Africa edges closer to a borderless continent goal


Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa (left) with his Botswana counterpart, President Mokgweetsi Masisi

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE scrapping of passport requirements to travel between Botswana and Zimbabwe is a giant step towards regional integration and aligns with the free movement advocated for under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The new arrangement will culminate in citizens of both neighbouring countries visiting the respective countries without the need of a passport, permit or visa, which have for years been bemoaned as expensive.

An identification document (ID) would be enough to cross the borders. Citizens of both countries can live in Botswana or Zimbabwe for a maximum of 90 days without any visa, permit or passport.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe announced that he had discussed with his Botswana counterpart, Mokgweetsi Masisi, to open up their borders.

“I have been talking to my brother here (Masisi) after he was making a statement here and we have agreed. I can announce that from now on we shall instruct our officials that there shall be no question of how to enter Zimbabwe, how to enter Botswana,” Mnangagwa said.

Masisi concurred.

“The authorization of the use of national identity documents to cross our national borders, is a clear demonstration of our steadfast commitment to promote relations between our countries and foster social cohesion among our citizens, as well as enhance regional cooperation and integration,” Masisi said.

Botswana has several border posts with Zimbabwe. The two most important are the one between Kasane and Victoria Falls, at Kazungula and the busiest one at Plumtree-Ramokgwebana.

There is a smaller post at Pandamatenga.

Botswana, which hosts the headquarters of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc, earlier this year entered into a similar arrangement with Namibia.

Namibian President, Hage Geingob, said the countries were taking the first steps towards realisation of SADC Protocol on the facilitation of movement of persons and goods.

“In the same vein, steps like these could form a foundation whose stepping stones may lead to the path in inspiring Africans to attain continental integration,” Geingob said.

Another SADC member state, Seychelles, has opened its borders declaring passports, permits or visas will no longer be compulsory for visitors from the continent.

In East Africa’s largest economy, Kenya, President William Ruto recently announced his country’s border would open to visitors from the entirety of Africa, with no visas required effectively December 2023.

Other African countries to implement similar measures are Gambia and Benin in West Africa.

These developments are in line with the African Union (AU) advocating for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment.

AfCFTA was established in 2018, which then saw 43 parties and another 11 signatories commit themselves, making it the largest free-trade area by number of member states, after the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the largest in population and geographic size, spanning 1.3 billion people across the world’s second largest continent.

The agreement founding AfCFTA was brokered by the AU and signed by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda in 2018.

AfCFTA’s negotiations and implementation are overseen by a permanent secretariat based in Accra, Ghana.

Under the agreement, AfCFTA members are committed to eliminating tariffs on most goods and services over a period of five, ten or 13 years, depending on the country’s level of development or the nature of the products.

General long-term objectives include creating a single, liberalised market; reducing barriers to capital and labour to facilitate investment; developing regional infrastructure; and establishing a continental customs union.

The overall aims of AfCFTA are to increase socio-economic development, reduce poverty and make Africa more competitive in the global economy.

In 2022, AfCFTA took a major step towards its objective with the establishment of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), which allows payments among companies operating in Africa to be done in any local currency.

The move towards a borderless Africa is a major blow to some South African opposition politicians and parties, who are swimming against the tide and advocating for the continent’s most advanced economy to tighten its borders and deport so-called foreign nationals.

Among these are Herman Mashaba of the ActionSA and counterpart, but little known Gayton Mckenzie of the Patriotic Alliance (PA).

On the contrary it is a boost to the bigger opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is advocating for a borderless Africa.

– CAJ News














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