Aiming to take the borders around growth prospects away

Out of the 55 countries on the African continent only 13 offer liberal access to other Africans. African passport holders continue to struggle with travelling across the continent as visa regulations are applied strictly.

The current situation

‘African nationals are suffocated by visa policies and regimes, as they make it more difficult to travel across the continent’ – Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) said when interviewed by the New Times following the publication of a recent AfDB report.

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Visa policies – hampering Africa’s development and growth?

The resultant stats produced by the African continent contrast strongly with these on the other continents. Most importantly; intra-continental trade as a percentage of the total trade per country is far lower in Africa than elsewhere.

The conclusion of the report on African visa policies is that the current visa policies restrain “free movement of goods and people in Africa’’.

Evidently visa policy is not the mere challenge to increased intra-continental trade, nevertheless it is convincingly identified as one of the most important aspects in need of improvement to boost African trade opportunities.

Research shows that 80 percent of the African countries still require some sort of compliance and submission of applications beforehand for Africans just to travel to other African countries.

Rwanda is a rare example of an African country with a more liberal visa policy, yielding positive results from the decision to open up.

“There are not a million foreigners swarming the country to stay illegally, it has only made us have more for business. Today you can pick up passengers who are transiting through Kigali and they can stay for a day or two and proceed” – CEO of RwandAir John Mirenge said.

Main problem

Interviewed by the New Times Akinwumi Adesina made further exclusive remarks concerning the implications caused by the visa policies. The complexities and challenges faced by African passport holders wanting to travel across the continent are amongst the most important factors for low levels of intra African trade.

“Intra Africa trade is currently sitting at 11 percent, which is far below the average levels compared to other parts of the world, especially compared to Europe and Asia. Europe is way above by 70 per cent, followed by Asia at 40 per cent’’

Way forward – Long Term

The AfDB president urges that a change is needed, he states that Africa as a continent must “move to the Africa passport that allows Africans to move freely across Africa”.

In order for Africa to improve its current state, it is clear that the continent needs a bigger, integrated market and greater mobility of people, the AfDB president stated.

Amongst the many remedies suggested by Adesina, the one most likely to be achieved in the short term is the introduction of new visa policies which will allow Africans to apply for their visa on arrival.

At present

There are very few African countries clearly utilizing visa policy as a manner to differentiate themselves from potential competitors and creating a competitive advantage. In my view this is a missed opportunity.

For more visa policy stat specifics per country please refer to the original African Development Bank visa report, we have placed it ready to be downloaded at www.ibn.co.za under downloads.

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by Job Feenstra

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