Common busi­ness visa for Comesa

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Busi­ness Ed­i­tor

BUSI­NESS per­sons within the Common Mar­ket for East­ern and South­ern Africa (Comesa) will soon be is­sued with a common mul­ti­ple en­try visa to fa­cil­i­tate smooth trade move­ment and deep­en­ing of re­gional in­te­gra­tion.

Re­gional stake­hold­ers met in Lusaka, Zam­bia, this week to dis­cuss the pro­posed in­stru­ment as part of mea­sures to en­hance in­ter-re­gional trade.

Govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the pri­vate sec­tor, im­mi­gra­tion ex­perts and the diplo­matic corps were part of en­gage­ment process that looked at what the Comesa Busi­ness Coun­cil (CBC) has drafted for pos­si­ble adop­tion and sub­se­quent use in the de­vel­op­ment of the re­gional visa ap­pli­ca­ble for busi­ness per­sons in the re­gion.

“The cur­rent frame­works for move­ment of busi­ness per­sons, who are the en­gine of trade and re­gional in­te­gra­tion, have not been fa­cil­i­ta­tive enough. Thus the pro­posed visa will fa­cil­i­tate their move­ment, en­hance trade and deepen re­gional in­te­gra­tion,” said Comesa in a state­ment.

Zam­bian Minister of Home Af­fairs Mr Steven Kampy­ongo, who opened the fo­rum, wel­comed the ini­tia­tive.

“Free move­ment of peo­ple is key to eco­nomic free­dom be­cause it makes it pos­si­ble for eco­nomic ac­tors to learn of op­por­tu­ni­ties which they strive to meet at the most com­pet­i­tive prices. This in turn im­proves the wel­fare of both pro­duc­ers and con­sumers,” he said.

Comesa has adopted two pro­to­cols on the move­ment of per­sons namely the Pro­to­col on the Grad­ual Re­lax­ation and Even­tual Elim­i­na­tion of Visas (Visa Pro­to­col) and the Pro­to­col on Free Move­ment of Per­sons, Ser­vices, Labour and Right of Es­tab­lish­ment and Res­i­dence (Free Move­ment Pro­to­col).

The busi­ness visa ini­tia­tive is a fol­low-up to the rec­om­men­da­tions that were pre­sented to the Comesa Coun­cil of Min­is­ters by the pri­vate sec­tor in 2012 on the need to come up with an in­terim so­lu­tion to fa­cil­i­tate the move­ment of busi­ness per­sons.

Minister Kampy­ongo said Comesa can only re­alise its prom­ises of free trade and pros­per­ity when there was free move­ment of eco­nomic ac­tors in­clud­ing cap­i­tal and labour.

In re­cent years, Comesa coun­tries have made re­mark­able strides in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­to­cols such as is­su­ing visas on ar­rival, is­su­ing 90 day visas, and de­ploy­ment of Comesa desks to fa­cil­i­tate Comesa ci­ti­zens at ports of en­try.

As­sis­tant sec­re­tary gen­eral for Comesa pro­grammes Dr Kipyego Chel­uget said Comesa has al­ways val­ued free move­ment of per­sons as one of the four fun­da­men­tal eco­nomic free­doms and also as an es­sen­tial part of the Common mar­ket. He ob­served that more needs to be done to en­sure smooth flow and fa­cil­i­ta­tion of busi­ness per­sons for en­hanced trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion.

“In­deed, the pro­posal for a common busi­ness visa will ease a lot of trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion hur­dles for the busi­ness com­mu­nity,” he said.

Key rec­om­men­da­tions aris­ing from the di­a­logue will be stream­lined into an ad­vo­cacy po­si­tion for the CBC.

The pro­posed in­stru­ment would be tabled for adop­tion be­fore the Comesa pol­icy or­gans and sum­mit meet­ings that will take place in Mada­gas­car from 10 to 19 Oc­to­ber 2016.

If adopted, the Comesa busi­ness visa scheme could be op­er­a­tional in the next two years.

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