Dar can­cels visa deal for DRC

Visa re­stric­tions ap­ply to hol­i­day­mak­ers, busi­nessper­sons and in­vestors

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - A JOINT RE­PORT

Tan­za­nia this week an­nounced the can­cel­la­tion of visa-on-ar­rival for two more African na­tions, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Cit­i­zens of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and An­gola, who are mem­bers of the South­ern Africa De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity, have been en­ter­ing Tan­za­nia visa-free, but the Dar es Salaam ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­voked this priv­i­lege. They join cit­i­zens from Nige­ria, Dji­bouti and Ethiopia who once en­joyed the visa-on-ar­rival priv­i­lege but are now re­quired to ap­ply for the en­try per­mit three months ahead of their travel, fol­low­ing the pol­icy change by Tan­za­nia.

Asian states Pak­istan, Pales­tine and Ye­men are also on the list of coun­tries af­fected by the change.

Tan­za­nia this week an­nounced the can­cel­la­tion of visa-on-ar­rival for two more African na­tions, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The de­ci­sion by Dar es Salaam comes as Africa takes stock of its drive for open bor­ders, with the Visa Open­ness In­dex 2018 show­ing that the ma­jor­ity of coun­tries have made lit­tle progress in open­ing up their bor­ders.

Cit­i­zens of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and An­gola, who are mem­bers of the South­ern Africa De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity, have been en­ter­ing Tan­za­nia visa-free, but the Dar es Salaam ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­voked this priv­i­lege. They join cit­i­zens from Nige­ria, Dji­bouti and Ethiopia who once en­joyed the visa-on-ar­rival priv­i­lege but are now re­quired to ap­ply for the en­try per­mit three months ahead of their travel, fol­low­ing the pol­icy change by Tan­za­nia.

Asian states Pak­istan, Pales­tine and Ye­men are also on the list of coun­tries af­fected by the pol­icy change. Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment spokesman Ally Mtanda said the change was made “in the best in­ter­est of the na­tion and for se­cu­rity.”

Tan­za­nia has, in the re­cent past, cracked down on il­le­gal im­mi­grants, ar­rest­ing mostly Ethiopi­ans en route to South Africa. Some of them are serv­ing jail terms in Tan­za­nian prisons while oth­ers were de­ported.

Mr Mtanda told The Eastafrican that the re­stric­tion ap­plies to hol­i­day­mak­ers, busi­nessper­sons and in­vestors from those listed coun­tries, and that the de­ci­sion had been com­mu­ni­cated to them. Only those who hold diplo­matic pass­ports from the named coun­tries are al­lowed visa-free en­try.

While the East African Com­mu­nity and the SADC have free move­ment agree­ments, the African Union is also push­ing for a con­ti­nen­tal free move­ment as it seeks to im­ple­ment a sin­gle African mar­ket —- the African Con­ti­nen­tal Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

In East Africa, Rwanda has made more progress in open­ing up its bor­ders, with the Africa Visa open­ness In­dex 2018 by the African De­vel­op­ment Bank (AFDB) rank­ing it the third most visa open coun­try on the con­ti­nent. The oth­ers are Sey­chelles and Benin. Uganda and Kenya fea­ture in the top 10 at num­bers six and nine re­spec­tively. Tan­za­nia is ranked num­ber 18, be­low law­less So­ma­lia.

The in­dex fea­tures seven West African coun­tries — Sene­gal, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea-bis­sau, Togo and Benin — in the top 20.

The assess­ment is based on the progress made on visa open­ness in the past two years. The top coun­tries on the list have en­acted poli­cies al­low­ing Africans greater visa free or visa-on-ar­rival ac­cess. The in­dex shows that trav­ellers within the con­ti­nent con­tinue to face chal­lenges and wasted days or hours in tran­sit due the in­abil­ity to im­ple­ment con­ducive and com­mon visa regimes.

Ex­perts at the re­cent African Eco­nomic Con­fer­ence, hosted by the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) in Kigali, said that de­spite lead­ers' com­mit­ments to ease move­ment, lit­tle has been achieved in build­ing roads or air routes link­ing cities, while many Africans are still de­nied en­try to some coun­tries be­cause of visas.

This prob­lem, they warned, will re­sult in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Free Move­ment of Peo­ple Pro­to­col — viewed as a key pil­lar to re­gional in­te­gra­tion and the AFCFTA.

"The com­mit­ments to ease move­ment that have been made must be re­alised and jobs have to be cre­ated," said Paul Coul­lier, pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics and pub­lic pol­icy at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford.

"The bar­ri­ers in Africa serve in the in­ter­est of the more de­vel­oped coun­tries. The task over the next decade is to build more con­nec­tiv­ity among cities and re­move bar­ri­ers that in­fringe growth on the con­ti­nent," he added.

AFDB Di­rec­tor Gen­eral for East Africa Gabriel Ne­gatu said the Africa Visa Open­ness In­dex has helped raise aware­ness and drive visa pol­icy re­forms across the con­ti­nent aimed at eas­ing move­ment of peo­ple and un­lock­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­tra-african tourism, trade and in­vest­ment.

“In so do­ing, the Bank is con­tribut­ing di­rectly to the ob­jec­tives of the AU ini­tia­tive for a Sin­gle African pass­port,” said Mr Ne­gatu.

Rwanda's Min­is­ter of State in charge of Eco­nomic Plan­ning Clau­dine Uw­era, said that Kigali had shown po­lit­i­cal will to push for a visa-free Africa for the con­ti­nent's cit­i­zens.

“Rwanda an­nounced early this year a visa on ar­rival plat­form for trav­ellers from all African coun­tries. De­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity will sim­ply not be pos­si­ble if we do not in­te­grate,” she said. “Gov­er­nance will de­ter­mine the de­vel­op­ment path for our coun­tries. Equally im­por­tant is the role of po­lit­i­cal will and com­mit­ment from African lead­ers. Im­por­tant pages of our con­ti­nent's de­vel­op­ment his­tory are be­ing writ­ten. Let's take this op­por­tu­nity to move the con­ti­nent ahead.”

The 2018 Visa Open­ness In­dex shows that Africans re­quire visas to travel to over half the coun­tries on the con­ti­nent. The top 20 visa-open coun­tries con­tinue to im­prove their visa lib­eral regimes while 43 coun­tries im­proved or main­tained their score.

Benin made the high­est jump by open­ing up its bor­ders to African trav­ellers, which en­abled it to move from 27th in 2017 to first place in 2018. The coun­try along­side Sey­chelles are the only two on the con­ti­nent that do not charge Africans visa fees.

The task over the next decade is to build more con­nec­tiv­ity and re­move bar­ri­ers that in­fringe growth on the con­ti­nent.” Prof Paul Coul­lier, Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford

Diane Rwigara

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