AmCham in collaboration with GARIA on Thursday November 2, 2017 hosted the Chief Justice of Ghana, Her Ladyship Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, the US Ambassador to Ghana, dignitaries from the multinational business fraternity and some top industry lawyers at the Kempinski hotel in Accra to discuss reforming the Judiciary to enhance ease of doing business.
The event was organized to bring the custodians of the country’s laws and the business community under one roof to dialogue and find mutual grounds where law will aid business and vice versa. Ambassador Robert P. Jackson in his remarks said American businesses are attracted to invest in the Ghana because of stability and the success of the nation’s democracy; but there are some challenges bedevilling the efforts of these businesses.
According to Ambassador Jackson, “Intellectual property rights are not protected, public procurement processes lack
transparency, disputes arising over land ownership, contractual agreements are not honored, greater local content is ill defined and law meant to protect interests are weakly enforced, if at all.”
He went on to say that of particular concern has been endemic corruption and lack of government transparency that undermine progress.
According to Ambassador Jackson, American businesses and investors have long been at the forefront of deepening ties between our two countries. He went on to state that this partnership has great potential because great things have already been accomplished. “Yet while we celebrate and recognise Ghana’s achievements, we must commit ourselves to set the bar of standards even higher in order to strive for and attain Ghana’s full potentials.”
“Not doing so risks setting Ghana back on its journey and on the promise of a brighter future that youth are rightfully entitled to expert.” He added.
The Ambassador also stated that the United States is committed to contributing to economic growth beyond aid with a focus on promoting greater U.S. investment.
Touching on these issues, Her Ladyship Justice Sophia Akuffo said the respect for property rights and contract enforcement as well as the predictability in the framework of rules are important requirements for business growth and needed to be promoted. She said “The confidence business men and women have that their contracts and property rights will be determined by an independent and impartial judiciary is vital to the facilitation of business.”
She went on to say inefficiency in justice delivery has been identified as a deterrent to investor confidence in the nation. She said Judicial reforms were part of a national development policy captured in documents covering the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy 1. “It is this national policy framework that under girded the Judicial Service reform in its development.” She added.
The Chief Justice also stated some strategies mapped out to the reform vision. These included a fundamental review of commercial law reform initiatives. Improving access to justice for businesses and enhancing the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms within the Judicial Sector Reform Programme and developing cost effective solutions for enhancing access to justice.
According to Justice Akuffo, new and extensive rules have been incorporated on proceedings relating to intellectual property and other rights in responds to market needs. She further said special rules of court have been formulated for the commercial courts to support businesses with effective justice delivery.
She said a specialised court for the speedy adjudication of land and property rights dispute has been set up. She added that the court has jurisdiction in land litigation and empowered to apply the provision in the rules to determine preliminary boundary issues to dispose matters at its early stage without going through full trail.
Implementation of the reform initiatives she said were fine-tuned to rest on a stronger focus on training and capability building for the judiciary staff of the service, institutionalising court-annexed ADR. Institutional strengthening and infrastructural development, review of the Law and Rules and Procedure in the court. Policy development and implementation. Image building and improving access to justice.
On the “elephant in the room”, Justice Akuffo said a weak justice system is bound to promote corruption and assured business people of an efficient and effective system of justice will deal with corrupt transactions and said that the propensity in business transaction will be licensed.
To ensure certainty and reduce abuse of the administrative machinery, she said the Rules of Court have directed every law suit filed in the Commercial Division be subjected to pre-trail settlement conference.
From a distance, it seems the government is dedicated to curbing corruption and undergo crucial reforms to enhance ease of doing business; this Ambassador Jackson acknowledged and applauded some of the reforms which have
already been instituted. But he wants to see more actions taken. “We look to the government to hold people accountable when laws are broken.”
Ambassador Jackson also urged America businesses to abide by four golden principles; hire and train Ghanaians, share first class technology with Ghanaians, engage in corporate responsibility programs in communities in which they operate and under penalty and enforcement of U.S. laws. never engage in corruption.
Ghana ranked 108 out of 190 countries in overall ease of doing business in 2017 and in enforcing contracts, the country ranked 54. The indicator on enforcing contracts measures the time and cost of resolving disputes through local courts.