Dean of the Business School of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) Professor John Gatsi, has questioned the rationale behind the persistent closure of the land borders of Ghana, leaving resident communities there in worse economic conditions.
He made this statement in an interview with Berla Mundi on the New Day show on TV3, Wednesday, May 12.
Prof Gatsi was speaking on the back of the land and sea borders of the country closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resulting in worsening the economic conditions of the residents of the border communities, with many moving into other countries like the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and others, paying as little as GHC 15 for security officials to enable them ply the border to do business in neighboring countries to fend for their livelihoods.
He said “the main purpose(of closing the border) has to do with ensuring that we protect our citizens in terms of their health but beyond health we have livelihoods. And I do not think that the closure of the borders for a long time has actually contributed positively to the livelihood of these communities. So that is the first point, and I also think we need to be reviewing and evaluating the policies put in place from time to time. You recall that markets were closed during the pandemic, after some evaluation we opened the markets, now if we understand the way our markets operate, Makola and others, we should quickly understand that, opening the markets we are putting pressure on cross border trade.
“Because most of the things that they sell in the markets, especially when it comes to the fabrics, clothes and others, they cross the border, some go to Togo, some go to Benin, some go to Nigeria to bring these items to our markets. So the opening of the market itself has put pressure on cross border trading or activities. So you cannot say that you open the markets but you are not going to provide some leeway for traders in the markets to cross the border to go and bring their wares to the markets. That becomes counterproductive, so it means that we have not evaluated the effects of the policy changes from time to time very well”.
Prof Gatsi went on to assert that “there is no reason why you want to open the markets in the country and you are finding it difficult to open the borders for people to freely cross and engage in their trade or transactions. Then again, the government itself is aware that cross border trade, especially the informal cross border trade is going on in a very brisk manner. Why do I say so? I think recently we were told that armed robbers were harassing traders who go to Burkina Faso to bring tomatoes and others, to sell and they were openly calling on the government of Ghana to provide them security from the IGP and that was provided. Why didn’t the IGP say they will not provide security because the borders were supposed to be closed?
“So it’s like we know the truth but I don’t know what we gain from maintaining the closure of the borders up to this time when in reality we ourselves accept the fact that people should go through the unapproved roots to Togo, just as I told you people are going to Burkina Faso. And of course, by now we should also assess and agree that it has also affected revenue negatively, it has also affected the contribution of cross border trade to our GDP. Because most of the things now taking place are under what we call the shadow economy or the black market system, that is what is happening right now. So you are likely to lose revenue, it doesn’t mean the traders are not paying but they will be paying to the immigration officers and individuals”.
He further pointed out that reports reaching him by close individuals indicate that the border patrol is very lucrative for immigration and customs officers because traders are paying a pittance of GHC 10 or GHC 15 to cross the borders to do business in neighboring markets.
“So we are losing revenue by this measure, I believe we have been told that the best solution to COVID-19 is to be aware that you need to keep certain protocols. Is it not possible to institute the protocols where people cross the border to and fro to engage in their economic activities?” he wondered.