While visa-free travel in the European Union is coming under fire, another part of the world is taking the first step towards a border-free travel. The African Union plans to distribute a common, electronic passport to all African citizens by 2018, granting them visa-free access to all 54 states in the union.
By connecting African countries, the initiative aims to jumpstart trade and socioeconomic development. Countries that have already improved visa procedures (including Rwanda, Uganda and the Seychelles) have seen an upward trajectory for travel figures, in addition to employment, exports, and investments.
The project was called a “symbolic and significant” step toward an “integrated and united” Africa in a statement from last month’s African Union summit in Rwanda. The AU passports, CNN reports, will initially be given to heads of state and senior government officials.
The creation of the colonial Africa borders has been the problem since inception. Presently, Africa shows the scars of the Conference of Berlin that created artificial states with the forced and inconsistent amalgamation of native states and without their own populations’ input or consent.
The map of Africa in 1887 shows that the European Powers who divided up Central Africa did not have any knowledge or information on the nations and countries they were cutting up. African states were unexplored, one of the reasons being that only coastal areas and only those that offered attractive natural conditions as ports or harbours were chosen by the Colonial powers to settle there and establish trading hubs where products from the interior of Africa would come to the Port cities and from there they would be shipped to Europe.
If the goals of the vision 2063 are feasible, tourism has the potential to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and job creation. It can also help accelerate the reforms needed to improve airline and road transport as well as other key infrastructure, besides raising the incomes of young men and women who form a high percentage of the job holders in the sector.
To achieve this target, African governments and the private sector must work together to address obstacles such as land access and visa regulations to expand tourism opportunities, transform business climates and energise job creation, especially for women and youth.
“Africa’s mountains, savannahs and rivers, and cultural events such as music, dance and festivals are far above the natural assets found in other regions,” said Iain Christie of the World Bank. According to her, with these natural attributes, tourism can play an enormous role in development. But to do so, it must be integrated into each country’s economy and government structure and be seen as a benefit by everyone.
More tourists would translate to more jobs, more investment opportunities and more money for the continent to embark on capital projects. All these are achievable with the new African Passport and a viable open sky policy.
This article was written by MONICA ASHLEY LE-COURE.