Pundits have praised the President’s announcement to fully reopen the land borders, emphasising the benefits to traders who conduct businesses along and across Ghana’s borders.
However, this comes with continued apprehension over the lingering impediments to which exist across the transit corridors and borders of Ghana and her West African neighbours.
Speaking on Eye on Port, Ziad Hamoui, the National President of Borderless Alliance – a cross-border trade advocacy group, and Jonathan Osei Owusu, Executive Director of POS Foundation – a human rights civil society organisation, touched on the ordeal traders suffered during the travel restrictions at the borders.
Mr. Ziad Hamoui said: “the biggest impact on economic activity has to do with the border communities which were regularly engaged in the movement of small loads of perishable goods and wares across the borders for their livelihoods. The closure of the borders severely impacted on their lives and the economic power of these communities. Another major aspect is tourism. Where people move, trade moves”.
Mr. Jonathan Osei added that, “we just came back from Burkina Faso last night and it will interest you to know that the relief that has been brought to the border communities is very significant, because their daily bread and sustainability depends on the borders opening”.
However, they lamented that beyond the reopening of borders, there remains several trading blocks hindering the easy flow of goods across the subregion.
Mr. Osei continued citing that, “the Tomatoes Sellers Association of Ghana gave a very damning story where transporters were going to Mali, they were stopped, asked for their documentations. In that process, they were put in chains. We were given pictures to back the claim.
“One thing that went across board is the numerous checkpoints as we travelled from Nigeria to Lome. We could count about 23 over a very short space. Even I, who was not carrying goods, was very frustrated”. He added.
Mr. Osei therefore called for the simplification and harmonisation of border control procedures that will truly reflect the continent’s integration objectives.
He said his foundation, in collaboration with other Civil Society Organisations, will embark on an initiative to provide legal aid to small-scale traders across the borders of six countries namely: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and La Côte d’Ivoire.
“We want to have agents at the borders who will serve as paralegals, learn the trading dynamics, the immigration and customs laws, to be able to facilitate the trade for the small-scale traders at the borders.”
Ziad Hamoui also attested to the increased security checkpoints and barriers that plague Ghana’s transit corridor, which deviates from the Vice President’s 2017 directive.
He called for states to prioritise the ratification of the AU protocol on the free movement of persons.
Taking his turn on the subject, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme Task Force, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, commented on the state of trading across the West African sub-region.
He said, “when I was the President of the ECOWAS Commission, about 10-11 years ago, the rate of intra ECOWAS trade was around 13-15 %. 10 years later, I wanted to know the level of trade now from ECOWAS experts, and I was told the same figure. I was frankly disappointed. In my opinion, we have not stagnated, but we have gone backwards. We should be doing more”.
He revealed the vision of ECOWAS is to eliminate trade barriers in the immediate future.