How Ghana President Akufo-Addo begged Buhari to open Nigeria’s borders

Ghana wants Nigeria to open its borders so badly; and the nation's president says he can't wait for that to happen.

Akufo-Addo and Buhari at the UK-Africa summit in London. Photo by @BashirAhmaad

Nigeria has shuttered its land borders since August of 2019 in a bid to curb smuggling, and Ghana, one of Nigeria’s neighbours, is hemorrhaging economically from the decision.

There’s been a lot of back and forth among Ghana, Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African nations over the closure, but the borders into Africa’s biggest economy have remained shuttered well into the new year.

Akufo-Addo told Buhari that the policy is no longer funny.

“The Nigerian market is significant for certain categories of business people in Ghana,” Akufo-Addo pleaded, adding that Ghana would need “an expedited process” that would lead to the opening of the borders.

In his remarks, President Buhari said the borders had to be shuttered because they had become a gateway for illicit drugs and small arms proliferation.

“When most of the vehicles carrying rice and other food products through our land borders are intercepted, you find cheap hard drugs and small arms under the food products. This has terrible consequences for any country,” Buhari said.

Regretting that the partial border closure is having “negative economic impact on our neighbours,” Buhari said “we cannot leave our country, particularly the youths, endangered.”

The Nigerian leader added that the Sahel region is awash with small arms, which accounts for severe security challenges in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.

“We are in fact the biggest victims,” Buhari said in apparent reference to a decade-long Boko Haram insurgency that has hurt Nigeria so much.

On the time frame for reopening the borders, Buhari said he is waiting for the final report of a committee set up to review the situation.

“We will get things sorted out. Our farmers, especially those who grow rice, now have a market and are happy, and we are also concerned about hard drugs and weapons,” he said.

“Once the committee comes up with its recommendations, we will sit and consider them.”

Buhari’s bilateral meeting with Akufo-Addo held shortly after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Harry hailed the U.K. as an ideal business partner for Africa, as their country prepares for post-Brexit dealings with the world.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020, and the country is desperate for new trade partners in other continents.

According to the U.K.'s department for international trade, the UK’s two-way trade with Africa in the second quarter of 2019 stood at $46 billion. Meanwhile, Africa’s two-way trade with China, the continent’s top trading partner, was $208 billion in 2019.

Last week, the United Nations reported in its annual World Economic Situation and Prospects 2020, that economic growth slowed in all geographic areas except Africa.

According to the U.N, GDP growth in Africa is projected to reach 3.2 percent in 2020 and 3.5 percent in 2021.

25 African countries are projected to achieve economic growth of at least 5 percent in 2020.

Britain, a former colonizer, is well aware that it’s been missing out by not ratcheting up business dealings with Africa, at a time when global powers, including Gulf nations and India, have been increasing their diplomatic and economic presence on the continent.

“We have no divine right to that business," Prime Minister Johnson told African leaders who attended the summit. "This is a competitive world. You have many suitors" — especially China and Russia.

Johnson said the U.K. would become “a global free trading nation” after Brexit.

He also pledged that the post-Brexit immigration system would "put people before passports," acknowledging a common frustration across Africa.

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