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By Josephine Wawira
While most regions endeavor to close their borders, Africa is striving to do the reverse by incessantly implementing an open-border-policy and enhancing collaboration. Towards the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 policy document that outlines seamless borders, the launch of the African passport in July 2016 allowing holders to travel visa-free to all 53-member states, is a milestone to behold.
By MNBB Studio
According to Dr. Wouter Geerts, Senior Travel Analyst at Euromonitor International, as opposed to the US and Europe where there are increasing calls for stronger border controls and barring certain travelers from entry, African leaders are seeing and using travel and tourism as an avenue for boosting the continent’s economic prosperity.
“While there is a very long and hard road ahead, the intention of making travel easier for Africans is a very positive one. With strong increases in population numbers and disposable incomes expected over the coming decades, it is important for African governments and tourism boards to stop focusing solely on attracting long-haul travelers from the US and Europe, and instead look at their closer neighbors,” adds Dr. Wouter.
Research by the African Development Bank ‘Africa Visa Openness Report 2016’ shows that Africans still need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. However, some countries have made good progress. For instance, Ghana is one of the countries fully supporting the Agenda 2063, having started to offer visas upon arrival for all AU member states in 2016, and visa-free travel for 17 countries, mostly fellow Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members. Reports such as Jumia Travel’s Hospitality highlights indicate that the adoption of visa liberalization policies could increase Africa’s tourism by 5 to 25%.
In fast-tracking the continent’s integration, other aligned projects include infrastructural development and air connectivity. IATA predicts a stronger growth of 4.8% in passenger numbers in the next 5 years starting 2017, from the current 3% Africa’s contribution to the world’s air traffic.
While attempts to open air traffic between African countries has been significantly slow, the World Travel and Tourism Council notes that opening air markets; which includes reducing or eliminating the existing lengthy government-to-government negotiations for every new airline or route, is a significant driver of travel and tourism. Regular review of airport capacity and infrastructure by states will further shape African travel, and support economic development.