The African Union’s 2063 Agenda contains plans for a common visa policy has the ambitious goal of a single, continental passport by 2020. Challenges of implementing the plan include associated risks of widespread economic migration, the movement of illegal goods, cross-border terrorism, and the issue of stateless individuals. Nevertheless, significant progress has been made – regionally and nationally – with benefits that demonstrate the effectiveness of the policy in terms of stimulating economic growth.
According to the second Africa Visa Openness Index, released mid this year, 75 per cent of the countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in either Eastern or West Africa, while 20 per cent are in Southern Africa.
“Only 20 per cent of nations allow Africans to enter without visas, with 25 per cent offering visas on arrival,” adds the report commissioned by the African Development Bank.
Only one country in the top 20 most open to visas is in North Africa (Mauritania), while no countries in Central Africa appear in the top 20.
But that may be about to change.
Six countries in central and western Africa have breathed life into long-running plans to allow visa-free movement of people among their nations. At a summit in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena, the countries formally declared late Tuesday that the scheme had now been ratified by all members.
The agreement gathers six francophone states – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo – in a bloc called the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).
Negotiations on the deal began more than 15 years ago, culminating in a draft agreement in 2013 that awaited ratification by all its members.