Japanese and Ghanaian government officials recently came together to inaugurate the Ghana-Japan Business Promotion Committee (GJBPC), a new venture to promote trade and investment between the two countries.
The GJBPC December 2019 launch was attended by a number of high-level representatives from the Ghanaian government ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Trade and Industry, and Business Development, as well as representatives from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC).
The Japanese side was represented by delegates from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japan External Trade Organisation and the Japanese Ministry of Economy. The committee will be co-chaired by Yofi Grant, the Chief Executive Officer of the GIPC, and Himeno Tsutomu, Japan’s Ambassador to Ghana.
The committee is scheduled to hold bi-annual meetings in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The goal of the initiative is to boost mutual investment, trade and business interests between the two countries and promote Ghana as an entry point into Africa and investment hub to Japanese companies.
Relations between Ghana and Japan
At the GIPC launch, Executive Officer Grant expressed his hope that the new initiative would strengthen the strong trade and investment ties between Ghana and Japan that already exist, calling the formation of the committee ‘long overdue’.
Grant said that the new cooperation with Japan is expected to boost Ghana’s goal to reposition itself as a top destination for trade and investment in Africa, noting that the country’s economy has attained a new level of growth and stability in recent years.
He believes that this economic progress, alongside the numerous natural resources in the country, makes Ghana the perfect place for Japanese investment. Furthermore, he believes that forming a strong relationship with Japan will allow Ghana to tap into the country’s technology and further boost development.
The new committee will help Ghana to raise financial resources from Japan to fund developmental projects and establish information-sharing mechanisms on trade regulations, standards, and trends. It will also aim to help deliver solutions to challenges faced by Japanese businesses in Ghana and vice versa.
Japanese Ambassador Tsutomu commented that the idea of forming the GJBPC was actually proposed by the Japanese business committee. He asserted that Japan is fully committed to attracting Japanese business to Ghana to further aid the development of the county, adding that the formation of similar committees in 7 other African countries was also being considered.
Challenges the Ghana-Japan Committee Must Overcome
However, Ambassador Tsutomu has also remarked on some challenges the government of Ghana must overcome in order for “Japanese businesses and investors to feel welcomed and comfortable” in the country.
Some potential issues for Japanese businesses identified by the Japanese Embassy in Ghana include:
- Corruption in the legal system
- Complicated visa application processes
- High rent fees
- Policy changes
- Shortage of skilled workers
- Tax issues
- Violation of intellectual property rights and counterfeiting
In order to resolve these challenges to Japanese investors in Ghana, Japan has requested that the government improve the business environment by:
- Ensuring policy continuity in event of a change of government
- Facilitating the disclosure of information and improving communications
- Improving opportunities for investment
- Respecting contracts
- Simplifying the process of paying tax
- Simplifying Ghana visa application processes
The Japanese government is confident that investment and business opportunities between Japan and Ghana will begin to flourish once these conditions are met. One key element to this potential success is the relaxation of visa requirements between the two countries to allow for greater freedom of movement.
Does a Ghanaian Need a Visa to Visit Japan?
At the moment, it is currently necessary for Ordinary Japanese passport holders to obtain a visa from a Ghanaian embassy or consulate in order to visit the country. This process can be time-consuming and involves submitting a range of supporting documents in person or by mail.
Likewise, citizens of Ghana who wish to visit Japan are also currently required to apply for a Japan visa for Ghanaians from an embassy or consulate.
However, if the government of Ghana complies with Japan’s request to simplify visa applications in order to facilitate Japanese investment, visa requirements between the two countries could be relaxed.
Although Japanese travelers may not be granted visa-free entry to Ghana, the government of Ghana could introduce a simplified online visa application to make it easier for Japanese citizens to travel to the country.
In return, the Japanese government may add Ghana to the list of countries eligible to apply for the upcoming Japan tourist eVisa, expected to be available by April 2020. The Japan eVisa application will allow eligible citizens to obtain an approved visa sent directly via email, eliminating the need to visit an embassy or consulate.