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Would an Africa where Africans require no visas to travel boost prospects for trade?

On January 10, 2018 / by Sherone Lewis / Leave a comment

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Would an Africa in which Africans require no visas to travel boost prospects for intra-continental trade? Many of the continent’s economic organisations think so and want it to be a reality by 2020. It is not an entirely original concept (the EU already has a visa-free policy for its citizens), and many experts laud the AU’s position, at least in principle

The idea of an African passport dates back a quarter of a century but has failed to catch on with countries because of the fear of an increase in smuggling, illegal immigration, terrorism, and the spread of disease as well as a negative impact on local job markets. With migration, legal and illegal, blamed for recent outbreaks of xenophobia in South Africa, some of these fears seem credible

Growing and large economies worry about the impact that increased population movements might have on labour markets and cities. Some of Africa’s fast-growing economies are Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Senegal and Tanzania. Out of desperation, thousands of immigrants travel to South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, to find work

In November 2017, after 15 years of negotiations, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (Cemac), comprising of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, ratified the visa-free movement of its citizens. The next best thing to a visa-free system is visas on arrival, which may include authorisation to stay for up to 90 days

An alternative to adopting visa-free access or visas on arrival is for countries to enter into reciprocal arrangements with other nations. Namibian authorities are making efforts to finalise such arrangements, meaning that citizens of countries allowing Namibians visas on arrival will receive reciprocal service at Namibian ports of entry

Jean-Guy Afrika, AfDB’s principal policy expert and a contributor to the Africa Visa Openness Report 2017, recommended other reforms and massive investments in connectivity to complement visa liberalisation, citing Rwanda as an example of a country benefiting from co-ordinated investments and policy reforms, including in business and air transport infrastructure

He concluded that visa openness may only be one piece of the interconnected African states puzzle, but it is nonetheless a very important one

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