Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Stringent Visa policies, a setback to the African Union’s myriad projects

21.05.2019
Article from AFRIC editorial
The visa issue remains a very sensitive topic in Africa. African leaders under the umbrella of the African Union have been advocating for unity or connectivity between African nations, but the unavailability of free visas have made it a nightmare for intra Africa movement or travels, a great setback to trade among nations on the continent.

It is very to find African business tycoons trading to foreign counterparts, than with Africans. This is a worrisome situation.  On the other hand, most European citizens travel freely in and out of the African continent due to the open visa policy of some nations. What is baffling is that the major projects of African leaders gear towards circulation and continental unity. But then, the reality of moving from one country to the other in Africa is still farfetched as stringent policies make it difficult or render the visa application procedure more tedious. This is really frustrating to businessmen, as it hampers the flexibility of their business transactions across African borders. One of Africa’s most renowned entrepreneur Alika Dangote once lamented that fact that he has to obtain at least 38 visas to travel across Africa on his Nigerian passport. As at today, Seychelles and Benin are the only countries in Africa with an open visa policy for all African countries.

The prospect of a visa-free continent by 2018 still in limbo

Some years back, leaders of the backbone organization of the African continent, the African Union adopted a free journey across the continent, waiving visa requirements. However, this seems to have existed only on papers as it is far from being a reality in present-day Africa. The project was initially planned to go operational in 2018, but that dream was not materialised. The visa-free project is among the diverse projects of African leaders coined in what is known as the AU’s “vision and roadmap for the next 50 years”, AU member states unanimously adopted it in 2013. Astonishingly, a recent AU report has indicated that Africa 1.2 billion people can travel without a visa to just 25% of other nations on within the continent. The uncompromising thing about it is that most African nations are geographically interconnected, they are just separated by bridges.

 

A South African blogger Katchie Nzama once said “Our leaders seem to go to ridiculous lengths to preserve and protect the colonial borders,” this is so true because the thought of opening or losing control over borders, is still a difficult thing to do by some African presidents. One reality is that the African Passport won’t have any significant impact if some African countries don’t relax their visa policies. A nation like South Africa, one of the continent’s glowing economies has been cited by many as that nation, where its visa policies favour Europeans than Africans. Notwithstanding,  apart from Seychelles and Benin with 100% open visa policies, some countries procuring a visa from countries such as Rwanda, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Togo, Uganda, Cape Verde, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, among others does not ‘’put you in a jungle.’’

The Republic of South Africa to launch an electronic visa

Mandela’s nation has suffered a lot of criticisms from and without African for having put such stringent visa regimes, however, the Ramaphosa led administration has vowed to soften and make it easier for foreign nationals, academia, and tourists especially within Africa to obtain a South African Visa.  Thus the introduction of an electronic passport. By April 2019, the SA government was expected to launch its e-via. As stated by the minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba, the new visa is being tested in New Zealand to ensure its complete viability. Accentuating on the importance of thee-visa, the minister said foreign visitors will be able to obtain 10-year visas within five days of applying. The e-visa will automatically replace the traditional one, here all applications will be effected online.

Motives for the e-visa program

-To attract potential into the country, at a time the nation is witnessing an economic slowdown

-To boost the tourism industry, thus creating direct and indirect employment. No matter how attractive a nation may be, it scares away tourist if it is not easy to procure a visa. South Africa seeks to record 21 million tourists by 2030, up from 10 million in 2018.

Everything boils down to having a unified Africa, where language, skin colour, currency, culture does not stand as obstacles, but a boost to Africa’s unity, intra Africa trade among other things. The World Bank President Akinwumi Adesina once said, “Regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank.” As at now, Africans don’t require a visa to visit 25% of other African countries as compared to the previous 22%, 24% of Visas on arrival can be obtained and Africans require visas to travel to 51% of other African nations, as opposed to an earlier 54%. This philosophy of togetherness can move Africa to a higher economic position in the nearest future. The Africa aviation single market, one of Africa’s major projects.

Article from AFRIC editorial.

Credit image/google images.

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