Sunday May 27, 2018
Home Politics Central Afric...

Central Africa Regional Bloc Creates Six-country Visa-free zone for its Citizens after 23 years of Negotiation

The announcement marked the culmination of 23 years of negotiation.

0
//
84
visa
CEMAC bloc on the map pf Africa. VOA
Republish
Reprint

Africa, November 3, 2017 : The Central African Economic and Monetary Community reached a key milestone this week. Heads of state meeting in Chad lifted visa requirements for their citizens traveling within the six-member regional bloc. But challenges remain to ensuring free movement and deepening economic integration.

The announcement marked the culmination of 23 years of negotiation.

Citizens of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Chad no longer need visas to travel within the six-member economic bloc.

Chadian President Idris Deby made the announcement at the CEMAC heads of state summit in Ndjamena.

Deby said the people have rightfully been waiting for strong actions that concretely demonstrate that the integration of central Africa is a reality, which is the main reason the Central African Economic and Monetary Community was created. He said everyone who visited Chad this week can testify that they were exempted from visa charges.

CEMAC was founded in 1994, but has trailed behind other regional blocs on the continent in lifting visa restrictions.

Economist Youssouf Saleh, Chad’s former prime minister, said for CEMAC, it is better late than never. But he added that the effectiveness of the free movement of goods and people will depend on whether there is also an integrated and competitive economy and whether political divides that have hampered economic activity are broken.

Last year, the economies of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea took a hit amid the global drop in oil prices. The two countries sealed their borders to stop job-seeking youths flooding into their countries and even began expelling some migrants from other CEMAC countries.

Only Chad, Cameroon and Gabon have started issuing the CEMAC biometric passports, despite a January 2014 deadline.

Security concerns are also hindering free movement. At Garoua-Boulai on Cameroon’s eastern border with the C.A.R., border controls remain with travelers prevented from crossing on both sides.

Cameroonian Colonel Etienne Detou said they have arrested rebel combatants from the Central African Republic trying to cross disguised as business persons and refugees.

He said although there is relative peace on the Cameroon side. But he added it should be noted there are regular incursions by armed groups and highway robbers from Central African Republic. He said the military and the police should be very vigilant and self-defense groups should participate in safeguarding their territory.

Cameroon and Chad are also limiting free movement of people at their common border.Both countries have suffered Boko Haram atrocities as well and want to make it harder for the terrorists to penetrate.

CEMAC Commission President Pierre Moussa said the states are taking measures to address security concerns.

He said for the new visa-free policy to be fully effective, the heads of state have authorized the Development Bank of Central African States to pay $2 million as part of the debt they owe the International Police Organization so that they can help secure the borders of CEMAC.

Other ambitious plans for CEMAC regional integration are yet to be executed, including plans to create a regional airline and to build roads linking the regional capitals. (VOA)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Indian Travellers Emerging as Key Market for America: Brand USA

According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year

0
//
41
Brand USA
Sean Donohue, CEO, Dallas Fort Worth Airport Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Christopher L Thompson, President & CEO, Brand USA. Wikimedia

Sep 17, 2017: The Indian outbound traveller is now a much-coveted commodity around the world, as the country’s booming middle class seeks new destinations and emerges as a key market.

The Indian market has set a new record as 1.17 million tourists visited the US last year, according to Brand USA, the nation’s first public-private partnership to promote the United States as a travel destination.

“Brand USA has reached the million visitor mark from India, we expect much more growth. This year has seen our largest delegation of our Brand USA India mission with nearly 40 organisations, we actually had a waiting list of people wanting to tap the indian market. And that really shows the importance that India has,” Suzana Shepard, Manager Global Trade Development Brand USA, said during a branding event organized by Brand USA representative Sartha Global Marketing in New Delhi.

In February, Brand USA inaugurated the US-India travel and tourism partnership year in Delhi, led by the US Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO). The NTTO had forecast a 72 per cent increase in arrivals from 2015 through 2021.

While business travelers and family visits have been the norm so far, more Indians travel to less visited states and try new activities involving adventure and thrills.

“Indians are big consumers of adventure activities and this is exactly what we got in Nevada for them. The US is very much a road trip destination and there is so much to see, different landscapes, just like in India I guess but with a different decor, different people and a great melting pot of cultures,” said Claudia Vecchio, Director of the Department of Tourism & Cultural Affairs in Nevada.

According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year.

“There is really a great opportunity, only one per cent of the population has a passport and there is a growing middle class. It leaves room for a lot development,” Shepard said.

The increasing number of direct flights from India by national carrier Air India has also helped in catering to the tourists’ demand, the latest being Delhi-Washington DC. A couple of years ago, Air India also added San Francisco to its other non-stop flights to New York, Chicago and Newark. The carrier is said to be evaluating a direct flight to Los Angeles as well.

“With the non-stop service from India, San Francisco Airport has seen the traffic back and forth to India grow by 10 per cent, said Melissa Andretta, Director of International Marketing at San Francisco International Airport.

“The United States has always been a prime destination for Indian tourists, the country being home to an important Indian diaspora. We are seeing a lot of FITs coming, a lot of Indian weddings celebrated in Washington DC where an important Indian origin population lives. You can even celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali just like you would do in India as the city organises special decorations and festivities,” said Yi Lu, International Sales Manager at Destination DC.

On the recent visa restrictions on Indian travellers to the USA, Shepard said that they had no impact on the tourism to India and that Indians are warmly welcomed by many Americans. (IANS)