- The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is set to launch a single visa system (ECOVISA) that will boost trade and tourism in the region
- The new cooperative visa scheme will increase tourism in the ECOWAS region
- The ECOVISA project has some obstacles that, if not properly managed, could be costly
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is set to launch a single visa system (ECOVISA) that will boost trade and tourism in the region. The ECOVISA is modeled after the widely used Schengen system in Europe, which allows travel to any Schengen member country and a stay of up to 90 days for either leisure or business.
The ECOVISA will provide a platform for national immigration service representatives of member states to promote coordination and collaboration on issues pertaining to border and migration control in the area. The swift implementation of ECOVISA, in accordance with the regional bloc, will increase travel to the area.
ECOWAS is a regional organization made up of 15 member West African nations. The main goal of the organization is to advance economic integration, cooperation, and development in the area. It aspires to develop a single market, boost trade, make it easier for people and commodities to move around freely, and promote political stability and peace among its member states.
The adoption of ECOVISA would efficiently handle migration and cross-border movements of people. According to analysts, the new cooperative visa scheme will increase tourism in the ECOWAS region. Today, a tourist needs a visa to travel from one nation in the region to another. The process is expensive and time-consuming, which discourages many travelers. The ECOVISA will more closely resemble the most widely used Schengen visa in Europe, which is well-liked for enabling travel to any Schengen member country.
Challenges of the Visa
The ECOVISA project has some obstacles that, if not properly addressed, could prove damaging. The open border policy will lead to a surge in terrorist activities. Fears abound that the continent’s numerous terrorist organizations, like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, may exploit its porous borders to plan operations across wide swaths of land.
Some residents live nomadic lifestyles in West Africa; visa-free travel in the region might be a logistical headache. Few West African states currently have biometric passport issuance systems in place, which could make it difficult to issue a uniform visa. Accessing the visa could also be difficult for some nations given the disparities in technological development levels across West Africa.
Some member states feel that the visa would affect domestic labor markets. The influx of migrants will result in competition for jobs. In other countries like South Africa, both legal and illegal migration have been cited as the cause of previous xenophobic outbreaks.In addition, large economies such as Nigeria are concerned about the effects that potential population growth may have on cities. Huge cities such as Lagos will be under more pressure as a result of the free movement of people.
Other African regions
No other African region has initiated this initiative of a free visa process. However, there have been some bilateral arrangements between neighboring countries, such as Botswana and Namibia, for a free visa. The African Union plans to introduce the African Passport, which will facilitate the free movement of people across the continent; however, many countries are against the idea.