“The unilateral closure of the Nigeria border since August is a very worrying development for the growth of free trade in the ECOWAS sub-region. One can understand the harmful effects of the unbridled smuggling of 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 stated.Former President Mahama said this in a lecture at the seventh Realnews Magazine Anniversary in Lagos, Nigeria, last Tuesday.
He spoke on the topic: “Beyond Politics: An economic narrative for West Africa.”
Former President Mahama called on the Nigerian government to invest in strengthening its institutions and systems that were responsible for checking the importation of illegal or prohibited goods.
“The total closure of, especially the Benin border, is having a toll on many small-scale and medium enterprises (SMEs) particularly in Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire that rely on inter-country trade for survival. Businesses in Nigeria that also rely on supplies from this area are also suffering.”
“With the signing of the joint task force agreement between Nigeria and her neighbours, I want to appeal to Nigeria to open up its borders so that economic activities can resume,” he implored the Nigerian authorities.
Nigeria closed its borders to imported goods in August this year declaring that the time had come to end rampant smuggling across the porous frontiers.
The closure has had a devastating effect on Benin, Ghana and other countries and will continue until January 2020.
Ghana and Nigeria have held meetings to negotiate the reopening of the border but have yielded no positive results.
Former President Mahama stressed the need for West African countries to aggressively position their economies for growth in order to provide more employment avenues for the growing populations.
That, he said, called for a change in existing economic models and paradigms, stressing, “Africa with its urbanising population must look more to developing its service and digital economies faster. This sector of the economy, if nurtured, is prone to fast growth and can provide employment for millions of young Africans coming out of school.”
He said great potential for growth also existed in tourism, the creative industry, ICT and financial services.
He said in Ghana, just as in Nigeria and other African countries, the services sector had overtaken agriculture as the largest and fastest growing sector of the economy.
“We must change our model of being producers of raw commodities. Africa’s gold must reach the rest of the world as valuable jewellery, her oil must arrive as petroleum products, her timber as furniture, her cocoa as chocolates, bauxite as aluminium and copper as semi-conductor parts.
“Value addition and processing will provide more wealth for African economies and millions of jobs for our young people.”
To achieve this, Africa must invest in making power more available for domestic, industrial and agricultural use.
He said while Africa could not follow the model of the past industrial revolutions that had polluted and threatened the very existence of the planet, cleaner forms of energy, including gas-fired thermal, hydro, solar and wind energy, were areas to aggressively invest in.