#Travel: Africa embraces the idea of open borders

Countries in Africa are prioritizing visa-free travel around the continent for inhabitants and visitors as an essential factor in the region’s economic development, reveals The Top 100 City Destination Ranking WTM London 2017 Edition.

The report, produced by Euromonitor International, notes the African Union’s Agenda 2063 initiative which called for with the abolishment of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018. The document also advocated e-visa and e-passport capabilities.

“African leaders are seeing travel and tourism as a way to boost the economic prosperity of the continent,” the report says.

It identifies Ghana as one of the countries giving its full backing to the Agenda 2063 aims. Ghana started to offer visas upon arrival for all African Union member states in 2016, and visa-free travel for 17 countries.

However, “the proposals are mired in challenges, and much of the workings are still unclear” with the macro-economic and political climate slowing progress. The report says that major discrepancies in GDP per country is behind politicians’ concerns around one-way migration – as an example, it points out that South Africa’s GDP per capita is expected to be 10 times higher than neighbouring Zimbabwe by 2030.

The travel industry could do more to help, the report suggests. Direct air routes between countries remain limited, forcing many African citizens to travel via Europe to reach another African country. “Increasing flights between regional hubs would contribute to a more open Africa,” it advises.

More intra-Africa flights would help address a dilemma facing the regions’ tourists boards and destination management companies. Currently many budgets are focused on attracting European and North American travellers instead of their neighbours.

Euromonitor International, Head of Travel, Caroline Bremner said: “Africa’s intra-regional tourism potential is being hampered by the visa requirements, and while implementation of the Agenda 2063 has been patchy, the efforts made by countries such as Ghana are to be welcomed. More air inventory would help, but the visa issue is making airlines reluctant to commit to some routes.”

WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press: “The UNWTO Ministers’ Summit is one of WTM London’s flagship sessions, and every year tourism ministers from around the globe agree on the importance of easy access between nations. Governments in Africa need to listen to their tourism teams and start implementing the changes which will make travelling around the continent easier for inhabitants and travellers.”

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