ADDIS ABABA – Member states of the East African regional bloc seek to adopt a single electronic visa regime in a bid to foster economic cooperation and integration.
Countries in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) region offer little visa openness to each other on a reciprocal basis. The 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index put Igad’s eight states’ average reciprocity score at only 18%.
Member States are presently finalizing protocols on the free movement of persons to change that with the regional bloc spearheading the push.
Igad’s Single Visa initiative
The Igad Single Visa Consultative Meeting was convened in the bloc’s headquarters on Monday.
Its Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu stressed the significance of having a unified visa in achieving regional integration.
“By facilitating seamless travel,” he said, “this initiative has the potential to catalyze transformative benefits across many and various dimensions and… will foster skill transfers and capital flows”.
He also said the initiative not only “aligns seamlessly with our core principles” but also “shall bring to life our policy instruments” such as the Igad Protocols of Free Movement and Transhumance.
The bloc endorsed its Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in 2022 and went on to form a technical working group to harmonize free movement regimes.
Ethiopia backs the initiative
The Consultative Meeting on Monday discussed the single visa plan with the Igad Committee of Ambassadors, officials from the Ministries of Interior and Immigration in attendance.
The Meeting sought to advance regional integration through free movement, aligning with African Union Agenda 2063 and the Continental Free Trade AfCFTA.
“We’re paving the way for a crucial single visa system, akin to the Schengen or East African models,” ambassador of Ethiopia to Djibouti Berhanu Tsegaye said.
The ambassador expressed his country’s “full support” for creating a single visa system, “poised to enhance tourism, propel economic growth, and strengthen regional cooperation.”