Africa Visa Requirements Hampering Trade, Job Creation


unhealthy geneva;”>According to Professor Mthuli Ncube, see Chief Economist and Vice-President of the African Development Bank, Visa restrictions imply missed economic opportunities for intra-regional trade and for the local service economy such as tourism, cross-country medical services or education.

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During the African Development Bank Annual Meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, on May 31, 2013, a high-level panel – organized jointly by the World Economic Forum and the African Development Bank – discussed the benefits of relaxing visa restrictions throughout Africa.

Dr. Ibrahim Bocar Ba, ECOWAS Commissioner of macroeconomic policy, underlined that Africans mainly migrate to Africa. In ECOWAS more than 80 percent of all migration is intra-regional.

Nonetheless, Africans need visas to go to 80 percent African countries, these restrictions are higher for Africans traveling within Africa than for Europeans and North Americans.

In his opening remarks, Professor Ncube underlined that “The movement of talent and people is at the core of regional integration and is a core pillar of the Bank’s Ten-Year Strategy.

Twenty-five percent of all trade in Africa is informal; it is the strongest in West Africa. If there were no visa requirements, informal sector trading would boom.”

Razia Khan, who is head of research in Africa for Standard Chartered Bank, introduced herself rather as a citizen of an African country, traveling extensively within Africa – who often measures the time that it takes to get visas against the amount of economic research that could have been developed.

Leonard Rugwabiza, Director, General Planning at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in Rwanda, shared the lessons of Rwanda, which has moved to biometrix border management, low restrictions on transfer of services in engineering and legal services as well as visas on arrival for all African citizens since January 1, 2013.

Rwanda, with a limited number of embassies abroad, has also introduced e-visas in order to reduce the costs and time constraints of people in obtaining visas.

He confirms that “since we opened our borders, tourism from African countries has increased by 24%.” Furthermore, “trade actually shifted from being oriented to Europe and North America, and is now oriented to neighbouring countries. Trade with neighbouring countries increased by 50% last year, and trade with neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo rose by 73 percent”.

Abdul Awl, Board Member of Dabashill Group, concluded that: “The private sector is the engine of growth, and we all talk about improving the climate for business sector. Visas are a major barrier, and pose restrictions on doing business.”

On arrival visas in Rwanda

During the function, President Paul Kagame was also hailed for opening borders to enable Africans who travel to Rwanda receive visas upon arrival.

Since the initiative was started in January this year, more than 10,000 travelers have benefited from this.

The decision was taken in a bid to remove formalities in visa acquisition from Rwanda’s respective embassies in the travelers’ countries of origin.

“The move to issue visas to African nationals demonstrates that, it’s possible and it carries no dangers to anyone who does it,” said Kagame.

“Integration is key and in the East African Community we are beginning to make progress in the customs union, common market and we are discussing the common currency and moving possibly to political federation in the near future,” the President said.

Kagame explained that this raises an issue of bringing Africa together in a practical way rather than in theory.

“We have seen more people coming into Rwanda from across the continent and most are as good as we would have expected and if there is anyone involved in wrong doing then, the laws of the country will catch up with them.”


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