The announcement that Ghana is to begin issuing Visa on arrival for other Africans who wish to visit the country has been described as a very laudable initiative.
President John Mahama’s 59th independence anniversary speech reads in part, “With effect from July this year, we will be allowing citizens of AU Member States to enter our country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to 30 days and experience what our country has to offer. …This measure, with time, should stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism.”
Ghana currently allows free entry for citizens from only 15 African countries who are mostly from the sub-regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), only 25 percent of African countries offer visa on arrival to other African nationals. Interestingly, Americans for example find it much easier to travel from the US to Africa than African citizens seeking visas to the US and other Western countries.
The African Union Commission (AUC) has welcomed Ghana’s bold steps. AUC Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said: “Ghana is reaffirming its Pan-Africanism and upholding its place in the area of the African continental integration, which is a key tenet towards the realization of Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want.
“After Ghana, I am convinced that many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”
Some political analysts have expressed surprise that such a brilliant policy appeared to have been missing in the post-independence commentary perhaps because of the brochure blunder.
A former minister under the erstwhile Kufuor administration, Elizabeth Ohene is in league with those who are of this view. In one of her recent articles she said: “After President John Dramani Mahama delivered his State of the Nation address two weeks ago, most of the discussions were on local and internal affairs, and this being an election year in the country, the debates were heated and will continue for a long time.
“But hidden somewhere in the speech and lost in all the discussion was a major foreign affairs initiative which slipped by without media reporting or analysing and it seems likely people may have missed this completely.”
The former BBC broadcaster and writer said the policy is commendable because of the frustration and humiliation Africans go through whenever they wish to visit a country on the continent compared with applying for visas for Europe and the United States.
Ohene added: “…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.”
In her opinion, President Mahama's policy will boost AU's significance once again.
Another avid critic of the Mahama administration, Kofi Bentil, who is the Vice President of policy think-tank IMANI Ghana, wrote on his face book wall:
“Free Entry for all Africans into Ghana! Finally!
“This is your very best foreign Policy move, I have always maintained that every African Nation MUST do this to give meaning to the AU dreams and visions....”
Source: Daniel Acheampong
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