legal estate by deed. An equitable mortgage does not convey legal title to the mortgage, and no power of sale vests in the mortgagee.

The president holds all land on behalf of the people of Zambia, which he may give to any Zambian, but the process is set in law. The Lands Act, Chapter 184, places a number of restrictions on the president’s allocation of land to foreigners. The ZDA Act makes provision for leasehold tenure of land by investors. The ZDA, in consultation with the Ministry of Lands, assists an investor in identifying suitable land for investment, as well as assisting the investor to apply through the Ministry of Lands. While land is technically owned by the president, it is worth noting that traditional chiefs have jurisdiction over traditional, or customary, land, which makes up roughly 70 percent of Zambia.

The Commissioner of Lands verifies that properties can be transferred after checking if ground rent has been paid and by conducting due diligence on the purchaser. As all land in Zambia belongs to the state, Zambians, Zambian companies, established residents, or investors can only lease it under terms established by law. Land held under customary tenure has no title, but where a sketch plan of the area exists, the chief can give written consent to an investor and a 14-year lease can be obtained for traditional land. In March 2017, the president expressed concern that land was being given to foreigners at an alarming rate by traditional chiefs and called for an inquiry into this by the Ministry of Lands, which had the lead in forming a new land policy. The current draft of the new land policy would assert more central government control over traditional lands and seeks to reduce the lease tenure on foreign-owned land from 99 years to renewable periods of 25 years. Both traditional chiefs and foreign investors have objected to terms in the draft bill for fear of loss of custodianship as land is seen to confer power, which has since stalled with Ministry of Lands and has not been presented to Parliament.

Despite Zambia’s abundant land for agriculture and other purposes, the process of land acquisition and registration is a major obstacle for investors in part due to extensive traditional ownership. Its acquisition involves negotiations with traditional leaders who have to balance the demands of their subjects against the pressure to convert land for commercial purposes. Most available land has not been surveyed or mapped and, where this has been done, records are often outdated or difficult to retrieve from the Ministry of Lands.

The Ministry of Lands is centralized in Lusaka and faces problems with poor record keeping and slow processing of title deeds. To address these challenges the government, with the support of donor partners, has been working to reform land policy, including modernization of the Lands Department at Ministry of Lands, establishment of Land Banks, establishment of a Land Development Fund, demarcation of MFEZs and industrial parks, and development of farming blocks.

Many of Zambia’s urban poor who live on statutory land are not aware of the ways in which they can secure their rights to land. Some civic leaders, cadres (political party supporters), and traditional leaders allocate and sell land without following required procedures. As such, many urban poor find refuge in unplanned settlements, which in some cases are not approved in accordance with Zambian law. This has led to the continued proliferation of informal and unplanned settlements, illegal land allocations, land grabbing, and misplacement of resources, all of which slow development.

People living on both customary land and in unplanned settlements therefore do so with a sense of insecurity of land tenure due to the absence of documentation to support land ownership coupled with a poor land administration system. Civil and traditional leaders have demonstrated little transparency and accountability in land governance. Most often, community members have little knowledge about either their land rights or how they can protect themselves.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property laws in Zambia cover such areas as domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, patents, and copyrights, etc. Zambia is also party to several international intellectual property agreements. The legal framework for trademark protection in Zambia is adequate; however, enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is weak, and courts have little experience with commercial litigation. Copyright protection is limited and does not cover computer applications. Of the many pirated and counterfeit goods in Zambia, the main ones are DVDs, CDs, audio-visual software, infant milk, pharmaceuticals, body lotions, motor vehicle spare parts (such as tires and brake pads), beverages, cigarettes, toothpaste, electrical appliances, fertilizer, pesticides, and corn seed. Small-scale trademark infringement occurs in connection with some packaged goods utilizing copied or deceptive packaging. In 2016, the government enacted the Industrial Designs Act and the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources, and Expressions of Folklore Act. The Industrial Designs Act encourages the creation of designs and development of creative industries through enhanced protection and utilization of designs, and it provides for the registration and protection of designs and the rights of proprietors of registered designs. The Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources, and Expressions of Folklore Act provides a transparent legal framework for the protection of, access to, and use of, traditional knowledge, genetic resources, and expressions of folklore and guarantees equitable sharing of benefits and effective participation of holders.

The Zambia Police Service Intellectual Property Unit (IPU) carries out raids in shops and markets to confiscate counterfeit and pirated materials. The IPU tracks and reports on seizures of counterfeit goods but no consolidated record is available. There are fines for revealing proprietary business information, but they are not large enough to adequately penalize possible disclosures. Zambia’s patent laws conform to the requirements of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, to which Zambia is a signatory. It takes a minimum of four months to patent an item or process. Duplicative patent searches are not performed, but patent awards may be appealed on grounds of infringement.

Zambia is a signatory to a number of international agreements on patents and intellectual property, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Paris Convention and Bern Convention, as well as the Universal Copyright Convention of UNESCO. Zambia is also a member of the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO). The country is a signatory to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization.

The Ministry of Commerce, Trade, and Industry and the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) are the leading institutions responsible for the implementation of IPR laws in Zambia. The industrial property registration system at PACRA underwent an upgrade that linked its electronic documentation management system to WIPO’s WIPOScan, which provides for digitization of IPR records.

Zambia is not included in USTR’s Special 301 Report nor its Notorious Markets List. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policies generally facilitate the free flow of financial resources to support the entry of resources in the product and factor market. Banking supervision and regulation by the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) has improved slightly over the past few years. Improvements include revoking licenses of some insolvent banks, denying bailouts, limiting deposit protection, strengthening loan recovery efforts, and upgrading the training of and incentives for bank supervisors. High domestic lending rates, a lack of dollar and foreign exchange liquidity, and the limited accessibility of domestic financing constrain business. High returns on government securities encourage commercial banks to invest heavily in government debt to the exclusion of financing productive private sector investments, particularly for SMEs.

The Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE), established in 1993, is structured to meet international recommendations for clearing and settlement system design and operations. There are no restrictions on foreign participation in the LuSE, and foreigners may invest in stocks on the same terms as Zambians. The LuSE has offered trading in equity securities since its inception and, in March 1998, the LuSE became the official market for selling Zambian government bonds. Investors intending to trade a listed security or government bond are now mandated to trade via the LuSE. The market is regulated by the Securities Act of 1993 and enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Zambia. Secondary trading of financial instruments in the market is very low or non-existent in some areas. As of the beginning of 2021, there were 25 companies listed on the LuSE with a portfolio worth about K24 billion (USD 1.2 billion).

Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets. The government and the BoZ respect IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Credit is allocated on market terms and foreign investors can get credit on the local market, although local credit is relatively expensive and most investors therefore prefer to obtain credit outside the country.

Money and Banking System

The financial sector is comprised of three sub-sectors according to financial sector supervisory authorities. The banking and financial institutions sub-sector is supervised by the BoZ, the securities sub-sector by the SEC, and the pensions and insurance sub-sector by the Pensions and Insurance Authority. The Banking and Financial Services Act, Chapter 387, and the Bank of Zambia Act, Chapter 360, govern the banking industry. Zambia’s banking sector is considered relatively well-developed in the African context, but the sector remains highly concentrated. There are currently 19 banks in Zambia with the largest four banks holding nearly two-thirds of total banking assets. The dominance of the four largest banks in deposits and total assets has been diluted by increased market capture of smaller banks and new industry entrants, an indication of growing competitive intensity in this segment of the banking market. Government policies generally facilitate the free flow of financial resources to support the entry of resources in the product and factor market. There continued to be a steady increase in electronic banking and related services over the last few years.

The BoZ’s current policy rate, as of February 2021, was 8.5 percent. Commercial lending rates range between 23 and 30 percent, among the highest in the region. The persistence of high interest rates led the government to urge commercial banks to reduce their lending rates in order to stimulate private sector growth and the economy as a whole. One factor inhibiting more affordable lending is a culture of tolerating loan default, which many borrowers view as a minor transgression. Non-performing loans (NPLs) remain elevated, with some estimates as high as 15 percent. The government contributes to this problem, as it has arrears of about USD 1.3 billion to government contractors who reportedly hold a high percentage of the NPLs.

Banking officials acknowledge the need to upgrade the risk assessment and credit management skills of their institutions to better serve borrowers, but note widespread financial illiteracy limits borrowers’ ability to access credit. Banks provide credit denominated in foreign currencies only for investments aimed at producing goods for export. Banks provide services on a fee-based model and banking charges are generally high. Home mortgages are available from several leading Zambian banks, although interest rates are still very high.

To operate a bank in Zambia, the bank must be licensed by the Registrar of Banks, Financial Institutions, and Financial Businesses (“the Registrar”) whose office is based at the BoZ. The decision to license banks lies with the Registrar. Foreign banks or branches are allowed to operate in country as long as they fulfill BoZ requirements and meet the minimum capital requirement of USD 100 million for foreign banks and USD 20 million for local banks. According to the BoZ, many banks in the country have correspondent banking relationships; it is difficult to assess how many there are or whether any bank has lost any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. It is also difficult to analyze if any of those correspondent relationships are currently in jeopardy as the daily management of those relationships are carried out by the individual banks and not by the BoZ.

Generally, all regulatory agencies that issue operating licenses have statutory reporting requirements that businesses operating under their laws and regulations must meet. For example, the Banking and Financial Services Act has stringent reporting provisions that require all commercial banks to submit weekly returns indicating their liquidity position. Late submission of the weekly returns or failure to meet the minimum core liquidity and statutory reserves incur punitive penalty interest, and may lead to the placement of non-compliant commercial banks under direct supervision of BoZ, closure of the undertaking, or the prosecution of directors.

All companies listed under the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) are obliged to publish interim and annual financial statements within three months after the close of the financial year. Listed companies are also required to disclose in national print media any information that can affect the value of the price of their securities. According to the Companies Act, Chapter 388, company directors need to generate annual account reports after the end of each financial year. The annual account, auditor’s report or reports on the accounts, and directors’ report should be sent to each person entitled to receive notice of the annual general meeting and to each registered debenture holder of the company. A foreign company is required to submit annual accounts and an auditor’s report to the Registrar.

The Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIs) are licensed and regulated in accordance with the provisions of the Banking and Financial Services Act of 1994 (BFSA) and related Regulations and Prudential Guidelines. As key players in the financial sector, NBFIs are subject to regulatory requirements governing their prudential position, consumer protection, and market conduct in order to safeguard the overall soundness and stability of the financial system. The NBFIs comprise eight leasing and finance companies, three building societies, one credit reference bureau, one savings and credit institution, one development finance institution, 80 bureaux de change, one credit reference bureau, and 34 micro-finance institutions.

Private firms are open to foreign investment through mergers and acquisitions. The CCPC reviews and handles big mergers and acquisitions. The High Court of Zambia may reverse decisions made by the Commission. Under the CCPA, foreign companies without a presence in Zambia and taking over local firms do not have to notify their transactions to the Commission, as it has not established disclosure requirements for foreign companies acquiring existing businesses in Zambia.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are currently no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors converting or transferring funds associated with an investment (including remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan repayments, and lease payments) into freely usable currency and at a legal market-clearing rate. Investors are free to repatriate capital investments, as well as dividends, management fees, interest, profit, technical fees, and royalties. Foreign nationals can also transfer and/or remit wages earned in Zambia. Funds associated with investments can be freely converted into internationally convertible currencies. The BoZ pursues a flexible exchange rate policy, which generally allows the currency to freely float, though it intervened heavily to support the local currency, the kwacha, in 2014 to 2016. Currency transfers are protected by IMF Article VII.

In March 2014, the government announced the revocation of SI Number 33 (mandating use of the kwacha for domestic transactions) and SI Number 55 (monitoring foreign exchange transactions). The government experienced challenges implementing these statutory instruments and – along with problems of fiscal management and weakening global copper prices – the SIs were perceived as undermining confidence in Zambia’s economy and currency, leading to sharp depreciation of the kwacha. The decision to revoke the SIs was widely praised in the business community. The kwacha, however, has remained weak in historical terms and continues to depreciate against the dollar. As of early April 2021, the kwacha was trading at more than 22 to the dollar.

Over-the-counter cash conversion of the kwacha into foreign currency is restricted to a USD 5,000 maximum per transaction for account holders and USD 1,000 for non-account holders. No exchange controls exist in Zambia for anyone doing business as either a resident or non-resident. There are no restrictions on non-cash transactions. The exchange rate of the Zambian national currency is mostly determined by market forces; because the volume and value of exports from Zambia are overwhelmingly related to the extractive industries sector, mining companies’ financial transactions play a major role in exchange rate determination.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. There are no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with an investment (including remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan repayments, or lease payments) into freely usable currency at the legal market clearing rate. Foreign investors can remit through a legal parallel market, including one utilizing convertible, negotiable instruments such as dollar-denominated government bonds issued in lieu of immediate payment in dollars. There are no limitations on the inflow or outflow of funds for remittances of profits or revenue and there is no evidence to show that Zambia manipulates the currency. Zambia is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), which in 2018, conducted an on-site assessment of the implementation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) measures in Zambia. ESAAMLG coordinates with other international organizations concerned with combating money laundering, studying emerging regional typologies, developing institutional and human resource capacities to deal with these issues, and coordinating technical assistance where necessary. In June 2019, Zambia adopted the recommendations. Zambia has demonstrated commitment to establish an AML/CTF framework. The enactment of the Prohibition and Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act, establishment of the Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit and the Financial Intelligence Center as the sole designated national agencies mandated to handle AML/CTF and other serious offences, and its September 2018 accession to the Egmont Group reflect this commitment.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The GRZ had planned to launch a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) following the 2015 reincorporation of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) as the parastatal holding company, but has yet to establish the fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are currently 34 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in different sectors in Zambia including agriculture, education, energy, financial services, infrastructure, manufacturing, medical, mining, real estate, technology, media and communication, tourism, and transportation and logistics. Most SOEs are wholly owned or majority owned by the government under the IDC established in 2015. Zambia has two categories of SOEs: those incorporated under the Companies Act and those established by particular statutes, referred to as statutory corporations. There is a published list of SOEs in the Auditor General’s annual reports; SOE expenditure on research and development is not detailed. There is no exhaustive list or online location of SOEs’ data for assets, net income, or number of employees. Consequently, inaccurate information is scattered throughout different government agencies/ministries. The majority of SOEs have serious operational and management challenges.

In theory, SOEs do not enjoy preferential treatment by virtue of government ownership, however, they may obtain protection when they are not able to compete or face adverse market conditions. The Zambia Information Communications Authority Act has a provision restricting the private sector from undertaking postal services that would directly compete with the Zambia Postal Services Corporation. Zambia is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the WTO, however private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies.

SOEs in Zambia are governed by Boards of Directors appointed by government in consultation with and including members from the private sector. The chief executive of the SOE reports to the board chairperson. In the event that the SOE declares dividends, these are paid to the Ministry of Finance. The board chair is informally obliged to consult with government officials before making decisions. The line minister appoints members of the Board of Directors from within public service, the private sector, and civil society. The independence of the board, however, is limited since most boards are comprised of a majority of government officials, while board members from the private sector or civil society that are appointed by the line minister can be removed.

SOEs can and do purchase goods or services from the private sector, including foreign firms. SOEs are not bound by the GPA and can procure their own goods, works, and services. SOEs are subject to the same tax policies as their private sector competitors and are generally not afforded material advantages such as preferential access to land and raw materials. SOEs are audited by the Auditor General’s Office, using international reporting standards. Audits are carried out annually, but delays in finalizing and publishing results are common. Controlling officers appear before a Parliamentary Committee for Public Accounts to answer audit queries. Audited reports are submitted to the president for tabling with the National Assembly, in accordance with Article 121 of the Constitution and the Public Audit Act, Chapter 378.

In 2015, the government transferred most SOEs from the Ministry of Finance to the revived Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The move, according to the government, was to allow line ministries to focus on policy making thereby giving the IDC direct mandate and authorization to oversee SOE performance and accountability on behalf of the government. In 2016, the government stated its intent to review state owned enterprises in order to improve their performance and contribution to the treasury and directed the IDC to conduct a situational analysis of all the SOEs under its portfolio with a view to recapitalize successful businesses while hiving off ones that are no longer viable; these reviews are ongoing. The IDC’s oversight responsibilities include all aspects of governance, commercial, financing, operational, and all matters incidental to the interests of the state as shareholder. Zambia strives to adhere to OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance to ensure a level playing field between SOEs and private sector enterprises.

Privatization Program

There were no sectors or companies targeted for privatization in 2020. The privatization of parastatals began in 1991, with the last one occurring in 2007. The divestiture of state enterprises mostly rests with the IDC, as the mandated SOE holding company. The Privatization Act includes the provision for the privatization and commercialization of SOEs; most of the privatization bidding process is advertised via printed media and the IDC’s website ( www.idc.co.zm ). There is no known policy that forbids foreign investors from participating in the country’s privatization programs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government in theory limits its direct involvement in business to strategic investments deemed critical for the delivery of public goods and services, and seeks to maintain high standards of consumer protection. While Zambia is a high performer among low-income countries in terms of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), it lacks clearly formulated or well-implemented RBC policies. Zambia ranked 120 among 138 countries on the 2018-2019 Global Competitiveness Report.

The government has sought to improve implementation of legislative and regulatory reforms that impact RBC. As an example, most investment ventures are required to create and submit environmental impact assessments as a prerequisite to the approval process. The government requires many investment sectors, such as insurance, banking, and financial services, to submit annual audited financial statements as a licensing condition. In the case of financial services, quarterly publication of financial statements is compulsory and rigidly enforced by the BoZ.

Zambia has ratified a number of international human rights conventions, such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the national level, the lead authority for upholding human rights norms is the Human Rights Commission (HRC), while the Industrial and Labor Relations Act addresses labor issues. The Act provides the legal framework for trade unions, employers’ organizations and their federations, the Tripartite Consultative Labor Council, and the Industrial Relations Court. The Employment Act, Chapter 268, is the basic employment law, while the Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment Act makes provisions for the regulation of minimum wage levels and minimum conditions of employment. Currently, the average minimum wage per month for employees, starting with general or domestic workers, stands at 1,132 kwacha (~USD 52), to include food and transportation.

The government supports measures that encourage responsible business conduct and has recognized the importance of adopting international practices. The main challenges include domesticating international practices and strengthening regulatory capacities. In many cases, the business sector is encouraged by the government to adopt practices that promote responsible business conduct on a “voluntary basis.” For example, the Institute of Directors Zambia (IODZ) actively advocated the introduction of “Board Charters” that set out good corporate standards (such as ethical conduct) with which business enterprises will be associated and will implement. The Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) is also promoting the adoption of “Sector Codes” by the business sectors that commit themselves to supporting citizens’ economic empowerment. In addition, a number of public institutions have established Integrity Committees that address the strengthening of internal policies and procedures for combating corruption, in compliance with the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012. The private sector is also encouraged to either establish similar Integrity Committees or to strengthen their corporate governance standards to effectively address corruption.

The Zambian government seeks to maintain high standards of consumer protection by, for example, following the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection. The Competition and Fair Trading Act of 1994 and superseding Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 seek to encourage competition in the economy, protect consumer welfare, strengthen the efficiency of production and distribution of goods and services, secure the best possible conditions for the freedom of trade, expand the base of entrepreneurship, and regulate monopolies and concentrations of economic power. The 2010 Act includes specific consumer protection provisions. The Board of Commissioners is composed of representatives from different ministries and professional associations. Statutory agencies are encouraged by the government to regularly engage in stakeholder consultations whenever new laws and regulations are being considered; this does not always occur in practice or may occur in ways that are not universally transparent. Most local manufacturers of consumer products have submitted to voluntary product testing and certification by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS); ZABS certification is then embossed on the product labels as a “mark of quality” indicating the product’s suitability for consumption. Legislative measures have also been agreed with food processors and drug manufacturers that indicate product manufacturing and expiry dates.

Most mining companies have acceded to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), adapted in February 2009 for Zambian conditions, and allow independent audits of their operations and financial reporting. EITI audit results are available to the general public. Zambia has been an EITI compliant country since September 2012. The government receives revenue in the form of taxes and royalties from all extractive industries, including mining. The mining sector accounts for about 12 percent of GDP and around 70 percent of export revenue. All exploration and mining activities are governed by the Mines and Minerals Act of 2008 and other mining related regulations that include: The Mineral Royalty Tax (Repeal) Act, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act, the Explosives Act, and the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Act. The GRZ, through the Ministry of Mines and Minerals, conducts open bidding and grants mining licenses to qualified bidders. The Zambian Revenue Authority collects all payments from mining companies and remits them to the Ministry of Finance. The Zambian Revenue Authority regularly publishes production volumes for copper, cobalt, and gold, and the names of companies operating in the country.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Zambia’s anti-corruption activities are governed by the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012 and the National Anti-Corruption Policy of 2009, which stipulate penalties for different offenses. While legislation and stated policies on anti-corruption are adequate, implementation sometimes falls short. The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act of 2010 provides for the disclosure of conduct adverse to the public interest in the public and private sectors; however, like with other laws and policies, enforcement is weak. Zambia lacks adequate laws on asset disclosure, evidence, and freedom of information. In March 2019 Cabinet approved the Access to Information Bill (ATI), but the draft bill has not been made public or presented to Parliament as of April 2021. The bill aims to ensure the government is proactive and organized in disseminating information to the public. Versions of the ATI Bill have been pending since 2002.

Zambia has made some progress in the fight against corruption over the past decade, as reflected by improvements recorded in several governance indicators. However, recent years have also seen the persistent perception that corruption has increased, and it remains a primary impediment to governance and development programs. In the 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report, Zambia ranked 117 out of 180 countries, which is a drop from 113 in the 2019 report. The legal and institutional frameworks against corruption have been strengthened, and efforts have been made to reduce red tape and streamline bureaucratic procedures, as well as to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, including those involving high-ranking officials. Most of these cases, however, remain on the shelves waiting to be tried while officials remain free, sometimes still occupying the positions through which the alleged corruption took place. In March 2018, Parliament passed the Public Finance Management Bill, which allows the government to prosecute public officials for misappropriating funds, something previous legislation lacked. The government published the implementing regulations in November 2020. Despite progress made, corruption remains a serious issue in Zambia, affecting the lives of ordinary citizens and their access to public services. Corruption in the police service has emerged as an area of particular concern (with frequency of bribery well above that found in any other sector), followed by corruption in the Road Transport and Safety Agency. The government has cited corruption in public procurements and contracting procedures as major areas of concern.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is the agency mandated to spearhead the fight against corruption in Zambia. The Anti-Money Laundering Unit of the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) also assists with investigation of allegations of misconduct. An independent Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) was established in 2010, but does not have the authority to prosecute financial crimes. Zambia’s anti-corruption agencies generally do not discriminate between local and foreign investors. Transparency International has an active Zambian chapter.

The government encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. Most large private companies have internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery. The Integrity Committees (ICs) Initiative is one of the strategies of the National Anti-Corruption Policy (NACP), which is aimed at institutionalizing the prevention of corruption. The NACP received the Cabinet’s approval in March 2009 and the Anti-Corruption Commission spearheads its implementation. The NACP targets eight institutions, including the Zambia Revenue Authority, Immigration Department, and Ministry of Lands. The government has taken measures to enhance protection of whistleblowers and witnesses with the enactment of the Public Disclosure Act, as well as to strengthen protection of citizens against false reports, in line with Article 32 of the UN Convention.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to foreign direct investment. Corruption is most pervasive in government procurement and dispute settlement. Giving or accepting a bribe by a private, public, or foreign official is a criminal act, and a person convicted of doing so is liable to a fine or a prison term not exceeding five years. A bribe by a local company or individual to a foreign official is a criminal act and punishable under the laws of Zambia. A local company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from taxes. Many businesses have complained that bribery and kickbacks, however, remain rampant and difficult to police, as some companies have noted government officials’ complicity in and/or benefitting from corrupt deals.

Zambia signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2007. Other regional anti-corruption initiatives are the SADC Protocol against Corruption, ratified in 2003, and the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, ratified in 2007. Zambia is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, but is a party to the Anticorruption Convention. Currently, there are no local industries or non-profit groups that offer services for vetting potential local investment partners. Normally, the U.S. Embassy provides limited vetting of potential local investment partners for U.S. businesses, when contracted as a commercial service.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Mrs. Rosemary Nkonde Khuzwayo
Acting Director General, Anti-Corruption Commission
Kulima House, Cha Cha Cha Road, P.O. Box 50486, Lusaka
+260 211 237914
e-mail: rkhuzwayo@acc.gov.zm 

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Mr. Maurice Nyambe
Executive Director, Transparency International Zambia
3880 Kwacha Road, Olympia Park, P.O. Box 37475, Lusaka
+260 211 290080
e-mail: MNyambe@tizambia.org.zm 

10. Political and Security Environment

Zambia has benefited from almost 30 years of largely peaceful multi-party politics, with two peaceful transfers of power, and does not have a history of large-scale political violence. More recently, however, political tensions have been on the rise. Before and during the 2016 elections, there were numerous clashes of supporters of different political parties, resulting in some injuries and arrests. The leading opposition party contested the election results, leading to a heightened state of political tension that continues to flare up whenever by-elections are held. The same dynamic is expected to persist in the runup to the August 2021 general election. Freedoms of assembly, speech, and media freedoms have increasingly been curtailed or threatened, and opposition parties, media outlets and civil society organizations that are critical of the government face increasingly narrow space to operate

In early 2020, there were pockets of civil unrest throughout the country triggered by a spate of “gassing” incidents, in which an unidentified gas was sprayed on people in their homes, schools, and/or in public, which sickened and injured people, and by rumors of witchcraft and ritual killings. Community protests and patrolling at times spawned protests, riots, and vigilante justice that led to extra-judicial personal harm or property damage.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

While an abundance of unskilled labor exists in Zambia, investors complain that the supply of skilled and semi-skilled labor is inadequate, while labor-management relations vary by sector. Zambia’s population is estimated to be over 17.3 million, the majority being of employable age. Labor demand, however, does not match supply and Zambia has high rates of unemployment, youth unemployment, and underemployment while living costs have risen steadily. The government adheres closely to International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and has ratified all eight ILO core conventions. The government has continuously sought to revise labor laws and improve compliance, but there are still gaps in law and practice. Strikes are not uncommon in the public sector and often are related to the government’s failure to pay salaries or allowances on time, but lawful strikes are very difficult to hold due to several restrictions and conditions.

Labor laws provide for extremely generous severance pay, leave, and other benefits to workers, which can impede investment. Such rules do not apply to personnel hired on a short-term basis. As such, the vast majority of Zambian employees are hired on an informal or short-term basis. In September 2018, the Minimum Wage and Conditions of Employment Act 276 of the laws of Zambia were revised following issuance of Statutory Instrument (SI) number 69 of 2018 covering domestic workers. This revision doubled the minimum wage of certain classes of low-wage workers. The Employment Code Act No. 3 of 2019, which went into effect in May 2020, furthers the employees’ protections and expands severance and gratuity payments, whether the employee is terminated or come to an end of contract, regardless of who employs them.

The Employment Act, Chapter 268 covers employment and labor related issues. While the law recognizes the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, there are statutory restrictions limiting these rights. Police officers, military personnel, and certain other categories of workers are excluded from exercising these rights. No trade union can be registered if it claims to represent a class of employees already represented by an existing trade union. At least 25 members are required, and registration may take up to six months. The government has discretionary power to exclude certain categories of workers, including prison staff, judges, registrars of the court, magistrates, and local court justices from labor law provisions. The law also gives the labor commissioner the power to suspend and appoint an interim executive board of a trade union, as well as to dissolve the board and call for a new election.

The government generally protects unions’ right to conduct their activities without interference. Trade unions are independent of government, but the Ministry of Labor and Social Security is ultimately responsible for employment exchange services and enforcing labor legislation. An employer is allowed to terminate a contract of service on grounds of redundancy; however, the Employment Act requires the employer fulfill certain conditions before terminating a contract of service on such grounds. One of these conditions is notifying the employee’s trade union. The Act makes a clear distinction between layoffs and severance. In the event an employee is summarily dismissed, he/she shall be paid upon dismissal the wages and allowances due up to the date of such dismissal. The government formally permits employment of expatriate labor only in sectors where there is scarcity of local personnel, but investors promoting large scale investments can negotiate the number of work permits that they can obtain from the Department of Immigration to employ expatriates.

The law does not limit the scope of collective bargaining, but it allows either party, in certain cases, to refer a labor dispute to court or arbitration. The law also allows for a maximum period of one year from the day on which the complaint is filed within which a court must consider the complaint and issue its ruling. The law provides for the right to strike if recourse to all legal options is first exhausted. The law prohibits workers engaged in a broadly defined range of essential services from striking. Under Zambian law, essential services are defined as any activity relating to the generation, supply, or distribution of electricity; the supply and distribution of water and sewage removal; fire departments; and the mining sector. Employees in the Zambian Defense Forces, judiciary, police, prison, and the Zambia Security Intelligence Service (ZSIS) personnel are also considered essential. The government has power to add other services to the list of essential services, in consultation with the tripartite consultative labor council.

The process of exhausting the legal alternatives to a strike is lengthy. The law also limits the maximum duration of a strike to 14 days, after which, if the dispute remains unsolved, it is referred to the court. A strike can be discontinued if the court finds it not to be “in the public interest.” Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be dismissed by employers. The Industrial and Labor Relations Act, Chapter 269, Part IX covers the settling of labor disputes. Aggrieved parties may report the matter to a labor officer, who would take steps deemed fit to affect a settlement between the parties and would encourage the use of collective bargaining facilities where applicable. In the event of a collective dispute between an employer and a trade union regarding the terms and conditions of employment, claims and demands must be put in writing and both parties must have held at least one meeting with a view to reaching a settlement. Such disputes are referred to a conciliator or board of conciliators to be appointed by both parties to the dispute. If the conciliator fails to resolve the problem, the conciliator will inform the Labor Commissioner, who will call on the Minister of Labor to appoint a conciliator who will again call the parties to consider dispute resolution. If all efforts to resolve the matter fail, it is then taken to the Industrial Relations Court for arbitration.

The practice of collective bargaining is regularly used by trade unions. In December 2018, workers of the Zambia postal service (ZAMPOST) went on strike for alleged salary delays for five months. Workers returned to work after a consensus was reached between the postal union and management. In March 2019, unionized teaching and non-teaching staff employed at the University of Zambia went on strike to protest delayed salaries and chronic government underfunding. In 2017, hundreds of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) employees in Chililabombwe protested to demand salary increases, which they alleged had been static for four years. The government urged the aggrieved miners to allow dialogue between their employer and their respective labor unions to resolve the matter instead of going on strike. Meetings among KCM, the Mine workers Union of Zambia (MUZ), National Union of Mine and Allied Workers (NUMAW), and the United Mine Workers Union of Zambia (UMUZ) resolved the matter but did not disclose settlement details. In March 2018, workers of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) in Zambia, who had not received their salaries for the previous three months, threatened to go on strike, but called off the strike after government intervention.

Other internationally recognized fundamental labor rights, including the elimination of forced labor, child labor employment, discrimination, minimum wage, occupational safety and health, and weekly work hours are all recognized under domestic law, but enforcement is often weak. In 2016, Zambia made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government hired additional labor inspectors and approved a new development assistance framework that aims to prevent the worst forms of child labor. The government also supported the development of programming to empower adolescent girls and reduce child labor in rural areas. However, children in Zambia continue to engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the production of tobacco, and in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Gaps remain in the legal framework related to children; for example, the Education Act does not include the specific age to which education is compulsory, which may leave children under the legal working age vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. In addition, law enforcement agencies lack the necessary human and financial resources to adequately enforce laws against child labor. There is no documented number of children in Zambia who are engaged in child labor, but studies point to a yearly increase in the number of these children, who work primarily in the agriculture and mining sectors. Cotton, tobacco, cattle, gems, and stones are included on the U.S. Government’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor in Zambia.

The Department of Labor and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security monitor labor abuses, as well as health and safety standards in low-wage assembly operations such as construction. Two primary labor partners, the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Zambian Federation of Employers (ZFE), assist with Ministry of Labor enforcement. The worker and employer organizations are consulted at tripartite gatherings on any proposed policy document or legislation, and they participate in labor inspections. The Ministry of Labor produces annual inspection reports, which are made available to social partners. In December 2015, Parliament passed, and the president signed a suite of amendments to the Employment Act that prohibit casual labor and increase protections for unskilled workers. Zambia has benefited from duty-free and quota-free market access from the GSP in the U.S. market under AGOA.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $23.31 https://data.worldbank.org/country/zambia
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 $42 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 -$1 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 N/A 2018 81.2 UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

* Host country statistical data released is almost non-existent.  If it exists, there is not a central source for retrieving the data, and at most times it does not match international sources.

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 $25,777 100% Total Outward $5,048 100%
Canada $3,747 14.5% United Kingdom $951 18.8%
China, P.R.: Mainland $3,353 13.0% China, P.R.: Mainland $882 17.5%
Switzerland $2,904 11.3% United States $589 11.7%
United Kingdom $2,348 9.1% Congo, Dem. Rep. of the $545 10.8%
South Africa $1,805 7.0% South Africa $517 10.2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

**Results published 03/2020

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy | Political/Economic Section
Commercial Team
Stand 100, Kabulonga Road, Ibex Hill, Lusaka, Zambia
+260 211 35 7000
Email Address: CommercialLusaka@state.gov