The Heads of states and government welcomed the reopening of land borders in ECOWAS for the free movement of persons.”
Leaders of West African countries have agreed to the reopening of all land borders in the region by January 1, 2022. They also welcomed the reopening of already opened borders.
This was part of the resolutions reached at the 60th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held in Abuja on Sunday.
“The Heads of states and government welcomed the reopening of land borders in ECOWAS for the free movement of persons,” the leaders said in a communique.
At a virtual meeting of sectoral ministers, the reopening of the borders was recommended based on the economic effect the closure has had on the economy of the region.
They noted at the meeting that in addition to the closure of borders on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the member states facing security crisis had also tightened security checkpoints within and at the borders of their respective countries.
This resulted in a loss of 6.7 per cent of the GDP of ECOWAS States between 2020 and 2021, the officials estimated. This corresponds to about $50 billion.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement,
Tei Konzi, said the reopening of borders for economic recovery “has now become a fundamental issue as the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 in West Africa adversely impacted the volume of trade and mobility of persons.”
“The hasty closure of borders in a bid to tackle the pandemic suspended the implementation of community integration texts on the free movement of persons and goods.”
Some ECOWAS member states shut their borders two years ago for different reasons including to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Ghana shut her bodies in the wake of the pandemic. The border closure in Ghana led to protests by traders (in Elubo West and Aflao town) who lamented the effect on their businesses.
Nigeria had in 2019 shut its land borders due to the smuggling of illegal drugs, arms and agricultural products. It reopened four borders in 2020. Recently, 11 members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives sponsored a motion, seeking to reopen all the borders.
Also, the border closure between Guinea Conakry and Senegal is said to have had a negative impact on the collection of revenue in the Upper River Region.
The West African leaders, at their meeting, also urged member states to implement the adopted ECOWAS guidelines on harmonisation and facilitation of cross border trade and transport and mitigation of health sin the ECOWAS region as it relates to COVID-19.
They also urged members to “enhance the coordination, collaboration and cooperation through border agencies among member states sharing contiguous borders.”
They called on member states to “Adopt mutual recognition of PCR test at borders; harmonise the validity period of test results in member states and provide equipment and facilities at all points of entry.”
They welcomed the upcoming ministerial meeting of concerned member states led by the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Kabore, on the obstacles affecting intra-community trade on the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor.