During their annual forum in the Tanzanian capital city of Dar es Salaam before the break of last week, former African presidents have seriously advocated for free movement of people within the African continent, looking for the waiving of visa requirements to all travelers inside the continent.
A meeting of former African heads of state has been organized, a few months before the Africa Travel Association’s (ATA) 40th Congress comes to the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, to discuss and deliberate the future of Africa’s tourism and travel industry.
The former heads of state had so far raised their concerns over the current situation of which Africans are restricted to cross from one country to another through a visa requirement.
Made up of former presidents and prime ministers who led respective countries in the past, the African leaders met in Dar es Salaam and expressed their commitment to push for an integrated African continent.
They said during their second annual Leadership lorum that the African continent needs integration, but lack of leadership’s commitment in addressing challenges facing this continent had so far impeded the integration process.
Former Tanzanian President, Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, wanted to know whether Africa’s natural resources including tourism and wildlife were proved to making African people rich, while they were still poor.
Malawi’s former President, Bakili Muluz,i said there was a need to address challenges facing the continent’s visa restrictions.
“We all want integration. But we must eliminate snags in the integration process. We have countries in the continent that are sending other Africans away. How can we talk about integration when African people cannot move freely in the continent?” Mr. Muluzi questioned.
Muluzi noted that with a visa requirement out of the way and the right infrastructure put in place for the exchange of goods and services, the African continent would take off faster and change the lives of those who call it home.
Former Nigerian President Mr. Olesegun Obasanjo asked, “How can Africa trade within the continent, when there is no free movement?”
Mr. Obasanjo noted that there are some progresses being made towards an integrated Africa, taking a good example of West Africa. He told the other former African leaders that integration would be the best thing for Africa.
“What we need to do in order to speed the integration process is to abolish visa in Africa,” said Mr. Obasanjo. “West African countries have done it, and it is working.”
“There is no evidence to suggest that insecurity has escalated in West African countries because of free movement of people,” Obasanjo said, adding that if anything, citizens of West Africa are now more integrated than the rest of the continent.
Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings noted that the abolition of visas has been working well among members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Rawlings noted that integration was about movement of people, which was hampered by current strict visa requirements in many African countries, adding that complete abolition was the best way forward.
He said the West African region had made great strides on free movement and where there is a high movement of people and goods compared to the rest of the African continent. Rwanda and Mauritius emerged as a good example of African states which dropped the visa requirement to African travelers and other nationalities entering those nations.
For the integration process to take place smoothly, Africa needs knowledgeable and skilled people and fearful leaders, said former Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba.
But, Ugandan President, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, who is still in power, defended his stance on leading Uganda, saying it was nonsense to discuss the time limit for an African leader to be in power.
“You waste a lot of energy and time thinking about who is doing what instead of focusing on what is being done,” Museveni said.
The African Leadership Forum themed, “Moving towards an integrated Africa,” is made up of a panel of retired African presidents.
Africa is made up of 54 countries which are looking to move in one direction at a go, said the former leaders.
Recognizing Africa’s tourist and travel potential, the Africa Travel Association (ATA), leader in promoting tourism to Africa, will hold its 40th Annual World Congress in Nairobi, Kenya, from November 9 to 14 this year.
ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman said the tourism and travel stakeholders were eager to return to Kenya for this milestone ATA history.
“We are delighted to bring together the public and private sectors, travel industry, and media to participate in the congress,” said Eddie.
This also comes at an important time to showcase Kenyan tourism aiming to show the world that Kenya is an incredible destination and is open for business and deserves global attention.
“We encourage the travel industry to stand with Kenya and support tourism,” Eddie said.