Southern African nations ponder scrapping visas

Top government officials in Southern Africa began meeting on Monday to find ways of addressing trade barriers, such as scrapping visa requirements, which are said to hinder regional integration.

Experts from finance ministries in the region are expected to find solutions to problems affecting the free movement of people and goods ahead of the launch of a common market later this year.

“The challenges faced by the region in pursuit of regional integration include free movement of persons and the lack of mechanisms to compensate for losses in revenue due to integration,” said Jennifer Kargbo, director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA-SA).

She said the requirement of visas to enter neighbouring nations within the Southern African region is a major threat to the launch of the Free Trade Area in August 2008.

And Zambia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Jonas Shakafuswa, said the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has developed a protocol that would facilitate the free movement of people in order to enhance trade.

“The protocol is meant to enable citizens of the community to enjoy freedom of movement, namely visa-free entry and residence in the territories of member states,” Shakafuswa said.

The meeting is attended by permanent secretaries from 14 SADC member countries who will develop recommendations for to help achieve a Free Trade Area.—Sapa-AFP

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