Africans visiting Benin will no longer need visas to enter the West African nation, the latest country to join a continent-wide campaign to make travel in Africa easier for Africans.
Over the past year, members of the African Union (AU) have made steps toward the lofty goal of turning Africa into a “continent with seamless borders,” modeled after other regional blocs like the European Union. Benin joins a list of only 13 African countries (pdf), including Rwanda, Mauritius, the Seychelles, and most recently Ghana, that have loosened or scrapped visa requirements altogether.
‘‘Learning from Rwanda, I have decided that Benin will no longer require visas for other Africans,’‘ Benin’s president Patrice Talon said in Rwanda today (Aug. 30).
Intra-continental travel is notoriously difficult for African citizens, with countries often imposing stricter restrictions on their fellow Africans than visitors from outside the continent. Americans can travel to 20 African countries visa-free or by getting visas on arrival.
Benin’s decision follows the launch of an AU passport meant to ease travel between member states either by allowing visa-free entry or streamlining the visa process.
Still, the reality of a borderless bloc is still a ways off. So far, only Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Chadian president Idriss Eby hold the passport. Other heads of state and AU officials are being considered first for the documents. Regardless, the cost of cross-border travel is still prohibitively expensive for most travelers.
Fears of visa-free travel encouraging migrants are also a major obstacle to wider adoption. In South Africa and more recently Zambia, local resentment against migrants and foreigners has turned violent.