Central Africa bloc drops visa requirement to ease movement

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema arrives in Libreville, Gabon, on June 14, 2013.   PHOTO | AFP.

Central Africa’s six-member trade bloc has scraped visa requirements for 45 million citizens travelling within the region in a bid to speed up regional integration process.

Leaders of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) meeting at an extraordinary summit this weekend in Gabon capital, Libreville, said the decision will take effect as from January 1, 2014.

This is intended to build a more secure community with a stronger bargaining position, said CEMAC commission head Mr Pierre Moussa.

The leaders also created a policy framework to shield businesses in the CEMAC region from external market competitions and agreed on coordinating their customs and trade rules for free trade of goods across the region’s borders.

“Gains resulting from opening up the community’s market and new business opportunities that will inevitably arise, would satisfy the aspirations of the youth of our sub region,” Mr Moussa said.

Opening up markets

Central Africa, experts say, has recorded the slowest progress in regional integration in Africa despite being endowed with huge natural resources.

Integration programmes in Central Africa have largely traipsed due to political, economic, institutional and financial obstacles caused by overlapping membership to two blocs with different integration schemes.

CEMAC countries are also members of the 11-member Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Both claim to be seeking to eliminate the problem of small-sized national markets, and to open up and to create a larger area capable of facing market competition resulting from globalisation.

The summit also sought ways to improve on the region’s transit networks said to be the poorest on the continent.

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