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Pessimism still surrounds the ‘Visa free travel in Africa’ initiative, by Chofor Che, 03 June 2014


Africans especially in the Central African region have always wished to travel visa free. Many argue that if this were possible, it would be a speedy panacea to regional integration. How possible and true is this assertion? I wonder.

The ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative was launched by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya and Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote, during the World Economic Forum on Africa. According to an article by Biztechafrica of May 2014, the idea behind this initiative is to encourage travel across the continent by curbing on visa constraints.

The ADB’s Chief Executive remains optimistic about this initiative. According to him, the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative will spearhead regional integration across Africa and speed up Africa’s economic development. Kaberuka however opines that African leaders need to take action to make this happen.

There have equally been panel discussions all over the continent to engineer the ‘Visa free travel in Africa’ initiative. During one of such panel discussions in Nigeria, the ADB’s Chief Economist, Mthuli Ncube, encouraged Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to harness their developmental drive and make speedy growth on the continent a reality especially by ensuring that Africans are able to travel without visa constraints. According to Biztechafrica, this call was made during a panel discussion on ‘Forging Inclusive growth, Creating Jobs’. Ncube’s topic was on, ‘Driving Competitiveness through Cooperation, integration and Economic growth’.

The ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative is a very laudable idea but the continent still faces a lot of challenges especially governance issues. Lack of political will on the part of African leaders remains a gigantic hurdle. This explains why such an initiative is spearheaded by just two African leaders instead by all African leaders. In addition to this, continental bodies like the African Union have not strongly added their voice to the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative. A scenario such as this makes one to wonder if this is not just brutum fulmen (an empty noise) on the part of Kaberuka, Kagame, Kenyatta and Dangote.

In as much as the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative is a laudable one, African leaders are still to curb internal barriers in their various states especially barriers to trade and development. If circulating in various African states remain a nightmare, what more of travelling on the continent. Most states especially states in the Central African region cannot even boast of domestic air travel facilities especially infrastructure. Most of the personnel in African states are not trained with state of the art air travel measures especially ways of combating against terrorist activities. Citizens still have to pay exorbitant air port taxes despite having paid heavy visa fees and purchased expensive air tickets. Such impediments affect the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative’ from transgressing from an ‘initiative stage’ to a ‘reality stage’.

It is thus important for African leaders to bring on board more private actors. True privatisation of the airport sector with minimal control from big governments on the continent can make the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative a reality and thus speed up Africa’s development. African leaders need to curb internal barriers such as heavy taxes in their various states especially barriers to trade and development. Circulating in various African states should not be a nightmare. Most states especially states in the Central African region need to start rethinking their modus operandi on domestic air travel facilities especially infrastructure. Most airports in states especially in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and the conflict ridden Central African Republic have been abandoned. It is time for most African states to revamp structures in these airports and begin with boasting domestic air travel before thinking of adding their voice to the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative. Most of the personnel in African states need to be trained with state of the art air travel measures especially ways of combating against terrorist activities. Governments in African states need to also ensure that citizens do not have to pay exorbitant air port taxes especially having paid heavy visa fees and purchased expensive air tickets. If such measures are taken into consideration especially partnering with the private sector, then attaining the ‘Visa free travel Africa’ initiative’ would be possible.

 
 

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Creating employment for young people in Africa – By Chofor Che, 19 September 2013


A Declaration of Intent was signed at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in early September 2013, between the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

In an article published on the 14th of September 2013 by BizTechAfrica, a social network specialised in African affairs especially in the ICT sector, the signing ceremony commenced with a word from the AU Commissioner of Social Affairs Dr. Mustapha S. Kaloko who stressed on the importance of this accord in furnishing a united platform via which youth employment in Africa can be enhanced.

The declaration imputes on each of the above international organisations to create employment opportunities for boosting youth development and empowerment in Africa. According to BizTechAfrica, the Joint Youth Employment Initiative for Africa (JYEIA) necessitates that the above mentioned four international organisations should focus on knowledge production, policy-level intervention and direct intervention.

According to the declaration, the African Union is obliged to ‘advocate, promote, and monitor the implementation of the Declaration on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation, which was enacted during the Extraordinary Summit of African Heads of State and Government in Burkina Faso in September 2004.

This again is another feeble declaration which adds to numerous failed declarations signed by international organisations. Instead of boosting markets and small and medium size industries on the continent, international organisations like the ADB and the UN have decided to continue signing declarations of no consequences. Such declarations make no sense if African central governments do not adhere to them. In fact, holding meetings and signing such declarations is a waste of time and tax payers’ money.

Africa needs more than declarations. The human capital base of Africans, especially the youths, needs to be orientated towards production and not consumption especially of products from the West. African youths need to be introduced to business initiatives which project more of South-South cooperation. Entrepreneurial skills need to be inculcated in African youths.

The private sector in Africa remains porous. Instead of signing such accords and giving financial aid to African states, which eventually ends up in foreign bank accounts, it is germane for such organisations like the ADB, the ILO and the UN to rethink their strategy of ensuring that the African youth are part and parcel of Africa’s renaissance. Creating business and trade partnerships between youths in Africa and those in the diaspora could be a way to go. Encouraging youth to be involved in local government is another avenue which has not been exploited. This brings to question the collaborative role of the state in Africa in ensuring that such declarations geared towards youth employment reach fruition. African states need to see their youth as the future and work collaboratively with them in ensuring that Africa attains full potential. The educational system embraced from colonial masters need to be quashed completely and an educational system founded on entrepreneurial development and growth adopted. These are ways which if well thought through and implemented, may be beneficial to Africa’s youth.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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