The African Development Bank (AfDB) wants governments in the continent to adopt a common passport as well as a visa openness policy to spur intra-Africa trade and tourism.
A new report the Bank released last week shows that countries with relaxed visa regulations like the Seychelles, whose main source of revenue is tourism, realise significant economic gain.
Seychelles’ ascendancy in the sub-Saharan Africa travel and tourism index for almost a decade is reflected in the secure level of employment that its citizens enjoy. Visitors contribute about 30 per cent of its revenue.
The Africa Tourism Monitor Report says creation of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all African citizens will improve interconnectivity, economic growth and intra-Africa trade.
The AfDB’s director of statistics, Dr Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, says visa openness aligns with Bank’s High 5s Integrate Africa Agenda, which seeks to make Africa more open, prosperous and interconnected.
“The African Union Commission’s Agenda 2063 proposes the creation of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all African citizens.
Visa openness can potentially improve interconnectivity, boost economic growth and intra-Africa trade and spur investment, bringing massive benefits for the travel and tourism industry in Africa,” said Mr Lufumpa.
According to the report, strict visa regulation has negative socio-economic spin-offs. The share of total intra-Africa trade is unfavourable when compared with other trading blocs.
Intra-Africa trade is about 12 per cent, slightly higher than the Middle East which stands at 9 per cent. Intra-regional trade elsewhere shows high volumes, with North America and the European Union trading within their blocs at 61 per cent and 62 per cent, respectively.
In July 2016 at the 27th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Kigali, the AU unveiled the first electronic, biometric common passport for Africa, effectively laying the foundation for achieving pan-African connectivity and trade.
Challenges in the adoption of the common African passport persist as some countries feel that they will surrender their sovereignty. Other concerns are the lack of technological facilities and capacity to issue biometric passports in most Africa countries.
Only 14 countries in Africa currently issue biometric passports.