Artisans at the Arts Centre in Accra, one of Ghana’s top shopping hubs for tourists, are worried that they may record low sales this festive season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to them, the $150 charged travellers for COVID-19 testing at the airport has deterred potential travellers from coming into the country, depriving them of tourists who are their target group.
On 1st September 2020, President Akufo-Addo lifted the ban he placed on air travels in and out of Ghana five months earlier; but made it mandatory for travellers to pay $150 for a rapid COVID-19 test at the Kotoka International Airport, in addition to a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours prior to their travel.
Many have raised concerns about the high cost of the fees, with the latest being the Secretary-General of the African Development Bank Group, Professor Vincent Nmehille.
“What more can you say about integration? The AfCFTA Secretariat is in Ghana. A key aspect of integration outside of the movement of goods is the movement of people. In fact, that brings me to my encounter at the airport that I have to pay $150 to do a COVID-19 test. It was scary for me. That’s going to hamper a lot of free movement and if you ask me it is exorbitant,” Vincent Nmehille
Matilda Prah and other artisans at the Arts Centre say the $150 COVID-19 test fee has prevented tourists from coming into the country; thereby affecting their sales and revenue.
“Nowadays they are not buying anything. People are not coming because it (the coronavirus) has affected all of our work. Every day we come and sit here, pack up and go home. We need people to come and patronize our business. And people that are coming, they are charging them $150, it is too much.”
Murtala Yakubu says he has not experienced the kind of hardship he has gone through this year in his 40 years of trading.
He understands the government’s need to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but hopes the $150 fee charged at the airport will be decreased to help artisans’ cash in on tourists seeking to visit the country this Christmas.
“We are very hungry. Costumers are not coming because of the COVID-19 and the price at the airport is too high. Our businesses rely on tourists. When foreigners come, our income appreciates. Somebody is coming to you and has to pay $150 at the airport. That money is almost GHS700. That’s money, they can use to shop and help two or three people within the country.”
Though relatively young in the business, Issak Ahmed says he and his suppliers from other parts of the continent have been struggling due to the $150 COVID-19 rapid test fee.
“The coronavirus has brought us a lot of problems, especially for us in the arts and crafts space. Tourists are not coming. When they come, we make money. If they don’t, we struggle. We are pleading with government to at least decrease the fee to $50 for the holiday season.”