African nations should embrace visa-free travel

Kenyan passport holders can travel visa-free to, at least, 40 countries and territories. [iStockphoto]

The African continent is one of the most diverse and richly endowed in the world, with an array of cultures, natural resources, and economic opportunities.

However, despite this vast potential, many African nations remain disconnected from each other, both socially and economically. One major obstacle to greater integration and cooperation is the lack of visa-free travel between African countries.

For example, a Kenyan requires a visa to travel to Angola, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Libya and Liberia, among others. The same Kenyan has visa free access to Malaysia, Hong Kong, Panama, Philippines, Singapore, Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominica, Fiji and Haiti. This is a major impediment to African unity and development, and it is time for African leaders to take bold steps to remove these barriers.

Foremost, visa-free travel between all African nations would promote greater economic growth and development. Currently, trade and investment between African countries are hampered by visa requirements, which create significant obstacles to cross-border travel and investment. Removing these barriers would make it easier for businesses to operate across borders, promote greater competition, and help to create more jobs and economic opportunities across the continent.

Moreover, visa-free travel would also promote greater cultural exchange and understanding between African nations. One of the major challenges facing Africa today is the persistence of negative stereotypes and misunderstandings between different countries and cultures. By making it easier for people to travel freely across borders, we can promote greater understanding and appreciation of the rich diversity of African cultures, languages, and traditions.

In addition to these, visa-free travel would also help to foster greater political unity and cooperation across the continent. Currently, many African nations remain divided along ethnic, linguistic, and political lines. This has created challenges for regional integration and cooperation, as well as for the development of common policies and institutions that can address the continent's many challenges.

By removing visa requirements, we can help to break down these barriers and create a more united, cohesive African community. This, in turn, would make it easier for African leaders to work together to address common challenges such as poverty, disease, conflict, and environmental degradation.

Of course, there are some legitimate concerns that should be addressed to ensure visa-free travel between African nations is successful. Some critics argue that removing visa requirements could lead to increased migration and security risks, as well as exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.

These concerns are not without merit, and it is important for African leaders to take steps to address them. Furthermore, African leaders could also work together to address the root causes of inequality and poverty, such as by promoting greater access to education, healthcare, and other essential services.

-Mr Mureithi is The Standard's Production Editor