West African tourism and travel stakeholders have highlighted obstacles inhibiting the free movement of goods and people in the sub region which is contrary to the objective of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).
One of the most valuable objectives of ECOWAS which was formed in 1975 was creating a united space for cooperation and development among West African countries.
But stakeholders at the 5th Accra Weizo 2019 Tourism and Travel fair, held at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, with the theme: “Seamless Travel In West Africa,” said protectionist policies and bureaucratic procedures among West African countries have not help the regional body in achieving its objectives.
Speaking at the event, Chief Superintendent of Immigration, Head Intelligence unit Kotoka International airport, Mrs Lydia Achel, said there is a need for information sharing and corporation among border officials on travellers in the region.
Mrs Lydia Achel said that to achieve seamless travels in the sub- regional continental highways, single Advanced Passengers’ Information (API), system should be created across the borders of West African countries.
She said that this would ensure connectivity among the borders of West African countries and proffer solutions to a series of stoppages at various borders.
The immigration boss hinted that the Ghana is about introducing a smart card that would facilitate the movement of travellers along all its borders saying that “This will assist the Immigration and other officers at the borders also,” she said.
The Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCO) Plc, said that
the issuance of a single visa to travel across Africa would ensure seamless travels.
He said that it would also strengthen peace and unity among the people of Africa and the world.
He urged governments to work on this to reduce the bureaucratic bottle neck people had to go through at various borders whenever they travelled by road.
According to him, seamless traveller in the sub-region should not be anything different from what is obtainable among European countries. He stated that members of the European Union are able to travel among counties without undue interference by member states’ officials.
He said ECOWAS countries should be patterned after the Schengen countries whereby once their visa is obtained in one of the Schengen country, it permits the owner entry into any of them.
”ECOWAS countries need to take a cue from this as it will increase the rate of tourists from European and American countries into West African sub-region. Tourism and aviation stakeholders must collaborate to ensure this is achieved,” he said.
Chief Operating Officer Africa World Airlines (AWA), Sean Mendis who spoke at the travel fair, said high operating cost and taxes charged by member states in the region has not been encouraging to airlines operating West Africa.
Medis stated although the carrier has been profitable operating in the sub region, it has been faced with challenges in operating into so West Africa countries.
He stated that it has been challenging for the airlines to obtain an operational permit into Cote d’lvoire having applied for it over a year ago.
Also speaking at the event, Managing Director, GOTA Voyage Travels, Benin Republic, Olanma Ojukwu, said the government of Benin is taking concrete steps in ensure that travellers using the country’s borders transit freely without undue charges by immigration officials.
By Friday Nwosu