September 7, 2021
- Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, Presidential Special Advisor on Health, is reported to have said that Ghana will keep the land borders closed until a majority of Ghanaians are vaccinated against COVID-19. He made this comment following two peaceful street protests by the border communities at Elubo and Aflao in Ghana. The purpose of this article is to bring an additional perspective in favour of having the borders opened.
- First, borders play an important role in enhancing regional integration and mobility. ECOWAS emphasized the need to turn borders from barriers into bridges to allow for nationals to commute easily and conveniently and engage in productive cross-border trading and socio-cultural activities. The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor is part of the trans-coastal highway between Dakar and Lagos. It carries international passenger traffic between Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. According to a study carried out by LARES on behalf of the USAID Programme for Food Across Borders (ProFAB) in 2017, this corridor attracts more than 65 % of the economic activities and related human traffic from ECOWAS member states. The corridor serves a resident population of 30 million people and has a traffic of nearly 47 million people in transit per year. Keeping the Aflao-Kojoviakope and Elubo-Noe borders open to passenger traffic must be a top priority to Ghana because about 525 km of the 1022km long Abidjan-Lagos corridor lies in Ghana.
- Second, the final Communique issued at the end of the Fifty-eighth Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held on 23 January 2021 via videoconference, under the chairmanship of H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, and Chair of the Authority, stated among other points, “The Authority congratulates the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the reopening of its land borders with its neighbours and also calls on Member States to continue their efforts in the effective implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment”. Subsequently, other national governments emulated the good example of Nigeria and opened their terrestrial borders for the free movement of persons. Notable borders currently opened for passenger traffic in West Africa include Sèmè Kraké border; Hillacondji-Sanvecondji border; Ouangolodougou- Niangoloko border; Bittou-Cinkansé border; Kidira- Diboli border; Kantchari-Niamey border and Gaya- Malanville border. The COVID-19 cases in these countries remain largely negligible. Migration scholars argue that West Africa is one of the most mobile regions in the world and that there are greater flows within the region than towards the Maghreb or Europe. Continued closure of Ghana’s land borders constitutes a clear and present obstacle to mobility in the region.
- There is more to this comment by Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, Presidential Special Advisor on Health than meets the eyes. The public narrative to the domestic audience, since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, is coined on the belief that individuals with travel history are the causative agents, but nothing could be further from the truth. In Ghana, every policy measure is geared towards the conquest of presidential elections. As the nation looks forwards to the 2024 elections, is there any political motive for keeping the land borders closed until the next government is elected?