Ghana: Establishment of commercial courts

Author: Sandra Cofie
Publication: SmartLessons 2007

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This lesson is part of the Doing Business series, written by "star reformers." An often-repeated remark about George Kingsley Acquah, Ghana’s Chief Justice from 2003 until 2007 and driver of his country's major judicial reforms, was that "it took a man like him for this to happen." Sandra Cofie, author of "Ghana—Establishment of Commercial Courts," says she subscribes to this view. She observed him from her position as Director of the Judicial Reform, Project Development and Implementation Unit at the Judicial Service of Ghana. By far his most prominent reform was the establishment of the commercial division at the High Court in Accra, the first commercial court in Ghana, and possibly the most significant addition to the judicial service since independence, says Cofie. After decades of political turmoil that had left behind a disrupted court system, the reform not only shortened delays to commercial dispute resolution, it also instilled new spirit in Ghana's justice sector.

Main Findings

  • Mandatory mediation has proven successful in keeping the caseload low: between March 1, 2005 and July 31, 2006, of 403 cases referred to pre-trial conference, more than one in five (86) was resolved there, with 126 still pending. With more than 200 cases being disposed of at trial or with default judgment, this amounts to a clearance rate of more than 40 percent for the total 665 cases filed within 17 months.
  • The average time to dissolve a commercial dispute—from filing to enforcement of the decision, as measured by Doing Business—fell from 552 to 487 days.