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Opinion: Nigerian traders and Ghana’s hypocrisy on African free trade

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (right) and some of other dignitaries in front of the new Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Accra, 17 August 2020/Photo: TPRG

 

A diplomatic row is brewing between Ghana and Nigeria, both members of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS ), on a Ghanaian law that requires foreign retailers to invest at least $1 million if they want to do business in the country. Femi Akomolafe, book author and newspaper columnist, comments on the lingering harassment of Nigerian retail traders in Ghana, who say they’re the target of the law, and he poses important questions on the burning issue

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On 17 August 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana commissioned and handed over the secretariat that his government donated to house the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to the African Union Commission in Accra.

As usual, the president made lofty pronouncements.

“…The pandemic has heightened the importance of the success of the AfCFTA. The disruption of global supply chains has reinforced the necessity for closer integration amongst us, so that we can boost our mutual self-sufficiency, strengthen our economies, and reduce our dependence on external sources,” he said.

Very well said, Mr President.

READ ALSO Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo commissions Africa Trade House in Accra

If only African leaders would stop all the vapid TALK and start DOING the things they promise to do.

ECOWAS was established in 1975 to, among, other things, facilitate the movement of people and goods and boost trade among the member states. Forty-five years later, citizens still endure a nightmare to transport themselves and their goods across the colonial borders that were created to benefit European colonial powers.

Nigerian traders protesting the closure of their shops by Ghanaian authorities in Accra/Photo: Screenshot/GhanaWebTV

 

While the Europeans have removed all the barriers between their states, we continue to maintain them at a huge cost in terms of salaries and emoluments and whatnot to insanely corrupt customs and immigration officials who only thwart the efforts of our own people to freely trade among themselves the ways their forebears did before Europeans violently intruded into our space.

It baffles greatly that none of the media practitioners that listened to the Ghanaian President delivered his speech bothered to ask him the simple question of why he and his officials kept/keep silent as some xenophobic Ghanaians continue with their harassment of Nigerian traders in Ghana.

How did a leader seek and got the approval to set up AFCTA secretariat in his country and look unconcerned as some of his citizens continue to attack citizens of the largest economy on the continent?

Anyone who is not blind can see how Lebanese, Syrians and Chinese openly engage in retail trading in Ghanaian markets. Many of the shops at the High Streets and around the Post Office in Accra are owned by Asians and non-Africans. Why are the super-patriotic Ghanaians not harassing them but keep on venting their anger against Nigerians?

Anyone who has travelled around West Africa as I have done will see the ease with which ordinary Africans relate and trade among themselves. All the Grand Marches that I visited in former French colonies in the region reflect the diversity and the unity of our people. There are markets in Agege in Lagos where Akan is the lingua franca; Ghanaians trade easily and openly without molestation.

It saddens greatly that we remain our own worst enemies! It is also a great shame that we appear incapable of learning any lesson from history.

How could people forget that 1967, when Nigerian residents were sent packing in Ghana, led to 1983, when Ghanaians in Nigeria were asked to return to their country?

Three important questions here:
1. Why is President Akufo-Addo and his government allowing the nonsense to continue?
2. Why the deliberate provocation of Nigeria?
3. Why are those Ghanaians who ought to know better not raising their voices to condemn this provocation so that things will not degenerate?

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