TRADERS on Ghana’s border with Cote d’Ivoire protested on Thursday for President Nana Akufo-Addo to lift land border closures as the measure to curb Covid-19 infections batters local economies.
The rally in Elubo, west of the capital Accra, was the second border protest this week after traders took to the streets in Aflao town on the frontier with Togo.
The country that shares borders with Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo has had restrictions on frontier crossings in place for more than a year aimed at stopping infections of the coronavirus.
Only cargo traffic is allowed over the borders.
Clad in red and black, protesters in Elubo sang, beat drums and waved banners, one reading ‘Our businesses are collapsing,’ before handing over a petition to a local official to give to the presidency.
‘We’re pleading with the president to do something. Within two weeks something must be done,’ said opposition lawmaker Dorcas Affo-Toffey.
‘Why open the main airport and keep the land borders shut? We can put in place proper measures to control Covid-19 at the land borders too.’
Ernest Kwoffi, the local government representative, said the measures were needed to control the coronavirus but promised to forward the petition.
The presidency has said it is piloting a virus testing system that if successful will allow officials to lift the border controls.
Economic troubles are a key concern for many Ghanaians as the country struggles with the impact of the global pandemic, new taxes and an increase in fuel prices that has had a knock-on effect on consumer goods.
Akufo-Addo won a second term in December, but gained only a small majority in parliament.
He has since been under pressure from opponents as Ghana struggles with economic troubles amplified by the pandemic.
‘We’ve collected loans from banks and we can’t pay. Everything has fallen apart,’ said local trader Vida Mintah. ‘How do we take care of our children when the borders are closed and we can’t trade?’
More than 119,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Ghana, a poor country of 30 million people, since the pandemic began and just over 1,000 people have died, although the true figure is believed to be higher because of a lack of testing.
Neighbouring Togo has also struggled with border controls for the virus. Cross-frontier trade is key for a small, agriculture-based economy like Togo’s, with trade coming from West African states like Ghana, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire.