The open road

Ghanaian broadcast journalist and msafiri’s regular business columnist Komla Dumor wants
more freedom of movement for Africans within the continent.

I have had the pleasure of travelling to several countries across Africa. Each country has given me extraordinary experiences. Fortunately, the process of getting from point A to point B is becoming less of a struggle.

A few weeks ago I was in Morocco for the annual meeting of the African Development Bank. Everyone from politicians to economists, NGO activists and of course many journalists like me, gathered in Marrakesh for passionate debates and discussions about Africa’s future.

The discussions ranged from sustaining the continent’s economic prospects to financing infrastructure projects and the like. The week-long event was well attended and wonderfully engaging with a lot of frank talk.

The weather in Marrakech, as you would expect, was fantastic and the Moroccans played the perfect friendly hosts. In fact, I am determined to return and make a second attempt at hiking in the Atlas Mountains, having failed in my first effort during a break in the conference.

While the general tone of these discussions was quite optimistic, there were some legitimate gripes. One issue that was not the headline topic of any panel discussion, but was talked about nevertheless, was freedom of movement in Africa.

Air travel in Africa is steadily improving. Airlines are adding more destinations and low- budget carriers are setting up shop on the continent. As the skies across Africa open up, so will the ability of people on the continent to travel for business and for leisure. Holidays for African families hopefully will become more affordable. However, my issue is connected directly to this and I must be blunt here. It’s often easier to travel through some countries in Africa with a non-African passport than it is with an African one.

The visa requirements by African states for their fellow African passport holders can be incredibly tedious. Often, on arrival, African passport holders are subject to more stringent levels of scrutiny than non-African passport holders. Having travelled through Africa with my humble Ghanaian passport, I can attest to this fact.

The African Union celebrated 50 years of unity earlier this year and many agree that the movement of goods and people across borders is necessary to make the concept of unity more than just a conversation piece.

The government of Rwanda took the extraordinary step of abolishing pre-travel visa requirements for all Africans at the beginning of this year. Arrive in Kigali. Pick up your visa.

So, what is the rest of the continent waiting for?