Cape Town - Ghana has kicked off offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.
This, shortly after the African Union announced they will be launching an electronic passport, or e-passport, at the next AU Summit tabled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2016.
These e-passports will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU.
Ghana rolled out its new visa-on-arrival on Friday, 1 July, allowing citizens of 54 African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country.
While the move could lead to increased air traffic across the continent, South African Airways airline operator Gloria Wilkinson told Ghana’s Citi Business News that the West African country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system.
Gershon Mosiane, Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA) chairperson, echoes Wilkinson's sentiment with issuing e-passports to all AU members.
Speaking to CapeTalk on Monday, 4 July, Mosiane said the AU's e-passport ambitions might be admirable, but that "security threats like terrorism" have made implementing the passport more complicated.
"Would we in South Africa allow someone with a terrorist history be allowed to come into the country" using the all-access e-passport, Mosiane asked.
READ MORE HERE: African Union prepares to roll out e-passports pilot
Regardless, the move from Ghana to issue visas-on-arrive, as well as the AU's new e-passport plans marks a step towards the AU's Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018.
Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced Ghana's new visa policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.”
AU Commission chairperson, South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, agreed saying she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”
Ghana is a hub on the African continent, as it marks a halfway point to other destinations globally, from SA. In August last year, SAA launched a route between Accra, Ghana and Washington DC in North America.
Now, AU member state passengers on this route can obtain a visa-on-arrival to explore Ghana when on a lengthy layover in the West African country.
Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.
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