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Africans call for visa-free Africa

Namibia last week scrapped off visa requirements for diplomatic and official passport holders, a development which was erroneously reported in the media and shared widely on social media. Namibia’s visa exemptions do not apply to all Africans as previously reported, but the interest the issue has raised is a bold reminder for African countries to timeously and expediently open their borders to ease trade and the free movement of citizens.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa July 15, 2012. Photo: Reuters

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa July 15, 2012. Photo: Reuters

Namibia last week scrapped off visa requirements for diplomatic and official passport holders, a development which was erroneously reported in the media and shared widely on social media. The new visa exemptions do not apply to all Africans as previously reported and celebrated, yet the interest the issue raised is a bold reminder for African countries to timeously and expediently open their borders to ease trade and the free movement of citizens.

Many African citizens bemoan the arduous process of obtaining a visa and going through the immigration rigmarole.

Against the backdrop of unpleasant visa experiences, the voices calling for a more integrated, open and  visa-free continent are getting louder.

Ghana recently introduced a visa-on-arrival policy, which allows citizens of African Union (AU) member states to visit the country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to thirty days. However, disappointingly other countries have been rather lethargic in implementing similar policies.

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Read: Africans applaud Ghana’s visa-on-arrival policy

While Presidents and heads of governments of AU member countries are expected to be givenAfrican passports in July, a laudable development, the visa policies of most African states remain restrictive, and the countries inaccessible.

The recently launched Africa Visa Openness Index, a guide by the African Development Bank (AfDB) reveals how Africa remains largely closed off to African citizens.

According to AfDB, “on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries, can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries and don’t need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent”.

AfDB recommends that  African countries should promote more visa-free regional blocs, push for greater reciprocity, and introduce more visa on arrival policies for Africans.

The AU has urged member states to champion the  visa on arrival initiative, identified as “critical to facilitating and encourage intra-African trade and investments, as well as tourism. With a growing middle class, we must encourage intra – Africa tourism”.

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Written by PH

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