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AfDB urges open borders to encourage free trade

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) has urged African countries to open their borders to encourage the promotion of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Mr Lamin Barrow, Director-General, Nigeria Country Department, AfDB, said this on the side line of the release of the Africa Visa Openness Report in Balaclava, Mauritius.

The report was released by the African Union (AU) and the AfDB at the 2022 African Economic Conference (AEC).

Barrow said more needed to be done as it was pertinent for Africa to hasten free trade of goods and services within the continent.

“I think we are talking about the era of the African continental free trade area. So, all the African countries really should open their borders toward Africans.

“I think it is a paradox as we know that non-Africans can enter and move across Africa easier than our own fellow Africans.

“I think that the minimum we can do is to equalise that opportunity. And then of course, we go further and make it easy for any African to wake up and move across without the need for visas.”

President of the AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said there was need to break all barriers that impeded the free movement of people across the continent.

“This is especially the workers. This is vital for promoting investment,” he said.

Also in the report, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, said restricting Africans’ ability to move across borders impedes trade and stifles industrialisation.

“It discourages innovation and stymies the formation of regional value chains. It is not enough to agree on rules of origin that promote “Made in Africa” products.

“For AfCFTA to succeed, non-tariff barriers to trade must be dismantled, too. Among other things, Africans must be free to move around the continent without having to apply for costly and time-consuming visas to study, trade, and develop their businesses.”

The deputy chairperson also said the Agenda 2063 sought to create a prosperous Africa whose development was people-driven, relying on the potential offered by African people, especially its women and youth.

Furthermore, Ms Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, Acting Vice President, Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery, AfDB, in the report, said the bank was supporting countries and regions as they developed policies.

Akin-Olugbade said the policies would facilitate the movement of professionals, trades, people and investors from abroad.

“And we are promoting best practices in trade facilitation for public and private actors alike.

“We understand that freeing the movement of people creates a more favourable business environment, attracts investment, and stimulates intra- and interregional trade.

“It also promotes social cohesion and improves African citizen’s quality of life. Africa deserves nothing less,” she said.

The report is also known as the Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI).

It measures the extent to which African countries are open to visitors from other African countries.

The index analyses each country’s visa requirements to show which countries on the continent facilitate travel to their territory.

For each country, the AVOI calculates the number of African countries whose citizens must obtain a visa before travelling there.

It also calculates the number of countries whose citizens may obtain a visa upon arrival, and the number of countries whose citizens do not need a visa to enter.

Each country is then assigned a visa openness score and ranked accordingly.

First published in 2016, the AVOI also track changes in countries’ scores over time.

This shows how countries’ policies are evolving as regards the freedom of movement across Africa.

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