Ghana and South Africa have roundly opposed COVID-19 travel ban placed on some African countries after South African scientists sequenced and recorded the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The two countries said the attempts to single out African countries for the imposition of travel bans, as instruments of immigration control, were highly regrettable given the fact that the variant was discovered initially in the Netherlands and not in Africa.
The United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union have barred entry to travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Egypt, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria, following the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in those countries.
At a joint media briefing at the Jubilee House on Saturday in Accra, after bilateral talks by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is on a two-day visit to Ghana, the two leaders called for the bans to be lifted immediately.
“We repeat our firm opposition to all attempts to single out African countries for the imposition of travel bans as instruments of immigration control when we are told, for example, that the omicron variant of COVID-19, which was recently sequenced and reported by South African scientists, was discovered much earlier in the Netherlands,” said President Akufo-Addo said.
The President insisted that, “Those scientists should be applauded by the world and not be the object of condemnation and travel bans.”
He reiterated Ghana’s unflinching support to South Africa and all other African countries in the common search for an end to the pandemic.
President Ramaphosa said the travel ban was a “slap in the face of not just South Africa but African excellence in scientific endeavor.”
“It was African Scientist who detected this variant and who alerted the world to it. Instead of the world applauding the scientific excellence of an African country, they have decided that they should punish the country where these excellences emanated from.
“It was African scientific expertise particularly in genomic sequencing that brought it to the world’s attention. Now this arbitrary travel restrictions are already causing substantial damage to the economies in our region SADC, particularly those countries that are most reliant on tourism.
“This is an imposition of apartheid measure against countries in southern Africa,” he emphasised.
President Ramaphosa said: “We are standing together, as a united front as we have done from the outset of this pandemic.”
The South African Leader said Africa distinguished itself in the way it responded to the pandemic in a united way, saying,
“In a united voice, we crafted our strategy to deal with the pandemic and we went on further to put together a platform for medical supplies as well as a platform for the acquisition of vaccines.
“We are driving the health recovery of our continent because we want our continent to be open for business, not to be closed down by travel bans…We are part of driving Africa’s recovery not wanting to hold Africa back,” he said.
The South African President’s visit to Ghana is to re-affirm the ties of co-operation and the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
President Akufo-Addo and his South African counterpart discussed at length, how to boost further political and economic relations, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as co-operation at the continental and multilateral levels.
Their deliberations also centred on driving investment opportunities, domestic and foreign, into both countries, the realisation of the 17 SDGs, and the need for enhanced co-operation and partnership in the areas of education, trade and industry, agriculture, defence co-operation, immigration, environment, science and technology, petroleum and hydrocarbon activities, and tourism.
Whilst thanking President Ramaphosa and South Africa for supporting Ghana’s bid for the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, President Akufo-Addo stressed that, “Ghana will make sure that Africa’s voice is heard loud and clear in the deliberations of the Security Council, both on matters affecting the continent and on global issues, and we will consult broadly to define Africa’s interests.”
“With the continent confronted by multiple threats to the territorial integrity of some of its states, and many of its civilian populations being put under serious threat, President Ramaphosa and I, agreed that now is not the time for the Security Council to reduce its peacekeeping mandates on the continent,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo applauded President Ramaphosa for his efforts at Consolidating the peace in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with the ongoing SADC mission to crush the violent insurgency in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, in which South African troops were playing a leading role.
“We, in ECOWAS, have much to learn from this, in our own fight against the terrorist threat in the Sahel. President Ramaphosa expressed great interest in this fight, and pledged the support of SADC to ECOWAS within the context of the AU,” he said.
Such co-operation, he added, between regional bodies, was important to rid the continent of all the anti-democratic elements that had surfaced and seeking to destabilise and threaten the peace and security of Africa, and compromise the efforts at realising “The Africa we Want”, as enshrined in AU Agenda 2063.
The President said Ghana was determined to deepen her democratic governance, strengthen her institutions of accountability, and put her economy on a strong platform for rapid development.
“The vision remains that of a Ghana Beyond Aid, a self-reliant Ghana that has freed herself from a mindset of dependence, aid, charity and handouts, and is determined to make intelligent, disciplined use of her considerable resources the basis for her growth and prosperity.”
He reassured President Ramaphosa that Ghana would continue to collaborate with South Africa to find solutions to challenges such as the eradication of widespread poverty, elimination of irregular migration, insecurity and human rights violations, terrorism and violent extremism, human and drug trafficking, piracy, as well as climate change and its attendant, negative impact on the environment and livelihoods.
To consolidate relations between the two countries, four agreements on immigration, gender, agriculture and transport were signed during bilateral exchanges, with commitments to explore areas of new economic, trade and investment cooperation, especially in Ghana’s key sectors such as road, railway infrastructure, mining, energy, manufacturing as well as Agro processing.
The two countries also inaugurated the Bi-National Commission to replace the Presidential Joint Cooperation Commission that has to date, facilitated engagement between the two countries.