Editor’s Note: This article was initially written on Nov. 1. Since then, the ECOWAS held an extraordinary summit on Nov. 6 to push for civilian rule. On Nov. 17, Burkina Faso announced Michael Kafando as interim president. A former foreign minister and UN ambassador, Kafando is expected to oversee transition to elections by Nov. 2015.
The landlocked West-African state of Burkina Faso is facing a major challenge to its changeable development, and its uncertain transition of political power may influence the economic and security interest of Ghana.
Ghana borders Burkina Faso to the north and is heavily dependent on its neighbor for foodstuff and agricultural products like tomatoes. Trade between the two nations has been ongoing since pre-colonial times. There are fears of possible shortage of tomatoes should the unrest drag on.
Data from the Burkinabe Ministry of Commerce showed trade volumes between the two countries have been increasing over the years. This is mainly because of the proximity of Ghana’s Upper East Region to Burkina Faso’s South.
According to the data, Ghana’s imports of grains, fruits and related products from Burkina Faso rose from about GH¢64.25 million (11.49 billion CFA) in 2011 to about GH¢82.63 million in 2012 (14.9 billion CFA). It further indicated that Burkina Faso’s exports to Ghana were valued at GH¢129.12 million (23.3 billion CFA) in 2011 but rose to about GH¢170.2 million (30.72 billion CFA) in 2012 on the back of Ghana’s increased importation of grains, vegetables and fruits, among others, that year.
On the other hand, Ghana’s exports to Burkina Faso were valued at about GH¢175 million (31.58 billion CFA) in 2011 but rose to GH¢274.49 million (49.54 billion CFA) in 2012, according to the data.
The data tells how significant the Burkina Faso market is to the Ghanaian economy and vice versa, as trading partners. That notwithstanding, the fact that Ghana depends on food imports such as grains, vegetables and fruits (basic food products) makes her more vulnerable, and at a losing end should the unrest fest on.
Ghana could also face two security challenges if Burkina Faso’s political situation is not resolved soon. First, the threat of a potential outbreak of Ebola in Ghana would multiply should Burkina Faso succumb to an outbreak. Second, the potential growth of criminal and terror groups closer to our boarders.
According to the World Health Organization, Burkina Faso is at risk for spread of the Ebola outbreak because it shares borders or major transportation connections with the affected countries. So far, Ebola has killed over 4,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Serra Leone.There is also fear of the virus spreading to other West Africa countries through the movement of goods and people. This is where Ghana risks the Ebola outbreak.
In the past, Ghana has been a safe haven for refugees fleeing conflict in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sudan. Should the political situation deteriorate, Ghana might have to open up her borders to an influx of refugees from Burkina Faso.
In recent years, networks of criminal and terror groups have gained ground in the sub-region. If Burkina Faso becomes increasingly unstable, Ouagadougou could become a fertile ground for such groups, especially since ousted Burkina leader Blaise Compaoré has been a key US ally on war against terror.
Luckily for Ghana, the president of the Republic doubles as the ECOWAS chairperson. For now, the president should summon an emergency ECOWAS summit. Burkina Faso should be top of the agenda. Further, the president should activate the ECOWAS Peace and Security Council to deal with any immediate threat.
In essence, Ghana’s outlook is tied to Burkina Faso’s. The former stands to gain should development in Burkina improve and lose should the unrest last long. The coming days will determine how Ghana’s interest is secured particularly with the military’s evolving role and the emerging power faction in Burkina.
Written by Abu Mubarik.Edited by Jemila Abdulai
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Circumspecte.