Opinion: The struggle of travelling within Africa as an African
Fact: It is easier for a North American to travel to and within Africa than someone who holds an African passport. Africa, as a whole, apparently has one of the highest visa requirements globally, and most of those who bear the brunt of this are Africans. A recently released report by the African Development Bank reveals that citizens of African countries need visas to enter more than half the states on the continent. Visas are notably expensive and take time to process.
Only five African nations allow visa on arrival or visa free access to all African countries. Of the five, Seychelles has been marked as the most open, as it offers complete access to all Africans. Rwanda is another country that has been lauded for its fairly open policies, said to be Africa’s most liberal. Rwanda allows entry-visas at the border for all African citizens; this has led to growth in tourism from other African countries, as well as trade with neighboring countries.
The large majority of African countries implement policies that make it difficult for citizens of other African states to gain entry. This inconvenience has been marked as a hindrance both economically and socially. Business visas are harder to obtain than tourist visas, implying missed trade opportunities. In addition to this, skilled professionals and students who would contribute to skill pooling are hindered, too. In spite of these constraints, the majority of Africans migrate within Africa, especially within sub-regions.
For example, in the Economic Community of West African States, visa-free travel is allowed for citizens. This is mirrored in the East African Community. While cross border trade exists between neighboring countries on a relatively small-scale, wider intra-continental investment remains unlikely if countries are closed.
Perhaps, visa requirements across Africa really aren’t designed with people in mind, or security concerns may be holding “one Africa” from being a reality. Visa restrictions are one issue that can only be solved by respective governments. However, there is another way African countries remain unconnected and that is the ease, or lack thereof, of reaching places. Taking direct flights between major African cities can be a headache, and the few options available are costly. Often times, doing a search to travel from one African city to another could lead to suggestions that transit in Europe.
Why is it so hard for Africans to travel within Africa? Have you been affected by this? Leave a comment below or reach me on Twitter @rafeeeeta