Visa-free travel ‘key to African tourism’

By: Oscar Nkala

Gaborone – Africa remained largely closed off to inter-African travel with Africans requiring visas to travel to 55 percent of the continent, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has said.

In a statement released ahead of the launch of its first-ever “Africa Visa Openness Index” scheduled for Abidjan, Ivory Coast from March 21-22, the AfDB said the stringent inter-state visa regulations were hampering African travel to African countries and had adverse impacts on the continent’s economic growth and development.

“Opening up a country’s visa regime is a quick-win on development that remains untapped. Visa openness promotes talent mobility and business opportunities.

“Africa’s leaders and policymakers have a key role to play in helping Africans to move freely in support of Agenda 2063’s call to abolish visa requirements for all Africans by 2018.

“Africa remains largely closed off to African travellers. On average Africans need visas to travel to 55 percent of other African countries, can get visas on arrival in only 25 percent of other countries and don’t need a visa to travel to just 20 percent of other countries on the continent,” said Moono Mupotola, the Director for the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Regional Integration and Trade at AfDB.

The research was conducted by the AfDB, with assistance from global development consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

According to a preamble of the Visa Openness Index, East and West African countries have taken the lead towards attaining the continent’s goal of visa-free travel by 2018 with a 75 percent rating for visa freedom.

Seychelles tops the African visa openness policy because it offers visa-free access for all Africans. Mauritius and Rwanda were highlighted among the 10 most visa-open African countries which have reaped the benefits with improved tourists and investment inflows, which greatly improved their economic competitiveness.

Central Africa represented the biggest drawback in progress towards a visa-free continent with none of its countries making it to the top 20 list for visa openness.

With just one country making it to the top 20 visa-free nations list, North Africa also remained closed to travellers from within the continent.

The report also noted that while Africa’s “Middle Income Countries” have low visa-openness scores, the continent’s smaller, landlocked and island states were more open.

However, lead research consultant and director of MCKinsey and Company, Acha Leke said despite the seemingly sluggish progress, Africa had made great strides towards visa openness today than when the research started five years ago: “When we started this work, only five African countries offered liberal access to all Africans. This number had grown to 13 over the past three years. We are making progress, but we clearly need to accelerate the pace,” said Leke, who is also member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Africa.

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