For the sake of future generations of West Africans, you cannot afford to fail

Tourism development is an excellent indicator of the success of such schemes: for every 36 new tourists in any given destination, one new job is created. In G20 countries visa facilitation has historically increased international tourist arrivals by 5-25% following the implementation of policy changes (according to a study by Tourism Economics for the UN). The actual gain depends largely on the specific visa facilitation actions taken and the markets affected.

Given the clear benefits to Africans, it is difficult to understand why visa facilitation measures have taken so long to be introduced. Cost can be an issue, as can the capacity of public sector organisations to develop and implement e-visa programmes.

Think-tanks have suggested solutions. As the Brookings Institute has said, one way to encourage the members of the Regional Economic Communities to open up their borders uniformly would be to replace the revenue that was created previously by visa fees. This requires private sector involvement and financing: African companies must step up.

The Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament recently said that unless they create a free trade area that unleashes Africa’s full economic potential the Government and the private sector in West Africa will be held to account by Africa’s people. In a speech addressed to the negotiators of the trade deal she said: “For the sake of future generations of West Africans, you cannot afford to fail.”

The challenge is clear; to invest in trade-related infrastructure which can unlock Africa’s potential. The extra trade generated by just five per cent more trade within the continent amounts to the cost of 425,000 schools per year in Nigeria, 1.48 million new libraries per year in Malawi, or 3.4 million nurses for 10 years in Cameroon. This level of increased trade far exceeds the level of aid promised to Africa at the Gleneagles Summit of the G8 countries in 2006.

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