Zim ranks high as most improved SADC member

Tanatsiwa Dambuza Herald Correspondent

The latest report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI) 2022, ranks Zimbabwe as the most improved SADC member at number nine.

Zimbabwe is also among the top 10 most improved countries in Africa.

The report was launched on December 11 in Mauritius during the African Economic Conference (AEC).

Since 2016 when the AfDB and African Union Commission launched the AVOI, Zimbabwe has been among the most improved countries each year due to its friendly and welcoming policy environment, especially since the coming in of the Second Republic.

The index summarises the visa policy of each country in Africa, shows the changes in each country’s scores and rankings from year to year, and explains how the continent is performing on visa openness overall.

It also measures the extent to which African countries are open to visitors from other African countries and how countries’ policies are evolving as regards the freedom of movement across Africa.

The report tracks visa policies adopted by African governments on three main criteria: whether entry to citizens from other African countries is visa-free, if a visa on arrival can be obtained, and whether travellers are required to obtain visas ahead of travelling to other African countries

Despite the outbreak of Covid-19 in the last two years which attracted travel restrictions and border closures, Zimbabwe has performed exceptionally well in that regard above all SADC countries and is ranked ninth among the most improved countries in 2022 owing to the introduction of the electronic visa (e-visa) and its commitment to the AU free mobility initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons (PFMP).

This is complemented by the ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business Initiative’, which was introduced by the Second Republic to facilitate the engagement, re-engagement and reimaging of Zimbabwe in the regional and international communities.

According to the report, Zimbabwe is among the only 24 African countries, 10 Comesa countries and eight SADC member States presently offering reliable e-visa services.

Interestingly, Zimbabwe also allows the nationals of 13 of 16 SADC countries and 17 AU member states to enter the country without a visa; 10 are required to provide a visa on arrival while 26 are required to provide a visa. This means Zimbabwe offers simplified entry to more than half of its fellow Comesa members through the Simplified Trading Regime and One-Stop-Border Post.

This explains why Zimbabwe rose from being ranked number 32 in the inaugural AVOI in 2016 to number 22 in this year’s index, and with the AfCFTA entering its operationalisation phase starting with the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI), there are high hopes that Zimbabwe will rise higher in the 2023 index.

For Zimbabwe, visa openness is vital for revamping the country’s economy in the post-Covid era, improving the ease of doing business which attracts investors from other African states.

Research has shown that countries with complicated visa procedures and bureaucratic pathologies are losing the potential economic benefits that can be brought forward by travellers, tourists, and investors.

However, countries offering e-visas and open visas have benefitted immensely from such initiatives.

It is therefore imperative for Zimbabwe to learn from the most open countries such as Seychelles, Benin and The Gambia, in order to further improve its state of ease of doing business and investor-friendly climate.

The author, Tanatsiwa Dambuza, is a recent MSc International Trade and Diplomacy graduate from the University of Zimbabwe

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