NAIROBI – The Intergovernmental Authority on Development is seeking to to have a single electronic visa for member states.
)n August 28, IGAD launched consultation meeting to present provision of the adopted protocol on Free Movement of Persons in Djibouti.
The consolation was o explain and determine the technical, legal, and administrative requirements for implementing the IGAD single visa system.
IGAD Executive Secretary Dr Workneh Gebeyehu said the advantages of a unified electronic visa for the region are obvious, multifaceted and far-reaching, and that a streamlined visa process would trigger a surge in trade among member states.
Dr Workneh said facilitating seamless travel, the initiative has the potential to catalyze transformative benefits across many and various dimensions.
“At the heart of our mandate, vision and mission as IGAD is lies the objective of regional integration. This unified electronic visa aligns seamlessly with our core principles, and it shall bring to life our policy instruments such as protocols of free movement and transhumance.
“Moreover, it provides a structured framework for the formalization of informal cross-border trade, promoting fairness, transparency, and inclusive economic participation.” Dr Workneh said, adding that a unified visa approach will foster skill transfers and capital flows.
Health and Social Development Division Director Fathia Alwan said the single visa proposal involves the issuance of a common visa that allows visitors, non-citizen of IGAD member states, to travel freely within the region without the need for multiple visas request for each member state.
“The IGAD single visa process reduces administrative burdens, and promotes the seamless movement of tourists and business travelers and important tool for regional economic integration and as a driver for regional economic growth,” said added.
“It is expected that the member states shall take Memorandum of Understanding to their home to discuss with their counterparts and indicate their willingness to participate within 20 days’ time,” the statement added.
The Executive Secretary gave examples with blocs that have rolled out the initiative, among them the EAC, ECOWAS and the EU.
” The ECOWAS region implementation of a visa-free regime for its citizens has shown commendable results. When they implemented it, there was an immediate and significant increase in intra-regional tourism, with an estimated rise of over 40% in travel within the region.
“Furthermore, the ECOWAS region experienced an impressive 15% boost in trade volumes following the implementation of a unified visa scheme, reinforcing the argument that easier movement of people correlates positively with trade expansion,” he said.
He noted that in EAC, where an East African Tourist Visa has been operational, noteworthy outcomes have been realised through tourism growth, increased revenues, employment, and exposure of the unique cultural heritage of each nation.
“.. we must acknowledge the lessons from successful visa initiatives globally, as we have done from the Schengen visa in Europe, the KAZA visa in Southern Africa, and the aforementioned cases from ECOWAS and EAC. These success stories are not merely blueprints; they are tangible evidence that our collective vision is achievable,”” he said.
Ambassadors, experts, and representative of member states participated in the consultation meeting.
The Free Movement Protocol was endorsed on February 2020 by IGAD member states ministers in charge of Internal Affairs and Labour.
The Agreement Establishing IGAD in Article 7 and Article 13 calls upon IGAD Member State to deepen regional integration through, among other things, creating a regime of free movement of persons, right of residence and right of establishment.
Since 2017, IGAD member states embarked on the process towards the establishment of a free movement regime.