AFRICA must seriously consider throwing out visa requirements for its nationals to be able to compete effectively with its international counterparts, says a senior official from the Africa C
apacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
The ACBF, an arm of the World Bank, is charged with attracting international investors to Africa as well as ensuring that money borrowed by the continent is used wisely.
The main objective of ACBF however is to build sustainable economic policy analysis and development management capacity for growth, poverty reduction and good governance in Africa.
The diplomat made the comments in Harare after a one-day meeting with politicians and business executives at a time when Zimbabwe is facing hyperinflation, unemployment, and soaring debts.
Last year Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, head of the African Business Roundtable, expressed the same sentiments when he visited Harare.
Bamanga, who is based in Nigeria, also met with local business leaders during a one-day stay in Harare.
Bamanga promised to formally present his findings to President Robert Mugabe.
The ACBF official said government, civil society, business and other stakeholders should ensure that all barriers that impede the free movement of goods, and services and persons were dismantled.
“We must just get rid of these visa requirements,” he said.
He said it was worrying to discover that Africa still insisted on executives
applying for visas when travelling.
“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 sample opportunities.”
He said it was disturbing to see Zimbabwe go through such a bad patch both economically and socially.
“Zimbabwe used to be the jewel of Africa and we had so much hope for you,” the official said. “It is however sad 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? What are they doing? 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 this did not help either politically or economically.
The official 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”.
The ACBF official said from the huge volumes of research papers and conference resolutions, expert recommendations in the international forum, 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 major advances in technology and economic progress, Africa appears a barely tolerated drop in a vast ocean of global opportunities.”