25 July 2016
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has identified the stringent visa regime operating across Africa as one of the greatest impediments to the growth of intra-African trade.
A statement issued by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) on Monday, showed that Obasanjo made the observation at the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the bank in Mahe, Seychelles.
It said Mr, Wale Tinubu of OandO Group of Nigeria also gave similar view at the event.
It said that other speakers who shared the same view were Tony Elumelu of Heirs Holdings of Nigeria, Dr Paul Fokam of Afriland First Bank, and Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Finance, Trade and Blue Economy of Seychelles.
It said that the speakers unanimously agreed that the requirement for visas for travel by Africans to other African countries made it extremely difficult for Africans to travel around the continent to conduct business.
They noted that only a handful of countries, including Seychelles, had removed the requirement for visiting Africans to obtain visas before traveling in.
They stressed the urgency for all African countries to abolish visa requirements for short-term travels.
Obasanjo was reported as saying that the reasons often adduced for the visa requirement did not stand scrutiny as such short-term travel for business posed little security risk.
According to Obasanjo, there has also been no evidence that countries that have implemented visa-free travel have been overrun by any mass influx of people.
The former Nigerian leader commended the recent introduction of a common African passport by the African Union, saying “It will help movement of people and consequently, intra-African trade.’’
The speakers also stressed the need for African governments to support local entrepreneurs and to create champions to drive trade across the continent.
Prof. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and professor at Columbia University in the United States, said that intra-regional trade could help African countries achieve necessary economics of scale.
Stiglitz spoke on: “Can Intra-African trade unlock Africa’s industrial potential.”?
“The development of regional value chains can pave the way for ease of entry into global value chains and enhance the integration of the region into the global economy,” Stiglitz said.
“Africa’s priority should be trade and the implementation of appropriate industrial and trade promotion policies to take advantage of the window of opportunities presented by the major changes occurring in the global economic landscape.
“The changes included the emergence of China as a very large and rapidly growing market for African exports, and not just for its natural resources,’’ he said.