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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 10th September 2020

Ghana and Nigeria trade row

Blue Lines

As President Nana Akufo-Addo becomes chairman of the Economic Community of West African States and the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area prepares to start operations in Accra, it's a bad time for Ghana to get into a trade row with Nigeria.

The roots of the current froideur are in Nigeria's closure of all its land borders a year ago, which has slowed trade along the West African seaboard, with some Ghanaian companies blaming the move for production cuts and bankruptcies. Ghana sympathised with Nigeria's immediate neighbours – Benin, Niger and Cameroon – which argued the border closure defied the single-market principle of Ecowas. In January, Akufo-Addo proposed negotiations but these made little progress against the economic pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

A few months later, a bizarre incident in which a land dispute resulted in a private contractor demolishing a building in Nigeria's diplomatic compound in Accra further poisoned relations. That amplified longer-held grievances by Nigerian traders in Ghana, which forbids all foreign nationals from operating retail businesses unless they invest US$1 million in the country, a sum beyond the means of most Nigerian traders. As tensions grew, more Nigerian businesses have been closed down in Ghana. Some traders fear that getting tough with big brother Nigeria could become an issue in Ghana's elections in December, militating against an early settlement.