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16.06.2020 Opinion

Covid-19 And Border Management

By Bright Senam GOWONU
Covid-19 And Border Management
LISTEN JUN 16, 2020

Governments in West Africa are gradually but steadily easing restrictions and lifting lockdowns imposed following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government of Ghana, for example, has significantly eased restrictions to enable its citizens resume social and economic activities as citizens ‘learn to live with the Covid-19’ while waiting for development of effective treatments and vaccines.

During President Nana Akufo-Addo-Addo's 10th National Broadcast, houses of worship, government workers, informal traders, transport services, etc. were allowed, to recommence their businesses with specific numbers.

Despite this shift, borders remain closed ‘indefinitely’ to migration and free movement of persons and the impact to sectors limited by this can be felt. So far, the government has not consider those whose professions and livelihoods require cross border trade or activity. Ghanaians working in international development and regional cooperation (e.g West Africa), the informal sector, agriculture and agribusiness and communities close to our borders are greatly affected.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the economic livelihoods of about 80% of the people in the Ketu North and Ketu South in the Volta region, for instance, depend on the ASIGAME market in Lome, Togo. How long will these affected populations stay home and go hungry while their counterparts in the civil service go to work daily and get paid?

With the EU Commission planning to open all borders in their zone for free movement of people by July 1, some are eager to hear ECOWAS Commission's plans for the reopening of borders within the ECOWAS Community. How long will national governments keep their borders closed whilst intra-regional trade and movement are negatively impacted? Will the Inter Ministerial Steering Committee on Migration begin to outline guidelines to regulate regular movements across the land borders in the interim?

With the onset of the rainy season in West Africa, heavy rainfalls signal the beginning of planting seasons and the cultivation of staple foods meant for consumption in the dry season. This is the time that labour force are expected to migrate from the Sahelian countries to the South to provide and offer services in the farms across the region. The continued closure of the land borders remain, this will have some impactful negative unintended consequences on agriculture production this year.

There is an urgent need for an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State to thoroughly deliberate and adopt a common roadmap to reopening land borders for controlled movement and migration. We must remember that food insecurity can be as equally deadly as this pandemic.

By Bright Senam GOWONU,
Migration Expert.

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