Africans have often found it difficult to travel in their own continent as well as expensive to acquire a visa to some African countries. According to the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016, Africans need visa to travel to over 50 percent of African countries. The report also states that over 60 percent of African countries have a low visa openness score.
The African Union Agenda 2063 includes a goal for Africa to become a “continent with seamless borders” where “the free movement of people, capital, goods and services will result in significant increases in trade and investments amongst African countries rising to unprecedented levels, and strengthen Africa’s place in global trade.” However, until recently, African countries have not had the initiative to make things easy for travelers. In fact, the continent has been the hardest to move around in with each country having its own overwhelming bureaucracy on who can visit and who can’t.
“Having an open visa policy does not require large resources or complex systems. Countries can apply positive reciprocity but also open up unilaterally. And it can be done through a number of smart solutions. As a result of opening up, countries such as Seychelles, Mauritius and Rwanda has seen a big impact on tourism, investment and financial services,” stated Akinwumi Adesina President African Development Bank Group, when introducing the Report.
The 2016 report that is in its first edition ranks countries on the openness of their visa regimes and aims to be a tool for change, to inform and inspire leaders and policymakers to make visa reforms, simplify visa processes and apply positive reciprocity.
Recent reports have show that a number of countries have taken the initiative to provide free visa entry or visa on arrival for Africa nationals. The most recent country to do that has been Benin, learning from other countries such as Rwanda.
The report underlines that Africa’s population is expected to rise to over 2 billion people by 2050 and the continent’s economic transformation needs to promote inclusive growth. “Expanding opportunities for a growing population puts skills high up the agenda. And skills and talent mobility go hand in hand. Removing time, cost and process obstacles to moving freely across the continent empower Africans to make study or job choices that impact on their incomes,” It reads.
“Visas alone are not the whole answer when it comes to a more robust outlook. At the Bank, within the framework of our Regional Integration Policy and Strategy 2014-2023, we are working on supporting African countries to plug their skills gaps, promoting talent mobility and borderless business for African entrepreneurs to move freely to set up shop,” Adesina further stated.
Ethiopia is ranked at 46th place from 52 countries, with having one of the lowest visa openness. The report shows that the country has a no visa policy for only percent of countries and visa on arrival for two percent of African countries. About 94 percent of African countries will need to acquire a visa to enter the country.
The report concludes by underlining the benefits from tapping into global trends on facilitating the free movement of people by looking at visa openness solutions. This will help in reaching milestones set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 including removing visa requirements across the continent by 2018.