Published May 7th, 2020 - written by: Katrin Gänsler

Persuading people not to migrate

Basic data

Before its independence from the UK in 1957 Ghana was known as the Gold Coast. The capital is Accra. Other large cities are Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi and Cape Coast. Ghana shares borders with the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Togo. Today, 29.8 million people live in the country, of which 56.4% are under the age of 25. The average age is 21.2 years. The largest ethnic group are the Akan. Almost 72% of the population identifies as Christian. English is the official language; in addition, 80 other languages are spoken. The literacy rate is 71%.

Government, economy and conflicts

On March 6, 1957 Ghana was the first British colony to gain independence. To this day Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and representative of Pan-Africanism, is regarded highly in the region. After a period of government changes and coups, the fourth republic was established in 1993. Today Ghana is a presidential republic elected through majority voting rights. The parliament has 275 seats. Since December 2016 Nana Akufo-Addo has been the head of state and government. He prevailed against the incumbent John Mahama. The political landscape is essentially dominated by two parties, Akufo-Addo’s party called the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Time and again critics note that all political influence is in the hands of a few families who have ruled the country for decades. Reporters Without Borders lists the country in 27th place in their international comparison of press freedom.

In the United Nations Development Index, Ghana ranks 140th out of 188 and thus comparably high amongst African countries. Since November 2010, the World Bank has assessed Ghana as a middle income country (MIC). Just one month later, Ghana began to produce offshore oil from Jubilee Field, which had been discovered three years earlier. At the time, the government hoped that oil production would provide the country with economic growth of up to 12%. Young, well-educated university graduates in particular hoped for well-paying jobs. However, 2015 demonstrated that oil production is no guarantee of economic stability, when a recession hit Ghana. Compared to 2013, gross domestic product (GDP) fell by more than 14 billion US dollars. In 2018, the GDP was $65.5 billion. Due to the opening of a new oil field, finance minister Ken Ofor-Atta predicted in September 2019 that by 2023 up to 420,000 barrels per day could be produced. The service sector, with 57.2%, is the strongest contributor to the economy, followed by industry (24.5%) and agriculture (18.3%). Remittances from migrants amounted to $3.8 billion in 2018, accounting for 7.3% of GDP. Ghana is ranked 78th out of 180 in the Transparency International corruption index.

Ghana is considered politically stable. Due to developments in Burkina Faso, however, the country is on high alert for possible terrorist attacks.

Migration movements

Ghana is a migration destination country within the region of West Africa. The United Nations estimates that more than 1.8 million migrants made up 6.5% of Ghana’s population in 2010, while other organizations estimate this number of migrants to be half a million or fewer.

The largest group of migrants are Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) citizens, in particular Nigerians, who make up 20% of migrants. Ghanaian universities are popular among Nigerian students. Compared to Nigeria, university studies are not interrupted by long strikes, allowing for the completion of the degree within the foreseen time. In the 1970s the situation was reversed when hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians moved to Nigeria to work, of which up to one million were deported again in 1983. With the crisis in Libya, at least 18,000 Ghanaians have returned from Libya due to the lack of security and economic prospects. Since the end of 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has flown back more than 1,000 Ghanaians from Libya.

Refugees are registered with the Ghana Refugee Board. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), a total of 11,981 refugees lived in Ghana in August 2019, more than half of them from the Ivory Coast. In 2002, the Citizenship Act came into force, which regulates inter alia, dual citizenship. In 2016, the Ministry of Interior’s Migration Unit finalized the country’s first national migration policy.

According to the EU’s assessment, around 857,600 Ghanaians lived abroad in 2018, of which 247,300 lived in the EU. In 2014, 120,000 of them had a residence permit, most often in the UK, Italy and Germany. In 2018 it was estimated that 4,200 Ghanaians lived without a legal permit in Germany. In 2017, 5,030 Ghanaians in the EU were issued an expulsion order due to a lack of valid documents. The return rate was 18%. In 2016, 10,851 Ghanaians were granted citizenship in EU countries. Furthermore, more than 229,000 Ghanaian migrants live in Nigeria, and 158,481 live in the United States of America.

The number of Ghanaians applying for asylum has been declining for several years. In 2018, 3,920 applications were submitted worldwide with an acceptance rate of 3.3%. In comparison, in 2015 there were 8,858 applications filed. Most asylum applications were filed in Italy in 2018, followed by Germany with 863 applications. The admission rate in Germany was 1.8%. Germany, like several EU countries, classifies Ghana as a safe country of origin.

For Ghanaians, it is complicated to obtain a visa for the Schengen area. According to the 2014 Frontex report, 20,000 visas were issued, but 38% of applications were rejected. According to EU information, 31,987 applications for Schengen visas were filed in 2017, of which 19,606 were approved. The rejection rate amounted to 37.1%. Since mid-2015 the number of applications has been increasing.

EU engagement and cooperation

A “Memorandum of Understanding” has existed between Ghana and Spain since 2005. This includes social, economic and political cooperation and cooperation with regard to migration. In this context, 5,000 Ghanaians have been granted a residence permit in Spain. Another memorandum was signed in 2010 between Ghana and Italy. A third is currently being negotiated with the EU.

In December 2017, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened a migration advice center in Accra to provide information on job and training opportunities across Ghana. Ghana is one of the seven countries selected for a partnership under the “Compact with Africa” initiative of the German G20 presidency.

Ghana is to receive 31 million euros for the areas of job creation and social security from the eleventh European Development Fund (EDF). The agriculture sector will receive 161 million euros. Another six million euros are planned for municipal projects and for supporting civil society. The goal is to support economic development at the local level and to create jobs.

The EU, IOM, the Ghanaian Immigration Service (GIS), and the Regional Council of Brong Ahafo, a region in Central Ghana, launched Ghana’s migration management program, Ghana Integrated Migration Management Approach (GIMMA) in February 2016. The centerpiece is the Migration Information Center (MIC), which aims to provide “neutral information”. To this end, three million euros were allocated in the tenth European Development Fund. Among other things, there are campaigns to warn against irregular migration. They are aimed primarily at young people, as every third migrant who has returned from Libya was still in school.

Ghana has signed the following agreements: the Refugee Convention (1963), the Refugee Protocol (1968), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), the UN Migrant Workers Convention (2000), the Human Trafficking Protocol (2012), and the Migrant Smuggling Protocol (2012).

As part of the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC), there is cooperation with Frontex. In January 2019 Frontex launched a risk analysis cell (“Risk Analysis Cell”).

NGOs and civil society

Public debates in Ghana often focus on migration, including the receipt of an education abroad. According to an Afribarometer poll in 2019, 41% of Ghanaians are thinking of leaving their country and 20% think about it “very often”. The lack of prospects to find a job or to find only a poorly paid job is a prevalent reason. Youth unemployment is between 25 and 50%, although reliable numbers are not available. Young people also often complain that they have little chance of obtaining a visa for Europe and that their applications are often denied.

Information events repeatedly warn against undocumented migration. In addition to panel discussions, sometimes theater plays are performed to reach people in rural areas.

Economic interests and armaments

In the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, Ghana ranks 118th and has remained fairly stable compared to previous years. Germany has a great interest in Ghana as a trading partner, particularly in the sales market. According to the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German development agency, Ghana is one of the “most accessible markets in sub-Saharan Africa” and is praised as an African model of success. It is considered one of the most important trading partners for Germany in Africa with a bilateral trade volume of 481 million Euros in 2017. This increased by 25% the following year, to 630 million Euros. According to information from the Foreign Office, Germany is the market leader in Ghanaian vehicle importation. Machinery and chemical products are also imported. The initiative “Compact with Africa” equally praises Ghana as a business and investment location.

Although arms exports to Ghana have been low over the past 20 years, in 2012 two armoured patrol boats were delivered, worth 31.8 million Euros.

Migration in numbers

2018: 3,920 asylum applications (worldwide), admission rate 3.3%

2018: 863 asylum applications (Germany), admission rate 1.8%

2018: approximately 4,200 Ghanaians in Germany without a residence permit

2019: 11,981 refugees in Ghana

2019: between 500,000 and 1.8 million migrants in Ghana, about two-thirds of them from ECOWAS countries

2018: Remittances of US$3.8 billion, 7.3% of GDP

Informal Agreements related to Migration with Italy “Memorandum of Understanding” (2010); with Spain “Memorandum of Understanding” (2005)

Formal readmission agreements with EU, Italy, Spain

Frontex cooperation via African Intelligence Community

Materials and sources

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