Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama on Sunday March 6 announced that the country will begin to offer visas on arrival to citizens of all 54 African Union (AU) member states starting in July.
Ghana’s new visa-on-arrival policy for citizens of African Union (AU) member states, to be introduced from July, only came to light after an announcement from the pan-African body.
Nationals from African countries complain loudly about the humiliations they go through to get visas for Europe and the United States but the process for African visas is often just as frustrating.
Anyone who has tried to cross borders on the African continent will have experienced the difficulties with travelling in Africa. Air fares cost more than anywhere else and few roads or railways connect the countries to each other.
The immigration and police check points turn the journeys into veritable obstacle courses. We no longer have to go through Europe to fly to each other’s countries, but flight connections are so few and so random, you are tempted to resort to the old routes through Europe to go to the country next door.
However, this is nothing compared to the hassle one has to go through to get visas for another African country. Business people trading in the continent felt frustrated in the past at spending weeks trying to get visas for each country. They pointed out that once armed with a European Schengen visa, they could travel through many European countries and conduct business without hassle.
Mr. Mahama made the declaration while delivering his State of the Nation address two weeks ago.
Ghana’s new visa policy is big news in Africa where, according to the African Development Bank, only 25% of the countries offer visas on arrival to nationals of other African nations. Put another way, it is easier for North Americans to travel within the continent than it is for Africans. Only the Seychelles is known to have an open access visa policy applicable to citizens of all AU member states. (Ghana currently offers visa free entry for citizens of 15 countries within the Economic Community of West African States.)
As part of his independence day speech, Mahama also advocated more unity across the continent by urging his countrymen to learn French, the official language of more than half of the countries in Africa. English is the official language of Ghana, but it is bordered by francophone countries like Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Togo.
Opening its doors to other African nations could be crucial for Ghana. The travel and tourism industry accounts for 5.9% of its GDP. Mahama did not say whether the new policy would include business visas, but at a time when foreign direct investment on the continent is falling, the country could benefit from opening its doors.