Namibia is a member of the newly-established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and one of the first countries to ratify and deposit the AfCFTA agreement. The AfCFTA has been operative as of 1 January 2021, and aims to create a single market across the continent for over 1 billion people to stimulate intra-African trade that stood at 12% in 2013 to approximately 50% by 2045, boost the continent’s trading position in the world market, and generate a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion. For Namibia to reap the benefits of investment acceleration and industrial development that come with the AfCFTA, it is essential for policymakers to assimilate and subsume pertinent policies into the national pivotal agendas, which are intended for entrenching indestructible economic growth and viable development. Such policies comprise the liberalisation of visa policy, inter alia.
Visa liberalisation plays a prestigious function in incentivising business activities, investments and innovation, which are all prominent for building sturdy industrial development and economic growth. However, Namibia remains one of the African countries with tight visa policies against travellers from the rest of the continent, citing the intelligible ‘uncertainty avoidance’ conception of Geert Hofstede behind the motive. In this frame of reference, corroboration is adduced in the Africa Visa Openness Index reports (AVOI) that the African Development Bank Group and the African Union Commission have been jointly determined to produce annually for the past five years to track changes in the scores of countries. Since 2016, Namibia has been among the 15 poorly performing countries, constantly scoring a mere 0.24 out of 1.00.
Besides that, there are other countries such as Seychelles, Benin and The Gambia that have espoused the liberalisation of visa policy, and they generally gain much in novel ways. For instance, the World Bank statistics of 2020 reveal a drastic intensification in international tourism receipts for Seychelles due to the enactment of its visa openness policy, growing by US$113 million between 2016 and 2019. Such exemplary gains imply a likelihood of realising more benefits, given the implementation of the AfCFTA. Hence, it is highly recommended for Namibia to attune its visa policies. The threefold possible recommendations include i) the implementation of a well-functioning e-visa policy; ii) visa on arrival policy, and iii) no-visa policy for all African travellers. Currently, the visa on arrival policy is moderately functioning, available to 25 countries. In the same vein, the no-visa policy is also functional but cramped to just 13 countries, predominantly the member states of the Southern African Development Community bloc. Therefore, it is in that respect that there is a need for an amendment in eligibility to incorporate all African countries, which will accelerate domestic ventures and pave a way for building economies of scale and efficiency in terms of value chain.
In a nutshell, visa liberalisation for all Africans can make Namibia a continental hub for tourism and investments that will ultimately enhance industrial development for economic growth. Therefore, policymakers are urged to be not reluctant with its implementation as procrastination can be a very unwise economic decision that denies the country the benefits presented by the AfCFTA.
*Johanna Pangeiko Nautwima is an international economist from Ohangwena region, professionally specialising in regional development and regional integration at the African Development Bank Group. This article was written in her own capacity, and not that of the organisation she is affiliated to.