Visa-free travel for Africans in Africa is scheduled to start by the end of 2018 but with just about 40 days to end the year, many feel that this will not materialize as only about 22 per cent of African countries have taken that step to open up their borders to other Africans.
The idea of having an African passport has not caught on with many countries on the continent due to fears of illegal immigration, smuggling, a spread of diseases, terrorism and the loss of local job markets, among others.
Despite a roadmap by the African Union (AU) to ensure a visa-free travel for Africans in Africa by 2020, Seychelles is the only country where visa-free travel is open to all Africans, as well as, to citizens of every nation. Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia, Mauritius, Benin and Kenya have all loosened travel restrictions for other African nationals.
Following an announcement by South Africa last month that it was relaxing its travel rules to revive its economy, Ethiopia followed suit, rolling out a visa-on-arrival regime for all Africans entering the country.
This means that there would be no need for Africans to necessarily apply for visas before flying into the country. All African passport holders need to do is to fly in and have their visas stamped on arrival.
At the time of the announcement, Ethiopian authorities said a relaxed visa regime will enhance the country’s openness and enable it to harness the significant stopover transit traffic for Ethiopian Airlines, the national carrier, which is said to be Africa’s biggest and most profitable airline.
Before this, Ethiopia had started issuing visas online for tourists and other visitors across the world.
Currently, the latest country to announce the visa-on-arrival policy for Africans is Botswana. Effective November 24, 2018, the Southern African country will be offering tourists visas on arrival to boost its tourism and other businesses, the president, Mokgweetsi Masisi announced last week.
“In an effort to improve the ease of doing business in Botswana, Botswana will offer TOURIST VISA at the point of entry effective 24th November 2018. This announcement was made by HE, Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi was quoted by news site The African Exponent.
Botswana, which was currently ranked as one of the world’s most peaceful countries (29th most peaceful out of 163), has developed a name as one of Africa’s leading destination that offers an enabling environment for investment and business.
It has once more entered into the good books of many following its latest decision to offer tourists visas on arrival – a move that will attract more tourists and investment and subsequent development.
Currently, citizens of African countries still need a visa to travel to more than half of the continent’s 54 countries.
“The 2016 analysis of Africa’s visa policy regimes demonstrated that on average Africans needed visas at departure to travel to 54 per cent of other African countries (from 55 per cent in 2015); could get visas on arrival in only 24 per cent (from 25 per cent in 2015); and do not need visas to travel to just 22 per cent (from 20 per cent in 2015).”
The AU launched an African passport in 2016 that will ultimately replace individual nations’ passport but it is currently available to senior diplomats and top officials of the AU.
The AU would want an Africa in which the continent’s 1.2 billion will require no visas to travel to enhance prospects for intracontinental trade, just like the European Union, but this does not seem to be happening soon due to the challenges mentioned above.
For now, a visa on arrival which includes authorization to stay for up to 90 days is the norm and for countries like Ghana, Rwanda, and Kenya who have adopted this, there has been an increase in African visitors and overall investment.