IMANI Report: Maximising Gains From Ghana’s Trade Partnerships

The policy highlights the need for a fair, transparent import and export regime that would enhance production capacity for domestic export markets and attract foreign direct investment (FDI), and the need to adopt trade-facilitating measures, including transparent and efficient procedures for customs clearance. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s (MOTI) trade policy document, economic growth must occur through increased international trade, in view of Ghana’s relatively small domestic market, and for this reason, a clear and transparent trade policy will guide the implementation of a successful international trade agenda.[1] The expansion of foreign trade is to be achieved through increased regional and global integration, streamlined export and import procedures, a diversified and strengthened export base, the promotion of agricultural processing, new areas of comparative advantage, geographical diversification towards ECOWAS, and full utilisation of preferential market access through agreements like the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).[2]

Since the start of the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) in 1983, several policies have been introduced by different governments in an attempt to adjust and improve the patterns of trade in Ghana.[3] These include devaluing the currency as well as raising producer prices for crucial exports such as cocoa to offset the advantages of smuggling such goods across borders[4]. Most recently, in an effort to boost the private sector and promote trade, the government revised and reduced numerous import duties and trade taxes.[5] Ghana is also signatory to many free trade agreements (FTA) including the EPA, AGOA and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), and as such has favourable access (due to the removal of duties and quotas on certain export products) to European, American and West African markets.

An important question after years of implementing these FTAs is how trade, particularly export performance, has improved in the country over time. All things being equal, the end result of trade policy should be an increase in the performance of export, with an attending gain in growth[6]. This report will highlight the trends in export and market share of selected non-traditional exports (NTEs) products and discuss the key challenges they face. NTEs have been chosen because the NTE sector plays a critical role in the Ghanaian economy; it is one of the principal sources of foreign exchange generation, and over the past decade has seen considerable growth in revenue, with the expectation that the sector’s contribution to the overall export revenue basket will more than double in the next few years.[7]  The report also assesses the extent to which current government initiatives address the challenges and make recommendations that will help Ghana maximise her gains from FTAs to help her achieve an upper-middle income status and a higher level of economic development, all things being equal.

Trends and Market Share of Selected NTEs in Ghana

This section analyses the growth trends of Ghana’s trade flows along EPA, AGOA, and ETLS trade routes. Comparisons are made with trends in Cote D’Ivoire and in some cases with West African averages. Cote D’Ivoire is selected for comparison because not only does she trade along EPA, AGOA and ETLS trade routes, she also has similar characteristics as Ghana – both Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire export mainly agricultural products and are both lower middle income countries with per capita income (2016) of $1,380.00 and $1,520.00 respectively.[8] This section also explores the market share of some selected NTEs – cocoa paste, tropical fruits, bananas and processed fish. The selected products fall within the priority products of the National Export Strategy (NES) and also represent the top most traded NTEs by Ghana along EPA and AGOA trade routes.[9] A product destination analysis – an analysis of Ghana’s market share in the major export destinations, and the competition faced in those markets will also be conducted in this section.

European Union (Interim EPA)

Ghana signed the interim EPA on December, 2007, in order to benefit from the enhanced market access granted by the European Commission within the framework of the EPA negotiations and to avoid trade disruptions due to the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement[10] in 2007.[11] Aside Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire was the only other country to sign the interim EPA agreement within the West African region[12]. In 2016, Ghana occupied the 56th rank as EU trading partner and her total trade was 0.1 percent of EU trade.[13] Cote D’Ivoire on the other hand occupied the 53rd rank with a total trade share of 0.2 percent of EU trade.[14]

The figure above shows an eleven year (2006 – 2016) trend of Ghana’s trade with the EU. From 2006, Ghana’s export grew considerably from €1,120 million to peak at €3,481 million in 2012. Since then exports have grown negatively to record €2,295 million in 2016. As clearly shown by figure 1, this trend is similar for imports. Ghana has also maintained a negative trade balance with EU except in 2011 (same year Ghana started to export crude oil) when she had a trade surplus of €555 million. In terms of trade balance, Ghana has not performed as well as Cote D’Ivoire who maintained a positive trade balance throughout the period (2006 – 2016) with an average trade Surplus[16] of €1,463 million (See figure 2 for more details). Ghana also performed below the West African average. While the average of Ghana’s trade balance with the EU was a deficit of €351 million, between 2006 and 2016, West Africa’s average[17] was a deficit of €134 million.

Regarding export products, Ghana along with other West African countries still exports mainly fuels and food products to the European market.[18] In 2016, of the total €2,295 million worth of goods Ghana exported to the EU, 96 percent were primary products compared to the West African average of 94.1 percent, and 1.9 percent of the goods were manufactures, compared to the West African average of 4.8 percent. Though Ghana exported more of primary products and less manufactured products from a West African perspective, she exported less primary products and more manufacturing products relative to Cote D’Ivoire’s exports. See table 1 below for more details.



The European Union is a very important market for Ghana’s exports especially in NTEs. Though Ghana’s exports to the EU has increased after signing[20] the interim EPA, as seen in figure 1, this has not been sustained over the years especially when compared with Cote D’Ivoire’s progress. There is a lot of room for improvement especially as she goes into a regional EPA.[21]

United States (AGOA)

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted in 2000, has been the centerpiece of trade relationship between the United States and Africa. It is a unilateral preferential law that provides Sub-Saharan African countries, Ghana inclusive, with the opportunity to export a wide array of goods to the United States duty-free and also quota-free.[22]

In 2015, Ghana was US 91st largest goods trading partner with $1.2 billion in total (two way) goods trade.[23]During this period, while Ghana exported $309 million worth of goods to the US, it imported $887 million from the US, generating a trade deficit of $578 million. Top Ghanaian exports to the US in 2015 were cocoa beans (64 percent), wood and wood products (10 percent) and cocoa paste and butter (6 percent). Top imports from the US in 2015 were machinery (22 percent), vehicles (18 percent), mineral fuels (7 percent) and plastics (4.8 percent).[24]The figure below shows historical trends of trade between Ghana and the US.

Quite similar to Ghana’s trade with the EU, Ghana maintained a trade deficit in the entire eleven year (2006 – 2016) period being considered. As can be seen from figure 3 above, though the size of the deficit fluctuated between 2008 and 2012, there was a steady decline in the deficit from 2012 onwards. Cote D’Ivoire on the other hand, just like in the European case, maintained a trade surplus throughout the period. Her average[26] trade surplus was $806 million against Ghana’s average trade deficit of $557 million (See figure 4 for details).

There is no doubt that AGOA present a lot of potential for Ghana to expand trade with the US, especially exports. However, it is also quite evident the potential of AGOA remains largely unexploited, shown by the declining trade flows since 2011 (see figure 3). Some of the issues that hinder Ghana’s maximisation of gains from AGOA include a lack of supply capacity, low industrialisation, lack of a national strategy on AGOA and limited financial resources. In fact, in July 2017, the US Ambassador to Ghana bemoaned the low levels of exports from Ghana to the US, stating that Ghanaian exporters are not making the most of the Act. However, the Akufo-Addo administration has recognised this waste of an opportunity, and the fact that Ghana has not made significant gains of AGOA since it was passed as legislation. As a result, the government has set a target of $500 million of export revenue from the US by 2020, from the current $12 million. It is also finalising a new AGOA export strategy that would allow Ghana to fully exploit the opportunities offered by the US market.[27] Meanwhile, the extension of AGOA until 2025 will allow Ghana ample time to utilise and leverage the opportunities it provides to increase export volumes, increase job creation for the youth, and contribute to the nation’s socioeconomic development conditioned on addressing the identified challenges.

West Africa (ECOWAS ETLS)

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) can positively or negatively affect trade depending on their design and implementation.[28] The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) is a RTA designed to promote the West African region as a free trade area, by liberalising trade among its member states, and abolishing customs duties levied on imports and exports, and tariff and non-tariff barriers. The benefits of the ETLS for West Africa, when fully implemented is expected to result in greater economic growth, more jobs, and lower consumer prices.[29]  Figure 5 shows the trade flows between Ghana and ECOWAS.

As can be seen from figure 5, between 2006 and 2010, growth in Ghana’s export to ECOWAS fluctuated. Exports however rose by about 1170 percent from 2010 to 2011 (same year Ghana began to export crude oil in commercial quantities) and fell by 70 percent in 2012. Since then it grew negatively by about 4 percent on average. Ghana also experienced growing negative trade balance with ECOWAS from 2006 to 2008, but entered a trade surplus in 2009 which she has since maintained.

The simplest measure of integration is the trend in the share of trade (imports and exports) from regional partners in the total trade of a region.[32] Well integrated regions like Asia and Europe experience intensive trade among their members. For instance in 2015, 53 percent of China’s total imports originated from Asia while 44 percent of exports went to Asia. In the same year 62 percent of UK’s imports originated from Europe.[33] Under Ecowas ETLS, the main active countries in trade are Nigeria, which on its own accounts for approximately 76 percent of total trade in 2014 followed by Ghana (9.2 percent) and Côte d’Ivoire (8.64 percent)[34].

Market Share and Competition faced by Ghana’s Export

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity[35], Ghana exported 58 products with revealed comparative advantage in 2015. This means that Ghana’s share of global exports in the 58 products was larger than what would be expected from the size of her export economy and from the size of a product’s global market. Notwithstanding this, some of her exports face tough competition in their major export destinations. Table 2 below gives details of the top NTEs, their main export destination, their market share and competition faced in those destinations.
Table 2: Product Destination Categorisation for 2015 Ghanaian Exports

Product Main export destinations for product Main competition at the export destination
Cocoa Paste Netherlands (23%) Côte D’Ivoire (63%); Ghana (20%)
(In 2015, Cocoa paste formed about 3.5% of the overall export value) Germany (10%) Netherland (23%); France (19%); Côte D’Ivoire (16%); Ghana (10%)
Turkey (10%) Ghana (41%); Côte D’Ivoire (38%)
Coconuts, Brazil Nuts and Cashews Vietnam (54%) Côte D’Ivoire (32%); Ghana (11%); Tanzania (9.3%); Nigeria (9%)
(In 2015, it accounted for about 2% of total export value) India (41%) Côte D’Ivoire (31%); Tanzania (16%); Guinea-Bissau (16%); Benin (13%); Ghana (7%)
Processed Fish United Kingdom (47%) Germany (13%); Ghana (9%); Seychelles and Mauritius (8.8%)
(In 2015 Processed Fish accounted for about 1.8% of total export value) France (40%) Spain (14%); Germany (12%); Seychelles (10%), Ghana (8.7%)
Tropical Fruits United Kingdom (38%) Costa Rica (17%); Peru (10%); South Africa (6%); Ghana (4.4%)
(In 2015, it formed 0.56% of total export value) France (16%) Spain (22%); Israel (11%); Turkey (7.4%); Tunisia (5.8%); Ghana (1.9%)
Switzerland (14%) Peru (15%); Turkey (9.7%); Israel (8.4%); Ghana (7%)
Bananas United Kingdom (43%) Dominican Republic (23%); Costa Rica (14%); Columbia (23%); Côte D’Ivoire (4.1%); Ghana (3%)
(In 2015, it formed 0.47% of total export value) Belgium (24%) Colombia (28%); Ecuador (21%); Cameroun (13%); Côte D’Ivoire (8.5%); Ghana (1.4%)
France (20%) Côte D’Ivoire (26%); Cameroun (25%); Dominican Republic (14%); Ghana (2.6%)

Source: The Observatory of Economic Complexity.

As seen from the table above, processed fish which accounted for 1.8 percent of Ghana’s overall export value in 2015, was exported mainly to the United Kingdom (47 percent) and France (40 percent). In the United Kingdom where 47 percent of total processed fish were exported, Ghana’s export accounted for only 9 percent of United Kingdom’s import of processed fish. Ghana was second to Germany who exported 13 percent of UK’s 2015 import demand for processed fish. In France, Ghana’s export accounted for 8.7 percent of France’s import. Ghana was fourth to Spain (14 percent), Germany (12 percent), and Seychelles (10 percent).  Also from the table, it can be seen that Ghana faces tough competition from Cote D’Ivoire in the cocoa products, coconut, Brazilian nuts, and cashew and in bananas in the top export destinations.

Challenges of Trading in a Competitive Global Environment

This section highlights some of the challenges that Ghana’s export face in a competitive global market. Ghana’s trade related challenges are enormous. In the subsequent sections, the challenges are grouped under two main headings: 1) Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (in the EU export market), 2) Supply-Side constraints which includes productive capacity constraints and trade related constraints.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (Export challenges to the EU)

Ghana’s current export structure to the EU market reveals that nearly all products exported to the EU do not face any tariff due to the conditions of the interim EPA, which Ghana initialed with the EU in December 2007.[36] The main challenges Ghanaian exporters now face before the establishment of a full EPA is the need to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements, and sometimes unfair competition occasioned by subsidised products in EU markets.[37] Standards and technical regulations drawn up by individual countries to protect health and the environment, and ensure quality and safety, can also act as technical barriers to trade. In addition to technical regulations and product standards, African exporters face the more stringent private standards of developed country retailers.[38] Aspects of SPS measures, albeit unintentionally, creates restrictions on market access and difficulties for exporters, in particular, for SMEs from developing countries.[39]

SPS measures have a significant role in trade between the EU and its trade partners. The EU seeks to ensure that a balance is maintained between protecting consumers and creating a supportive international environment for animal and plant-based exports from developing countries. Increased awareness of and concern about food safety in the EU and other developed countries has resulted in developing countries having to deal with stricter SPS requirements when exporting their produce. Such requirements relate to the protection of animal or plant life and health; risks arising from additives, contaminants or disease-causing organisms in foods, beverages or feedstuffs; or the entry, establishment or spread of pests.[40]

As part of its general trade-related assistance to developing countries, the EU supports these countries in setting up quality standards and conformity assessment procedures and systems that facilitate their access to the European markets. This includes strengthening national administrations and competent authorities, and supporting farmers and the private sector in their compliance with regulatory and commercial requirements for SPS measures.[41]

Ghana has high potential for commercial fruit and vegetable production and export. However, for the country to access international markets, particularly the EU, Ghanaian products must comply with sanitary and phytosanitary standards. Despite having signed onto the WTO’s SPS Agreement, the country’s agricultural produce shipments still have significant SPS compliance challenges. Due in large part to the lack of awareness of the social, environmental, and economic costs of poor SPS compliance, many producers do not implement good agricultural practices that would mitigate these SPS issues.[42] The lack of compliance has meant that exports of vegetables from Ghana are at times rejected due to the presence of organisms that occur in the EU’s list of harmful organisms.[43] In 2014 the EU (Ghana’s major export market) provided an official notice to the Government of Ghana regarding the presence of harmful organisms in Ghanaian horticultural products. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) eventually placed a temporary ban on the export of the most affected vegetables to avoid an official sanction.

Phytosanitary issues relate to inspection and sampling procedures at border posts, which are inadequate. In most cases, control and inspection are mainly visual, without underlying laboratory analysis, because there are often no laboratory facilities available on site. At Kotoka International Airport too, consignments are only visually inspected and inspectors are not equipped to take representative samples.[44]

In addition, while exporting companies of fruits and vegetables are widely implementing quality and safety standards, such as the GlobalGAP domestically, a demand-driven compliance to quality and safety appears to be absent, and there is not much incentive for adopting standards or voluntary compliance to good agricultural practices.[45]

Non-compliance to SPS is also related to food safety issues, especially the use of pesticides. The majority of farmers are still using pesticides excessively and improperly.[46] Unregistered and counterfeit pesticides are widespread in the market, and the high illiteracy levels among farmers’ means that they are unable to interpret labels.[47] A traceability system is also lacking. Traceability is defined as the ‘ability to trace and follow food, feed, and ingredients through all stages of production, processing and distribution’.[48] In Ghana, there are no specific requirements imposed for the traceability of products. Moreover, the domestic market is fragmented and comprised of informal marketing channels, meaning that produce comes from multiple sources. Having a sound system will ensure that if there are issues, they can be traced back to the source, and the right measures can be put in place to solve them.[49]

Addressing issues in SPS compliance

The government has been partnering with development partners to undergo capacity-building programmes that will help it address issues with SPS compliance. For example, in March 2007, the MOTI alongside the lead ministry of the Trade Sector Support Programme (TSSP), the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) were part of a UNIDO project on trade capacity-building.[50] The project’s expected outcomes  were to: 1) increase GSA’s capacity in standards development; disseminating, promoting and training Ghanaian enterprises on priority public and voluntary standards, 2) establish a traceability system at GEPA for export products, and to ensure that producers and exporters apply these traceability schemes, and an active National Traceability committee; 3) establish the Ghana Certification Body and prepare it for the accreditation for the certification of quality management systems; 4) strengthening testing laboratories so that they are able to provide internationally accepted tests for key exports; 5) upgrade the PPRSD to become EU competent in horticulture, and developing the capacity and competencies to inspect exports; and, 6) the development of the National Quality Infrastructure.

With regards to outcome 1, in July 2016, GSA provided training for its stakeholders on food safety management. These participants were trained in skills certification, food processing, auditing accounting, and in the requirements of International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 22000 and the HACCP tool used to analyse associated hazards in production.[51] In addition, in September 2016, GEPA also held training sessions for exporters, to enhance the capacities they need to meet the required global standards. GEPA has also been working to achieve outcome 2. While a National Traceability Committee has not been created by GEPA, it has rolled out a geographical mapping of companies, in order to create a database for a national database for product traceability. The Geographic Information System (GIS) has been working alongside GEPA to create a database for exporters in food and agro-processing products, which will reduce the risk of exports to the EU being reduced due to lack of traceability. GIS uses a system of unique identification of products, and is working on maintaining accurate records on the geographic location of firms, factories, and other movements along the value chain.

The establishment of an accredited certification body for Ghana, was to be achieved under outcome 3. The Green Label Certification Scheme (GLCS) is a project implemented by the Directorate of Crops Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which aims at increasing the competitiveness and quality of fruits and vegetables that are produced domestically.[52] The GCLS has also produced about 500 guides, and 400 farmers have been trained on Green Label Certification.[53] Moreover, in March 2016, the MOTI launched the Ghana Green Label Farmer’s Manual, a training tool which informs farmers about the ways they can become certified. These developments are positive for food safety and export promotion in Ghana, because they ensure that food is produced in an environmentally sustainable and safe way, in line with SPS regulations, across various parts of the value chain.

Recently in June 2017, there have been steps to improve the standards of local laboratories for exports, representing steps to achieve outcome 4. This also involves the accreditation of laboratories to demonstrate the fact that they can conduct tests, which comply with internationally recognised standards and regulations.[54] Currently, there is no accreditation body for certification in Ghana, but the GSA intends to accredit laboratories in testing using the ISO requirements.[55] The Swiss government is also providing ongoing support to GSA to increase its capacity in standard development and upgrading its testing laboratories, as part of the UNIDO capacity-building programme. This $5.35 million from the Swiss also benefits the FDA, GEPA in establishing the national traceability system, and the PPRSD in improving inspection methods for exported vegetables and fruits, and upgrading seed testing laboratories to test the quality of seeds.[56] Further, with regards to outcome 5, the PPRSD has worked on upgrading the skills and technical capacities of its inspectors in response to the EU temporary ban on fruits and vegetables. A new Plant Quarantine Inspection Room for the PPRSD was also commissioned the Aviance Cargo Village. These measures have been taken in the hope that they will ensure that no further bans on exports to the European markets occur again in the future.[57]

In July 2017, the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry stated that the draft National Quality Policy (NQP) was ready after a two-day workshop of corroboration and revision.[58] The final version is set to be ready by 2018. Moreover, the government is also working to establish a National Quality Council, comprising of key representatives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and the private sector, with the mandate to implement the NQP and coordinate the activities of the institutions that oversee quality and standards-related activities.[59] These developments are very positive, because the policy would make the development of quality trade infrastructure, which would be recognised internationally, a key priority. It would also have the effect of improving the competitiveness of Ghana’s exports abroad, protect domestic consumers from counterfeit products, and support SMEs to conform to national standards and regulations, thereby enhancing economic growth.[60]

It is evident that Ghana is taking the necessary steps to improve its compliance with SPS regulations, and recognises that doing so will be beneficial for export promotion. It is highly likely that with these measures in place, there will be growth in the volumes of exports and improved quality and standards of export products.

Supply-Side Constraints

A commodity-based export country like Ghana is faced with numerous supply-side challenges that impede trade expansion. This part of the report attempts to cover what is known on potential supply-side constraints to trade in Ghana. These constraints are broadly divided into productive capacity constraints such as access to credit, and trade-related constraints such as transport infrastructure and trade facilitation.

The challenges Ghana faces within AGOA are mostly due to supply-side constraints. As the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, Florizelle Liser put it, ‘supply-side constraints, including unreliable electricity and transportation, poor ports, lack of transnational highways, and poor access to the internet were among the impediments to trade development on the continent’.[61]

Productive capacity constraints

Ghana’s capacity to expand trade, specifically agricultural trade, is related to her ability to produce more. While Ghana has a lot of capacity in terms of arable lands, fresh water and rural labour, productive capacity is often significantly restricted by a number of constraints which can and should be addressed by policy interventions. In Ghana, access to credit is a serious challenge, which impedes productivity. Limited access to credit affects productivity through different channels. It is an important determinant of investment in improved inputs – quality fertilisers, high yielding seeds, skilled labour, storage facilities, irrigation, and adoption of new technology and so on.[62]

The export business in Ghana as with many businesses is dominated by SMEs.[63] There are many who believe that the single most important factor constraining the growth of the SME sector, and by extension the export sector, is the limited access to funding.  According to the recent World Bank Enterprise Survey,[64] 49.5 percent of firms in Ghana consider access to credit as their biggest obstacle. Some of the factors that accounts for this financing challenge include a relatively undeveloped financial sector with low levels of intermediation, a lack of institutional and legal structures that facilitate the management of SME lending risk and high cost of borrowing and interest rate rigidities.[65] Thus aside private financial institutions, there are official schemes launched and supported by the government and development partners to stimulate the flow of financing to SMEs in order to fill the persistent financing gap. Recent schemes include the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (Masloc) and export oriented ones such as the EXIM bank.

Regardless of the impact that both sources of financing have on SMEs, there are a great number of challenges that hinder their impact in terms of their reach and sustainability. Ghana’s export sector is dominated by SMEs with limited technical capacity. This creates biases which limit their access to credit from traditional sources such as Banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIs)[66]. This perception has led to the adoption of stringent conditions, strict vetting of credit applications and short periods for repayments which mostly do not suit the long term needs of the export business.[67] Exacerbating this problem is SMEs’ lack of understanding of the lending process and the facts considered by banks and NBFIs in giving out loans.[68] Banks and NBFIs are also constrained by the high transaction or processing costs, inadequate and unreliable information and the absence of a credit rating system.
Over the years, administrations, with or without assistance from development partners, have tried to address this challenge by complementing the trade finance activities of traditional banks and NBFIs with support programs. To increase the flow of funds and to promote NTEs funds such as EDIF, the Export Finance Company (EFC) and the EXIM Guaranty Company Limited were set up. EDIF was set up to improve access to trade finance for NTEs. It worked with financial institutions (mostly commercial banks) to achieve its objectives. New and small exporters however were unable to access support from EDIF as the process that exporters had to go through to access funding meant that mostly well-established exporters with proven professional history benefited from their loans.[69] EFC, established in 1989 with a similar mandate as EDIF, was mostly limited by insufficient funding, and as such was unable to fulfill its mandate[70]. The EXIM Guaranty Company Limited was also setup to encourage banks to extend facilities to SME borrowers in the NTEs sector that the banks were reluctant to assist for lack of collateral. All of these institutions have now been consolidated into the EXIM Bank to support local producers with the necessary financial and technical expertise to position them favourably to compete with their foreign counterparts.[71]

As with private financial institutions, government supported programs also had their own challenges that prevented them from being effective. The lack of dialogue and consultation between all relevant stakeholders, public sector (EDIF, MOTI[72], Ghana Commercial Bank) and the export community, on trade finance issues made the functioning of EDIF and EFC not aligned to the needs of the export community.[73] Development partners on their own have also set up financing schemes to help address this challenge. Specific export related ones include USAID TIPCEE[74] and the DANIDA funded SPEED. However, exporters especially SME exporters have limited information about these funds and how to access them.[75]

The opportunities created by trade reforms can only be seized with funding. Sufficient access to credit will ensure that the benefits of trade are shared widely as poor households can move away from subsistence production. Access to funding also enables Ghana to access the full gains of trade as it can encourage importation of capital goods for production and further exports.

Trade-related constraints: Transport Infrastructure & Trade Facilitation

Trade-related constraints encompass both transport infrastructure and trade facilitation, which greatly hinder Ghana’s export capacity. Infrastructure problems, especially transport and electricity supply, are a significant constraint to trade especially for a commodity based export country such as Ghana. Increasing electricity in developing countries by 10 percent increases a country’s openness by 2 percent and its exports by 2.4 percent, according to OECD research.[76] Also the recent World Bank Enterprise survey on Ghana shows that almost 19 percent of firms in Ghana consider electricity as their biggest obstacle. The cost of unreliable electricity is even greater – fluctuation not only damages machines used in production, but introduce unplanned expenses in a company’s expense account.

The backbone of Ghana’s infrastructure covers the entire national territory and also plays a significant role in integrating the different regions.[77] A report by the United States International Trade Commission, which analyses the exports opportunities and barriers in AGOA-eligible countries, highlights infrastructure, including congested ports, and inadequate and insufficient road networks as domestic barriers and impediments in terms of its potential export growth to the US under AGOA.[78] Within ECOWAS, the lack of trade facilitation is a major challenge, which underpins the low level of intra-regional trade. Increasing trade facilitation, which involves reducing the costs of clearing goods, the time spent in clearing goods and reducing customs malpractices would provide solutions to the challenges to trading within the regional bloc.[79] Sub-regional integration still remains a challenge that hinders Ghana’s ability to make the most of the ETLS.[80]

Ghanaian exports have huge market potential in ECOWAS. However, the full potential is far from being realised. Challenges still exist in cross-border trade, transit and the movement of people across borders, despite the fact that these have been regulated within the framework of the ETLS.[81] The dissatisfaction with the system is mostly due to the poor implementation of the rules and regulations by Member States. The variation in which the rules are applied varies from one Member State to the other, and this reflects their level of commitment to the ECOWAS regional integration project. This has resulted in low levels of intra-ECOWAS trade, below its potential.[82]

The integration of ECOWAS into a full customs union will allow Ghanaian products to compete freely in the regional market and promote exports. To leverage these opportunities, the Government is working towards pursuing the establishment of a full customs union in ECOWAS, while simultaneously honouring all its obligations in respect of existing ECOWAS protocols. It is also supporting measures, which are aimed at removing obstacles to full integration.[83]

The government is also taking significant steps to improve its transport infrastructure.  These involve expanding port capacity, and reducing processing times and costs. APM Terminals, a Dutch company, and Bollore Africa Logistics and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) are jointly undertaking the $1.5 billion port expansion project, which involves the construction of four deep water berths, and extensive cargo handling and storage infrastructure. The Port of Tema’s development will improve its operational capacity and efficiency, which will also have a positive impact on freighting across the region. Moreover, regulatory reforms are being set up to streamline and standardise bureaucratic processes as a way of improving efficiency, and consequently, reducing delays.[84] The Ghana National Single Window (GNSW) for example, was implemented in September 2015, allowing local importers and exporters to submit their documents electronically on one processing point, giving all stakeholders such as customs and clearing agents access to the documents online. Furthermore, the government is currently putting into place additional measures to improve port efficiency.  These include a 100 percent paperless system, powered by GCNet and WestBlue, and the removal of internal customs barriers.

Other Ongoing Initiatives Intended to Boost Export Promotion

Given Ghana’s weak competitive export supply capacity, building productive and export capacity is an indispensable condition, if she is to maximise her benefits from the various FTAs she is party to. Increasing export volumes is one of the main ways the nation can reduce the balance of payment deficit, and reduce pressures on foreign exchange.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) has urged GEPA to take decisive action on the challenges present in the export sector to enhance economic growth and development. Perhaps the most significant hindrances to exports in Ghana include the multiplicity of inspections by various government agencies, and the ban on vegetable and fruit exports to the EU. Another issue is that of a weak supply base, which cannot meet the huge export order demands. GEPA is working towards driving the Government’s export agenda, which is to shift the nation from a consumption-based to a production and export-based economy. Further, GEPA states that it will generate $10 billion from NTEs over the next four years, which is an increase from the $5 billion target, which was set in 2016. In fact, the $5 billion target was not achieved, as NTEs came to $2.52 billion that year. The implementation of the ‘one-district, one-export product initiative’, which aims at promoting one exportable product in every district can help achieve this target and have the added benefit of generating youth employment, if implemented well.

The GEPA has also re-launched an initiative to boost the production of the smooth cayenne (SC) variety of pineapples, both for the local and export market. Ghana had a successful pineapple export trade to the EU, focusing on the low-end segment of the market by competing on price. In 2004, pineapple export reached about US$22 million, making Ghana one of the biggest suppliers of pineapple to the EU. However, it began to lose its market share with the coming of MD2 – a new pineapple variety from Costa Rica.[85] Ghanaian firms began exporting by air Smooth Cayenne (SC) variety of fresh pineapple to Europe in the mid-1980s, relying on smallholders who contributed about 50 percent of export volumes. The industry experienced growth from 1994-2004 at a cumulative annual growth of 172 percent. This resulted in increased market share of fresh Ghanaian pineapples in Europe from 7-8 percent in 1999, to 10 percent in 2004 with an annual volume of 71,000 MT.[86]

Since 2004, however, the fresh pineapple export industry has declined volume of exports, due to a number of reasons, principally, a shift in market demand in favour of the MD2 variety of pineapple produced primarily in Costa Rica. Due to this shift, Ghana has seen a decline in volume of exports, with smallholder farmers who contributed between 35 – 50 percent of the export volume of pineapple before 2004 being primarily affected.[87]

The GEPA CEO has stated that the initiative will address weak supply chains in processing firms and also promote exports of SC pineapples, which will be air-freighted into a niche market in the EU. A four-year work plan has also been developed to revitalise the SC pineapple variety, and would introduce SC suckers to farmers to increase yields, thereby increasing their incomes and creating further jobs. GEPA has set aside GHc 4.2 million (approximately $950,237) to implement these activities, and will be injecting an estimated over 15 million suckers of SC pineapples into farming systems.[88]

A barrier that pineapple exports have faced when entering the European market have been certification standards, such as the wholesale Global GAP certification.[89] GEPA has taken steps to ensure that the quality and control of these pineapples are not compromised. It will develop through a competitive process, a database of beneficiary exporters of fresh and high value pineapple processors who meet the selection criteria. These potential beneficiaries must be registered exporters, and be of good standing with GEPA, be exporting either fresh or processed pineapple, and be within the top 20 pineapple exporters in volume and value. Further, GEPA intends advertise and request bids from farms with certification by the PPRSD.[90] By supporting producers and exporters to meet global standards, and access the world market, earnings in NTEs would increase, which would be beneficial for the economy.

Conclusion and Policy Recommendations

Free trade agreements have the potential to increase economic growth, promote a more dynamic business climate, increase foreign direct investments and encourage technology transfer among many other things. To harness all the great benefits of trade however, FTAs must be complemented by sound local policies that promote a sustainable business environment. An OECD research[91] that sought to estimate major trade constraints in developing countries reports that trade performance depended much less on customs tariff reforms than on a large variety of supply-side constraints, such as electricity or access to credit. This report has analysed the trends in Ghana’s trade, specifically exports, between 2003 and 2016 along three trade routes – Europe (via EPA), US (via AGOA) and West Africa (via ECOWAS ETLS). The analysis indicates that though Ghana has made some gains from FTAs, there is a lot of room for improvement. The report also highlights some of the challenges that impede trade expansion, especially exports in NTEs. Past and recent government initiatives introduced to address the challenges have also been analysed. Ghana has great export potential, and overcoming these challenges will allow her to be able to compete internationally on the export market, and be a reliable trading partner.

The policy recommendations are listed below:

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Challenges

Conformity to sanitary and phytosanitary standards is a non-negotiable condition to trade expansion and competitiveness in an international market. The government has been taking the necessary steps to improve SPS compliance. However, the work must still continue. Below are further policy recommendations:

  1. A national SPS strategy and policy must be implemented to streamline, execute and achieve SPS objectives and ensure that they remain relevant.
  2. There must be continued coordination between the private and public sector in activities to improve SPS measures.
  3. Work towards establishing demand-driven compliance to quality and safety standards, as well as good agricultural practices domestically.
  4. Increase incentives to highlight the need for adoption of quality and safety standards. For example, it could be emphasis on the fact that because Ghanaian exports do not undergo rigorous quality and safety testing, they are losing their market window to other countries who may be exporting such products, or even alternatives.
  5. Government through the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) must begin the process of inculcating international standards within the local market. This will enable easy adoption of international standards by new entrants and will also address fears of potential entrants into the export market.

Access to credit challenges

Access to credit is a critical issue in export development. It is required at every level at a competitive cost to borrowing exporters. Most government support programmes for exports have been largely ineffective in the provision of sustainable trade finance for SMEs, which dominate the export business.[92] Thus importance must be given to addressing the core issues of funding. The following recommendations are put forward:

  1. In Ghana, banks do not pay sufficient attention to the development of SMEs[93] which dominates the export sector. This is mostly due to high processing costs and associated default risk of SME lending. The Government has an important role of opening the dialogue and creating instruments together with the banks to promote the financial aspects of successful SME and export financing. The government can provide incentives hinged on the provision of dedicated SME departments equipped to fully incorporate risk and ensure sustainability in export and SME financing.
  2. The government through GEPA must complement its support programs with education and training. GEPA in collaboration with export and SME associations must increase their training efforts to support exporters particularly SMEs to strengthen their bookkeeping and technical capacity to enhance their ability to source funding from financial institutions.
  3. The government must collaborate with the private sector to explore avenues for setting up a reliable credit rating system to reduce the processing cost and time of SME lending.
  4. To ensure that the right outputs are achieved, there is a need to elaborate and follow a set of instruments for monitoring, evaluation and follow-up of different aspects of SME and export support programmes and activities. The government must be more proactive in addressing challenges in a timely manner to ensure the sustainability of these programs.
  5. Exim Bank, which has been specifically set up to promote export financing must be adequately resourced to enhance availability of funds to exporters.
  6. Information dissemination on all available sources of funding to SMEs and to exporters must be improved. Information can be disseminated through a dedicated online platform and also through the various export and SME Associations such as the Sea-Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana (SPEG) and the Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE).

Trade Infrastructure and Trade Facilitation

  1. For improved exports within ECOWAS, initiatives to simplify procedures and documentation requirements at border must be implemented- the reduction of the number of agents, and a review of the taxes and fees payable at the border. In the long-term, a single window mechanism and a single point of payment for trade transactions could help reduce illegal payments.[94]
  2. There must be increased connectivity by increasing land links and intermodal transport systems. This will also facilitate transit and transshipment trade with Ghana’s regional neighbours.
  3. Infrastructure financing through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) arrangements can greatly reduce Ghana’s infrastructure deficit if risk to foreign investors are reduced. A World Bank survey on investors identified insufficient legal protection of investors as the primary concern to PPPs.[95] Government must focus on providing a supportive legal environment that promotes investments.

AGOA challenges

  1. Government must strictly monitor the progress on the deliverables of the new upcoming AGOA strategy and increased collaboration between the MOTI, GEPA, the Free Zones Board and the Ghana Standards Authority.
  2. Ensure alignment between AGOA and the development integration agenda of Ghana, focusing on diversifying its exports base, integrating supply chains, taking advantage of market access opportunities, attracting investments, and improving productive capacities.
  3. An enabling environment for the private sector must be created, inclusive of women and young entrepreneurial people to take advantage of AGOA.

Other Recommendations

  1. Implement government policies that improve labour productivity. This will have the effect of improving trade expansion. According to an OECD research, a 10 percent increase in labor productivity increases the ratio of exports-to-GDP by 3 percent in developing countries.[96]
  2. Have macroeconomic policies in place that are conducive to sustainable trade reforms and trade expansion.

Several of the challenges highlighted in this report were also highlighted in the National Export Strategy (NES) document for non-traditional export.[97] The NES which targeted to increase the value of NTEs to GHC 5 billion by 2016, failed to achieve its target mostly due to implementation challenges. Though the incumbent government has announced a lot of initiatives to revamp trade in Ghana, we recommend that close attention is given to implementation and strict monitoring and evaluation of these initiatives.

  1. Government must take a broader view on policy formulation. The formulation process should focus on all key variables that influence the identified problem. In most cases focus is only on the political and economic variables and fails to include the social, administrative and external environmental variables. This introduces major deficiencies in the policy and lapses in implementation.[98]
  2. There should be increased participation of the target group, both in the formulation and implementation phases. Participation should not be limited to high government officials and policy actors. This will ensure that policies are client-oriented and address specific problems. It will also promote ownership of the policy which is critical to the sustainability of initiatives.[99]
  3. Sustainability concerns must be addressed in the formulation stage. Politicians in an effort to quickly satisfy the demands of the people formulate policies that provide short-term solutions that fail to address the roots of the problem. Winning of elections must not be held as more important than the sustainability of policies and the attainment of their core goals.
  4. Strict monitoring is needed to check inefficiencies specifically those caused by bribery and corruption.

This paper was published by IMANI’s Centre for Economic Governance and Political Affairs, with the support of DANIDA.  For interviews, please contact Ms. Anita Nkrumah or Ms Nora Dei-Anang on 0554309966


[1]  MOTI (nd), Ghana Trade Policy. Available from:

[2] WTO (2017), Trade Policy Review, Report by the Secretariat: Ghana. Available from:

[3] The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook. Available from:

[4] Ibid

[5] Government of Ghana (2017), Budget and Economic Statement. Available at:

[6] Benefits of Trade Agreements, International Trade Administration. Available from:

[7] Zaney, G. (nd), ‘GEPA Grows the Non-Traditional Export (NTE) Sector’. Available from:

[8] World Bank Middle Income Data. Available at:

[9] Ghana’s National Export Strategy for Non-Traditional Exports (2012 – 2016)

[10] The Cotonou Agreement was signed between the then 15 members of the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (excluding Cuba) in 2000.


[12] Ibid

[13] European Union, Trade in Goods with Ghana. Available at: 

[14] European Union, Trade in Goods with Ivory Coast. Available at:

[15] European Union, Trade in Goods with Ghana.

[16] Average trade balances are calculated by the authors.

[17] European Union, Trade in Goods with West Africa.

[18] ibid

[19] Standard International Trade Classification

[20] The Interim EPA was signed in December, 2007.

[21] EU-West Africa trade and development: a partnership that counts. Available at:

[22] Asante, Bawakyillenuo, Ahiadeke (2016), “AGOA: Market Opportunity and Supply Capacity in Ghana”. Available at:

[23] Office of the United States Trade Representative. Available at:

[24] ibid

[25] Available at:

[26] Average trade balances are calculated by the author.

[27] Ghana Business News (2017), ‘Ghana government moving to increase AGOA exports’. Available from:

[28] World Bank (2005), “Regional Trade Agreements: Effects on Trade”. Available from:

[29] OECD (nd), Aid-For-Trade: Case Story ECOWAS – Gap Analysis of the ETLS. OECD, WTO. Available from:


[31] Data for 2014 and 2015 was collected from the Ghana Statistical Service. The values which were in Ghana Cedis were converted to USD by using the arithmetic average of monthly exchange rate figures for 2014 and 2015 from the Bank of Ghana. Data is available from:

[32] World Bank (2005), “Regional Trade Agreements: Effects on Trade”

[33] The Observatory of Economic Complexity (2015)


[35] The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) is the world’s leading data visualization tool for international trade data. The OEC makes more than 50 years of international trade data available through dozens of millions of interactive visualizations. Visit the OEC at:

[36] MOTI (2017), Ghana National Export Strategy for the Non-Traditional Sector 2012-2016. Available from:

[37] Markham, K. (nd), Ministry of Trade and Industry: Ghana National Export Strategy for the Non-Traditional Sector 2012 – 2016. Available from:–%202016.pdf

[38] UNIDO (2006), Supply side constraints on the trade performance of African countries. Available from:

[39] Ignacio, L. (nd), Standards and Technical Regulations and Export Competitiveness: Focus on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements. Available from:

[40] European Commission (2017), International Cooperation and Development – Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures’. Available from:

[41] ibid

[42] Van der Maden, E., Glover-Tay, J. & Koomen, I. (2014), Food Safety and Plant Health in Ghana. Analysis of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Status of the Vegetable Sector. Available from:

[43] ibid

[44] ibid

[45] ibid

[46] ibid

[47] ibid

[48] European Commission (2017), ‘Food Law General Requirements’. Available from:

[49] Van der Maden et al. (2014)

[50] UNIDO (2013), Trade Capacity-Building Programme for Ghana. Available from:

[51] Asamoah, L. (2016), ‘GSA trains stakeholders in Food Safety Management’. 19 July Ghana News Agency. Available from:

[52] TRAQUE (nd), Ghana Green Label Scheme for fruits and vegetables. Available from:

[53] ibid

[54] UNIDO (2013)

[55] Export.Gov (2017), ‘Ghana- Standards for Trade’. Available from:

[56] Ghana Trade (nd), ‘Switzerland to Support Ghana’s Export Capacities’. Available from:

[57] TRAQUE (nd), PPRSD Receives New Plant Inspection Facility. Available from:

[58] MOTIMod (2017), ‘Draft National Quality Policy for Ghana Ready – Honourable Carlos Ahenkorah’. Available from:–-hon-carlos-ahenkorah

[59] GNA (2017), ‘Government to set a National Quality Council’. Available from:

[60] Bruce, E. (2016), ‘National Quality Policy to be ready by 2018’. Graphic Online. Available from:

[61] Abou IIana, M. (2016), Grades and Standards Special Focus AGOA and Mango. Export Promotion Seminar. Available from:


[63] Ghana’s National Export Strategy for Non-Traditional Exports (2012 – 2016)

[64] World Bank Group (2013), 2013 Ghana Enterprise Survey. Available from:


[66] Ghana National Export Strategy for NTEs (2012 – 2016)

[67] Kwaning, C., Nyantakyi, K. & Kyereh, B. (2015), ‘The Challenges Behind SMEs’ Access to Debts Financing in the Ghanaian Financial Market’, International Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Research. Available from:—-Access-to-Debts-Financing-in-the-Ghanaian-Financial-Market1.pdf

[68] ibid

[69] Ghana National Export Strategy for Non Traditional Exports (2012 – 2016).

[70] Ibid

[71] Exim Bank Ghana (2017). Ghana Export-Import Bank. Available from:

[72] Ministry of Trade and Industry

[73] Ghana National Export Strategy for Non Traditional Exports (2012 – 2016)

[74] Trade and Investment Programme for Competitive Export Economy

[75] Ibid

[76] Hallaert, J., & Cavazos, R. & Kang, G. (2011), Estimating the constraints to developing countries trade. A taxonomy of the binding constraints to trade expansion of landlocked countries, small and vulnerable economies, and commodity exporters. OECD Paper. Available from:

[77] PwC (nd), Ghana. Available from:

[78] Butcher, A. (2005), United States International Trade Commission – Export Opportunities and Barriers in African Growth and Opportunity Act – Eligible Countries. Available from:

[79] Tralac (2016), ‘Trade facilitation would tackle ECOWAS trade integration barriers. Available from:

[80] MOTI (nd), Ghana Trade Policy.

[81] MOTI (2017), Ghana National Export Strategy for the Non-Traditional Sector 2012-2016.

[82] ibid

[83] ibid

[84] Oxford Business Group (2016), ‘Ghana increases spending on transport infrastructure’. 11 July 2016, African Brand Link. Available from:

[85] Ignacio, L. (n.d.), Standards and Technical Regulations and Export Competitiveness: Focus on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements. Available from:

[86] Gatune, J., Chapman-Kodam, M., Korboe, K., Mulangu, F. & Rakotoarisoa, M. (2013), Analysis of Trade Impacts on the Fresh Pineapple Sector in Ghana. FAO Commodity and Trade Policy Research Working Paper No. 41. Available from:

[87] GNA (2017), ‘GEPA re-launches initiative to boost smooth cayenne pineapple production’, Business Ghana. 28 August. Available from:

[88] ibid

[89] Gatune et. al. (2013)

[90] Ghana News Agency (2017)

[91] Hallaert, J., & Cavazos, R. & Kang, G. (2011), Estimating the constraints to developing countries trade. A taxonomy of the binding constraints to trade expansion of landlocked countries, small and vulnerable economies, and commodity exporters. OECD Paper. Available from:

[92] Kwaning et al. (2015)

[93] Mensah, S. (2004), A Review of SME Financing Schemes in Ghana. Paper presented at the UNIDO Regional Workshop of Financing Small and Medium Enterprises, Accra, Ghana, 15-16 March 2004. Available from:

[94] Hoppe, M. & Aidoo, F. (2012), Removing Barriers to Trade between Ghana and Nigeria: Strengthening Regional Integration by Implementing ECOWAS Commitments. Africa Trade Policy Notes, Policy Note. No. 30. Available from:

[95] Mobarek, S. (nd), PPP Financing Overview. The World Bank Group. Available from:

[96] Hallaert et al (2011)

[97] Markham (nd)

[98] Braiman, I., Rufai, H. & Annin-Bonsu, N. (2014), ‘The Politics of Public Policy and Problems of Implementation in Africa: An Appraisal of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme in Ga East District’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 4(4). Available from:

[99] ibid