AFRICA must seriously consider throwing out visa requirements for its nationals to effectively compete with its international counterparts, says the president of the African Business Roundtab
le Group (ABR) Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
Tukur is a former Nigerian minister and now ambassador for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), the programme trying to attract international investors to Africa.
The diplomat was in Harare for a one-day fact-finding mission on Zimbabwe.
He is expected to return to Harare next month to present his findings formally to President Robert Mugabe.
Tukur said government, civil society, business and other stakeholders should ensure that all barriers that impede the free movement of goods, services and persons were dismantled.
He said there were too many economic groupings in Africa which, instead of helping to solve the continent’s problems, sometimes worsened them
Africa has various regional economic groupings that include the Southern Africa Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Economic Community for West African States.
“We must just get rid of these silly visa requirements,” Tukur said in an interview. “Look at my passport. I have a visa for Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya and Mozambique. In fact the list is endless. However I only have one visa for Europe and one for the United States of America, which are far more developed than Africa. Seriously if we are trying to attract investment we should allow our citizens to move freely within the region and tap opportunities.”
On Zimbabwe Tukur said it was disturbing to see the country go down the drain – economically and socially.
“Zimbabwe used to be the jewel of Africa and we had so much hope for you,” he said. “It is however disheartening to see the country go down the drain like this. Look at your infrastructure, it’s crumbling. Look at the street kids all over the capital. Look at the litter. Where are the businessmen? Are they happy about the way things are going? This is very sad.”
He said the problem with Africans in general and Zimbabweans in particular, was that there was this sense of “collective responsibility” when dealing with problems even when it did not help improve the situation.
“How can you allow a few individuals to drag your country down the drain like this?” he asked. “Do you mean to tell me that there aren’t individuals who can keep this country afloat?”
He said Africa had decided that Nepad was its development theme and what remained was a well-focused political will to see it through.
“This will depend on the committed leadership of both the public and private sectors in Africa,” he said. “If there is any recurring unison lately on Africa’s entrepreneurial future, it is on the need to fully engage the private sector in Africa towards continental development”.
He said from the lips of Africa’s leadership, from the huge volumes of research papers and conference resolutions, expert recommendations in the international forum, and policy pronouncements in boardrooms, a consensus had been reached that Africa’s economic well-being into the millennium rested essentially with its private sector.
“So, if words are to be the day’s catch, the private sector in Africa should have long been the visible vanguard of our commercial life,” he said. “The truth however is that indigenous African private enterprise is as weak as the African economy itself. It exhibits the same shortfalls – it is weak, fragmented, isolated, peripheral, inadequate, and fragile. In a world of mind boggling advances in technology and economic progress, Africa appears a barely tolerated drop in a vast ocean of global opportunities.”