On Monday, Ghana commenced a scheme for the issuance of visas-on-arrival for nationals of all African Union (AU) member countries. The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) says citizens from AU member nations that do not have a preexisting visa-free agreement with Ghana can now apply for a visa when they land.
GIS spokesman Francis Palmdeti said in an official statement that the new visa policy would be launched in a pilot scheme at Kotoka International Airport in Accra for three months. Afterwards, the scheme is expected to be extended to all other entry points (land, sea, and air) in Ghana.
Mr. Palmdeti then outlined a list of conditions by which AU travellers may qualify to be issued a visa-on-arrival:
“All AU nationals affected by this policy who arrive in the country must have a passport valid for at least three months from the date of entry; they must have a return ticket or evidence of onward travel.
“Travellers must show evidence of sufficient funds and proof of accommodation before they are granted visas.’
“All such visas would be issued for validity of 30 days; they would be subject to the provisions of Section 4 of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) which applies to all travellers entering Ghana,” he explained.
In his State of the Nation address to parliament last February, Ghana’s President John Mahama introduced the visa-on-arrival policy, linking it to a resolution reached at the executive council meeting of the African Union. With its pilot scheme now underway, Ghana becomes the first AU member state to adopt and implement the visa-on-arrival policy before the AU showcases its new electronic “All-Africa” passport at a summit in Rwanda later this month. The passports, which will grant the bearers visa-free access to all 54 AU member states, will first “be issued to heads of state and senior officials. The Union aims to distribute them to all African citizens by 2018,” reports CNN.
Ghana has a history of very committed and active Pan-Africanism – the movement or call for closer cooperation between all peoples of African descent. The tireless efforts of Ghana’s first president and foremost nationalist Kwame Nkrumah towards an African-wide integration gave birth to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which is the precursor of the present day AU.
The visa-on-arrival policy is expected to strengthen trade, investment, and travel for tourism or business between member states of the AU. Critics, however, say it could open up Ghana to multiple security challenges as open borders may make it easier for terror groups and organized crime syndicates to move about the continent. Kenya implemented a visa-on-arrival scheme in 2013 to encourage tourism but then reversed its action after a security review.