Ambassador Lauds Judiciary Reform to Enhance Ease of Doing Business

On November 2, 2017, Ambassador Robert P. Jackson joined Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo at the American Chamber of Commerce Ghana luncheon program on the topic “Reforming the Judiciary to Enhance the Ease of Doing Business.” In his remarks, Ambassador Jackson celebrated the strong commercial ties between Ghana and the United States and urged the audience to consider the role of the judiciary in making Ghana the “most business friendly country on the continent.”

American Chamber of Commerce Ghana/Ghana Association of Restructuring and Insolvency Advisors Luncheon
“Reforming the Judiciary to Enhance the Ease of Doing Business”
Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
Kempinski Hotel | Thursday, November 2, 2017 | 10:30 a.m.

Thank you and good morning.  It is indeed a pleasure to be here today and to have the Chief Justice join us for an open dialogue with the private sector.  Today’s event provides an opportunity to collaborate on how we can better work together to improve the ease of doing business here in Ghana.  American businesses and investors have long been at the forefront of deepening ties between our two countries.  We appreciate the leadership of our American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana and GARIA in advancing these partnerships.

There is great potential here because great things have already been accomplished.  In so many ways, Ghana represents the future of Africa today.  Yet while we celebrate and recognize Ghana’s achievements, we must commit ourselves to set the bar of standards even higher in order to strive for and attain Ghana’s fullest potential.  Not doing so risks setting Ghana back on its journey and on the promise of a brighter future that youth are rightfully entitled to expect.

The United States is committed to contributing to economic growth beyond aid with a focus on promoting greater U.S. investments.  American companies must abide by four golden principles: 1. Hire and train Ghanaians; 2. Share first class technologies with Ghanaians; 3. Engage in corporate responsibility programs in the communities in which they operate; and 4. Under penalty and enforcement of U.S. laws, never engage in corruption.

Companies seeking to invest here are attracted by the stability and success of Ghana’s democracy.  They are encouraged by the Government of Ghana’s focus on making Ghana a more attractive place to do business.  Indeed, Ghana is taking some important steps to improve the business climate, including plans to streamline business processes, lower taxes for businesses, provide entrepreneurship support, and reform customs clearance processes at Tema Port.  These are all necessary positive steps, but challenges remain to move Ghana’s economy forward.

In spite of some successes, quite often I meet with American company representatives who express concerns over serious commercial issues.  At times, their intellectual property rights are not protected, public procurement processes lack transparency, disputes arise over land ownership, contractual agreements are not honored, greater local content is ill-defined, and laws meant to protect their interests are weakly enforced, if at all.

Of particular concern have been endemic corruption and lack of government transparency that undermine progress.  American businesses are interested in investing in Ghana, but want to ensure that their capital is not wasted lining pockets and contributing to graft rather than growth and investment.  Corruption also hinders the ability of Ghanaian entrepreneurs and innovators to realize their true potential, further stymieing growth.

We commend the government of Ghana’s focus on making this nation a more attractive place to do business.  It is taking steps to improve the business environment.  We like what the Government is saying about increasing transparency, fighting corruption, and improving the ease of doing business in Ghana.  American companies are excited about the possibilities.  But we would like to see action and tangible results.  We look to the government to hold people accountable when laws are broken.  We need to see a court system that works more efficiently and is willing to prosecute and convict guilty parties, no matter their wealth or status.  We urge the government to expedite reforms in this area.

If passed, the Right to Information Bill — which has languished in parliament after parliament for 17 years — 17 years! — would tap the potential of Ghana’s citizenry by making them partners in the fight to promote government transparency and effective use of government resources.  A truly independent Office of the Special Prosecutor would ensure those who would betray the public trust and steal from their fellow citizens are held criminally accountable.

Additional steps should be taken to increase transparency in public procurements, so Ghanaians get the best-value, highest-quality services.  For example, Ghana could initiate a publicly accessible government procurement website that allows citizens to view opportunities to bid on government contracts, provides names of all bidders, details the timeline of the bid, and allows citizens to make anonymous formal complaints.  Initiatives like those would send a strong signal that Ghana is truly “open for business.”  December 9 has been designated by the United Nations as International Anti-Corruption Day, and the government and civil society groups are planning several events to commemorate this day.  This could provide the Government an excellent opportunity to highlight successes it has made in its first year in office.

And, we would like to see the government fully implement its new national plan of action against trafficking in persons.  Failure to do so puts up to $650 million in U.S. foreign assistance to Ghana at risk.  It also sends a negative signal to businesses, which are reluctant to invest where even the hint of child labor in their supply chain is a potential deterrent to doing business.

I have raised some challenges this morning, but do so in the spirit of true friendship and partnership.  There is no perfect nation.  The United States has its own unique challenges that we seek to resolve as Americans.  All of us gathered in this room today can work together to transform Ghana into an ideal destination of choice globally to conduct business.  Let’s not settle for mediocrity.  Let us move beyond comparing Ghana with its neighbors and let us allow her to compete with the leading economies of the world.  We encourage Ghanaians to reach across political boundaries and ideologies to have a heart-to-heart discussion on how the judiciary can help Ghana move from “good to great,” the true trade gateway and future of Africa today.

The United States stands ready to work with you to create an enabling business environment that builds on your economic and political stability and creates jobs for the citizens of both our countries.  We encourage the government to deepen its engagements with private sector organizations such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana, GARIA, and others.

I hope today’s presentation will stimulate discussion; make people think about the role of the judiciary in making Ghana the “most business friendly country on the continent”; and provide an impetus for business leaders and citizens to ask some key questions of themselves and their government officials.  A strong justice sector generates respect and observance of the rule of law, leading to greater public confidence in institutions, stronger economies, and more peaceful and prosperous nations.  As your partners, we share this vision with you and all Ghanaians.

Thank you very much.