Government Open To Visas On Arrival For AU Citizens

Government will “explore ways to make it possible” for visas to be issued on arrival to citizens from African countries to boost aviation, intra-regional trade and tourism, Deputy Minister of Transport Joyce Bawa Mogtari has said. “...It is something we will carry on board and explore ways of making it a possibility. That is the whole purpose of the AU and ECOWAS, and I hope that as we improve on aviation and our bilateral relations then this dream will also become a reality,” she said. Mrs. Mogtari was speaking at the launch in Accra of commercial flight operations by RwandAir, the national carrier of Rwanda, a country that started issuing visas on arrival to all African citizens from January 2013. In the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) more than 80 percent of all migration is intra-regional. Nonetheless, Africans need visas to go to 80 percent of African countries -- restrictions that are reckoned to be far higher for Africans travelling within Africa than for Europeans and North Americans. “I think that Ghana is actually becoming a hub for aviation in Africa and the idea of Government is to ensure that we create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. One way of doing this is by creating access for all African countries,” said Mrs. Mogtari. Last month, the African Development Bank (AfDB) used its annual meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, to discuss the benefits of relaxing visa restrictions throughout Africa. The discussions recognised the tremendous benefit that comes with lowering of unwieldy visa requirements for AU citizens, such as has been demonstrated by Rwanda since it adopted a pragmatic and efficient approach to issuing e-visas and visas on arrival. Since Rwanda streamlined its system, tourism arrivals from African countries have increased by 24 percent and its trade with neighbouring countries increased by 50 percent last year. Mr. John Mirenge, Chief Executive Officer of RwandAir, said: “RwandAir is expanding. We are buying more planes and the fact of the matter is that we need to increase destinations, and there is no better place to come to than Accra, Ghana. I think we need to connect better, to link up with the rest of Africa.” RwandAir will be flying passengers from Accra to Kilagi and is planning flights to Juba in South Sudan; Douala, Cameroon; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, within the next three months. The airline operates international flights to Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya; Entebbe, Uganda; Bujumbura, Burundi; and Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza in Tanzania. It also flies to Johannesburg, Dubai, Libreville and Brazzaville.