I often buy THE AFRICA REPORT magazine to put out as reading material at Four Villages Inn. But when I saw this cover, I thought, “Hmmmmm, maybe there is something about VISAS in this feature article, something that will relate to the SCRAP SHORT TERM TOURIST VISAS TO GHANA Facebook Group Campaign that I initiated on May 1st, 2013.
Well sure enough, there it was:
“VISA, ONE PASSPORT FOR ONE PEOPLE: Applying for a visas can be a headache. After the heady days of the pan-African post-independence movement, African countries returned to more nationalistic border controls. Apart from the Economic Community of West African States and more recently the East African Community, a majority of countries require visas for visiting Africans. Rwanda’s decision on 1 January to allow all citizens of African countries to get their visas on arrival may trigger a rethinking of attitudes, opening up possibilities for greater trade and migration. The African Union is also considering proposals for a continent wide “uni-visa”. Opening borders opens minds.”
Well, they got the last part right….opening borders does open minds, but are the African Union policy plans opening borders with a visa on arrival and the uni-visa ideas when at present ECOWAS and East African Community citizens can travel freely in their regions WITHOUT a visa! Does this make sense?
And with these two “daring ideas” for visas for Africans to travel between African nations, how in heaven’s name can an African country scrap international tourist visas! It’s no wonder there has been silence from Ghanaian government quarters on the SCRAP SHORT TERM TOURIST VISAS TO GHANA campaign. More than likely, government thinking is locked into these prospective Africa wide plans. Ridiculous…visa regulations are national, not continental concerns…do you think Cape Verde, Botswana, and the Maldives will reintroduce visas on arrival for international tourists or adopt the uni-visa when their countries have been lifted out of poverty by tourism? And what about Gambia and South Africa will they change their no tourist visa requirements and shoot their highly successful tourism industries down. FECKLESS! Feckless is a word used by referring to policy makers. It means “lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible”.
Regarding the “uni-visa” idea. I just don’t understand…if indeed at present, NOW, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) citizens do not need a visa to travel in the region and likewise the same situation exists for citizens in East Africa, wouldn’t that mean a uni-visa policy for the continent of Africa would be NO VISA…The uni-visa idea for the continent does not make sense…Actually, it means more bureaucracy that paralyses life and more public sector employees…what in heaven’s name will that do to the budget deficits already crippling most Sub Saharan countries?
And second the Rwandan Visa On Arrival for all Africans… I take it Rwanda is not a member of the East African community. Again this idea of visas on arrival for the continent does not make sense.
What does make sense is this quote by Dambisa Moyo in her preface to Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa.
“To be sure, Africa is not one country. It is a continent; a collection of over fifty nations with often vastly different histories, with people as disparate as those of North America and southeast Asia, varying lingua francas, and very divergent cultures and religious beliefs.
As a former French colony with Arab influences and a mainly Muslim population, Senegal is quite different from Malawi, a former British colony where Christianity is the dominant religion. And what do lusophone Angola and Mozambique have in common with Ethopia, which was never colonized? (Ethiopia’s defeat of the Italians at the Battle of Adowa, in 1896, meant the country remained, for all intents and purposes, independent until the Italian invasion in 1935.)
And economically, besides both being commodity exporters, tea-producing Kenya is structurally quite different from the ex-Belgian colony of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which remains a large mineral exporter with more localized pockets of employment. And the health challenges faced by Ghana (where the prevalence of HIV-AIDS is 2.2 per cent in the population) are undoubtedly quite different from those faced by Swaziland, where reputably whole villages have been wiped out by the ravages of the disease (prevalence is around 26 per cent of the population-it was almost 40% per cent in 2003).”
What I think Moyo is saying is every country in Africa is distinct, with its own characteristics, its own needs and thus its own solutions. What works for one country might not work for another, and common solutions across the continent are suspect at best.
Again, when I think about the SCRAP SHORT TERM TOURIST VISAS TO GHANA campaign and the lack of engagement by Ghanaian government officials, that is their entire disconnect from the issue, perhaps it has something to do with wanting to march in step with the Africa Union, ….in some quarters there are even hints of downright hostility…perhaps the thinking goes something like this, “Who are you people to involve yourselves in our decision making, our policy making?”
But opening borders does open minds…and a lot more than that…it’s a lot more than just promoting trade and migration.
You, my readers, tell me, WHAT ELSE DOES OPENING BORDERS DO BESIDES PROMOTING TRADE AND MIGRATION?
And, oh yes, readers, what is the one truly daring idea that would truly shake up Ghana Tourism?