Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ghana rolls out visa-on-arrival program for AU countries

(citifmonline ) Ghana has commenced the rolling out of the visa-on-arrival policy effective Friday, July 1, 2016.

It follows President’s Mahama’s announcement early this year of the country’s preparedness to implement the program to allow AU citizens visiting the country secure visas for up to about thirty days upon arriving in the country.

This also falls in line with the resolution adopted at the African Union Executive Council meeting held earlier this year in Addis Ababa. The resolution among other things stipulated that AU Member States review their internal and external security realities in an attempt to implement mechanisms allowing for the issuing of visas on arrival for citizens of Member States, with the possibility of a 30-day stay. In the first state of the nation address to Parliament on February 25 this year, President Mahama said, “With effect from July this year, we will be allowing citizens of AU Member States to enter – our country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to thirty days and experience what our country has to offer. This measure, with time, should stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism.” The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in March, also commended Ghana for taking immediate concrete steps to implement the decision of the Executive Council. She also noted that Ghana is reaffirming its Pan-Africanism and upholding its place in the area of the African continental integration, which is a key tenet towards the realisation of Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want. “After Ghana, I am convinced that many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa”, Dr. Dlamini Zuma said. Visa-on-arrival not to affect ECOWAS citizens The announcement was initially met with some reservations over concerns that it will be applicable to citizens of ECOWAS member states. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, in a statement clarified, “We wish to state that this is not the case, and all ECOWAS citizens including those from the Federal Republic of Nigeria will continue to be allowed entry into Ghana as per the provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol A/P.1/5/79 relating to Free movement of persons, residence and establishment, and which allows citizens of ECOWAS states to travel within the region without having to obtain visas prior to undertaking their journey.” Airline operators caution against security of visa-on-arrival program Airline operators have welcomed the introduction of the visa on arrival policy saying it will increase air traffic into Ghana. They have however cautioned on the need to develop effective security systems for the full benefits of the policy to be attained. Speaking to Citi Business News on the development, the Country Manager of South African Airways, Gloria Wilkinson explained that robust security systems will reduce the harm to be caused by a potential attack. “I am also confident that government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative and this is why it is happy with the implementation because that is perhaps the only area that I see if it’s not well managed can be a concern. But if that is well managed such that we have automated system such as the Advanced Passenger Information System, APIS, so that you know who is on board a carrier coming into the country and you have intel about them, then you can stop them just before they enter,” she stated.