Togo border countries
On 3 November, a new shared border post (elsewhere known as a One-Stop Border Post or OSBP) was opened at Noepe by the presidents of Ghana and Togo. This is one of several OSBPs that have been opened, are under construction or are in the planning within the ECOWAS sub-region. The idea is that instead of duplicating border formalities as vehicles and passengers leave one country and enter the next, these will be dealt with at one facility by officials from both countries working alongside each other. On the Kenya/Uganda border, there are in fact separate buildings on the two sides of the border. The vehicles and passengers approach the building in the country of entry and are dealt with by Immigration, Customs and other departments from both countries. Its still one process, but it happens in two different places. In this case, the facility has been constructed at Noepe, which is fully located inside Togo. The Ghana border post at Akanu will to all intents and purposes become redundant as a result. The complex is vast by comparison with the OSBPs at Malaba and Busia, although I heard some doubts being expressed about whether there was enough space for trucks to park. But the site occupies a large open space where there is ample scope for expansion.
The opening ceremony followed a fairly standard format. There were speeches by representatives of the European Union (who provided the financing) and ECOWAS, interspersed with drumming and dancing by troupes from the two sides of the border. President John Mahama himself made a short speech, but curiously President Faure Gnassingbe did not. The morning finished with a cutting of the ribbon by the two Presidents. The most interesting part of Mahama’s speech was where he openly criticized the extortion of money from passengers and drivers. There is a proliferation of checkpoints in Ghana, but the real extortion is thought to take place in Benin and Togo. This came out very clearly in my interview with transporters and clearing agents at Aflao. I took Mahama’s comments to be a thinly veiled critique of how neighbouring countries talk the language of regional integration, but have a weak commitment to enforcement mechanisms that permit the free flow of people and goods. To quote Mahama (my transcription):
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