ECOWAS Leaders Agree to Reopen Land Borders in January 2022

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As 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, leaders of West African countries have agreed to reopen all land borders in the region by January 1, 2022.

In a communiqué signed by all the leaders present, “the Heads of states and government welcomed the reopening of land borders in ECOWAS for the free movement of persons.”

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.

In addition to the closure of borders on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the member states facing security challenges had also tightened security checkpoints within and at the borders of their respective countries.

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The officials estimated that this closure caused a loss of 6.7 per cent of the GDP of ECOWAS States between 2020 and 2021. 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.

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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.

Ghana shut its boders 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.

The border closure also impacted Guinea Conakry and Senegal negatively. 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.

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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.”

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