African nations pushing for visa reforms

A new report reveals that policymakers across Africa are trying to make it easier for African businessmen and women, investors, students and tourists to travel.

African nations are pushing for visa reforms.
There is growing momentum across Africa for greater integration among countries over visa reform, signalling that policymakers across the continent are pushing for reform, according to a new report.The 2019 Africa Visa Openness Index, published by the African Union Commission and African Development Bank, says that the progress on visa reforms reflects the fact that policymakers across the continent are pushing for reforms to make it easier for African businessmen and women, investors, students and tourists to travel.

Africa encourages free movement of people

Although the concessions do not, as yet, apply to nationals from outside the continent, the fourth edition of the index showed that 47 countries had improved or maintained their visa openness scores in 2019.African visitors no longer needed a visa to travel to a quarter of other African countries, compared to only a fifth three years ago.Additionally, the report said that 21 African countries also offered eVisas to make travel more accessible – up from 16 in 2018, 13 in 2017, and only nine in 2016.Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, says, “Our work on the Africa Visa Openness Index continues to monitor how Africa is doing on free movement of people."Progress is being made, but much still needs to be done. To integrate Africa, we should bring down the walls. The free movement of people, and especially labour mobility, are crucial for promoting investments.”

Foreign direct investment aids visa openness

The 2019 top performers on visa openness also ranked among the top countries for foreign direct investment in Africa, benefiting from high levels of growth, including in tourism. The index showed that the Seychelles and Benin remained the main two countries on visa openness on the continent. Meanwhile, Ethiopia moved up a record 32 places and entered the top 20 most visa-open countries in Africa.Moussa Faki Mahamat, who chairs the African Union Commission, says, “It cannot be stressed enough how crucial integration is for the development of the continent and the fulfilment of its people’s aspiration to wellbeing."I congratulate those member states that have taken measures to ease the procedures for the entry of African nationals into their territories and urge those that have not yet done so to join this growing momentum.”

Potential for intra-regional tourism, trade and investment

The creation of the Visa Openness Index is said to have inspired reforms in more than ten African nations, including Ghana, Benin, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Kenya, unlocking potential for the promotion of intra-regional tourism, trade and investment.However, despite the gains shown in the report, there are still only 26 per cent of Africans able to get visas on arrival in other African countries – an increase of only one per cent over the past three years."Countries need to make more progress on visa regimes, including introducing visas-on-arrival," comments AllAfrica.com. "By breaking down borders, Africa will be able to capitalise on gains from regional integration initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Single African Air Transport Market, and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons."

For more news and features, visit our dedicated Africa section.

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