Africans need visas to travel to about 80 percent of African countries and visa restrictions that are tougher for Africans traveling within Africa than for Europeans and North Americans are leading to missed economic opportunities, according to a report in Nigerian Tribune.
“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,” said Mthuli Ncube, chief economist and vice president of the African Development Bank, according to the Nigerian Tribune.
Ncube called for removal of all visa restrictions to enable free movement and improve intra-African trade, the report said.
Movement of talent and people is at the core of regional integration, a rallying call since the African Union formed 50 years ago, the report says.
Nigeria has had several diplomatic rows with South Africa over treatment of Nigerians traveling to South Africa, according to the report.
Poor infrastructure is considered one of the issues affecting regional integration in Africa. About 30 percent of African roads are paved, the report says. As a result, “shipping a car from Japan to Abidjan costs $1,500, while shipping that same vehicle from Addis Ababa to Abidjan would cost $5,000,”according to African Development Bank.
The author of the Nigerian Tribune report calls for African countries to move to biometric border management, reduce restrictions on transfer of services in engineering and legal services and adopt a visa-on-arrival policy for all African citizens. “This should also be complemented by evisas in order to reduce the cost and time constraints of people in obtaining visas,” the report says. “Reducing visa requirements will not only facilitate cultural and knowledge exchanges, it will also improve understanding and friendship among citizens of Africa. Such friendship will enhance conflict resolution and promote oneness. These were the dreams of Africa’s nationalist leaders such as Kwame Nkruma, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo. There can be no meaningful claim of Africa as a Union without the removal of all visa restrictions to citizens of Africa on the continent.”