A former president of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama has described the total closure of Nigeria’s borders as “unfortunate.”
Speaking at the seventh Realnews Magazine Anniversary Lecture held in Lagos, yesterday, Mahama said the attacks and expulsion of foreigners from South Africa and the border closure in Nigeria were the two biggest blows to the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (ACfTA) pact.
Lamenting 11 per cent intra-African trade, which is far below Africa’s trade with Americas put at 47 per cent, Asia put at 61 per cent, and Europe put at 67 per cent Mahama said sometimes trade within Africa is curtailed because there is just no transport link between them and where the roads exist, they are in many cases so bad that they do not facilitate efficient exchange of goods between them.
“The unilateral closure of the borders since August is a worrying development for the growth of free trade in the ECOWAS sub-region. Off course, one can understand the harmful effects of unbridled smuggling goods on the growth of local production. But it is problematic that sub-regional economic activity and trade should suffer because of domestic institutional weaknesses,” he said.
Mahama, who was also a former Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, said the total closure of, especially, the Benin border is having a significant toll on many small and medium businesses especially in Togo, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire that rely on this inter-country trade even as businesses in Nigeria that rely on supplies from these countries are also suffering.
The Vice President of Islamic Development Bank, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, made a case for tough decisions which demand end to business as usual in Nigeria.
Muhtar said Nigeria would have to invest in health and education to unlock economic growth potential and support diversification through the development of a productive work force.
He advised Nigeria to “pay more attention to the neglected area of technical and vocational education, to impart relevant skills and bridge jobs-skills mismatch; promote science, technology and innovation to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution.”