Bolstering Economic Integration, Liberia Should Not Be A Spectator

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Africa inspires a swerving wave of development proxies across the continent. As a giant leap to model an integrated “continental strategy” on trade and economic diversification among the African States, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) Agreement was officially endorsed. Even though my own Liberia has only rectified the Agreement, we’ve made no effort to sign it. 

Among many of its endearing benefits are investments, growth diversification, and free movement of people and the need to grow and develop an African synergy that emboldens an appetite for development. 

Of all these many narratives and regional homilies on how to propel the African agenda, I am impressed by the progress being made to intensify the visa-free initiative.

According to Quartz Africa: Africans can now travel across more than half of the continent without getting visas beforehand: It is getting easier for Africans to travel across their own continent over the year. While the African Union has long held up its goal of integration and freer movement of Africans within the continent, the reality is that perennially, it has been easier for North Americans or European passport holders to travel around Africa than for Africans themselves. But, thanks to slow and incremental progress, that’s starting to change for African travelers.

For the first time Africans have travel access to 51% of the continent and now only need visas to travel to fewer than half of other African countries, according to the Africa Development Bank’s Visa Openness Index for 2019. Of the 51% of countries, Africans can access more freely, 26% offer visas on arrival while 25% do not require prior visas from African travelers. https://qz.com/…/which-african-countries-offer-visa-on-arr…/

As the continent rediscovers itself through sterling performances of regional bodies like the AFDB, AU inter alia, Liberia should embed a policy recipe that sees a split from “perceived deficiencies” that potentially cripple the traditional method of economic reform and growth expansion (sales of iron ore, royalties from exploration and rent payment from multinationals).

We must inaugurate a visa upon arrival program and introduce a visa-free entry to economically viable African countries like Mauritius, Ethiopia, South African, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco, etc. The prospect to attract investors through this program is massive. It will accelerate and influence intra-regional investments, “territorial competition” and an enforce geopolitical prosperity of economic growth. Rwanda is a classic portrait of the rubric “the pottery of tourist attraction”. Through its new visa regime that permits foreigners a 30-day vision arrival, this landlocked nation witnesses a gigantic leap in revenue inflows and a positive shift in FDI. We too can do the same. 

The growing political friction due to the deteriorating ailment of our economy, this endeavor must be of “seismic importance”. Undoubtedly, Liberia’s “sluggish economic” development is palpable through innovation and policy reforms. We could do better by “rationalizing the range of overlapping trading blocs” rather than settle for a neo-colonial project enforced by the IMF. As Robert Robb indicated in his controversial reaction to the IMF, “The IMF describes its role in anodyne terms: “The IMF assists countries hit by crises by providing them financial support to create breathing room as they implement adjustment policies to restore stability and growth.” In contrast, IMF imposes measures that suffocate existing policies and create a political crisis. In recent time, the IMF intervention in Equador “calls for an enormous tightening of the country’s national budget…this will include firing tens of thousands of public sector employees, raising taxes that fall disproportionately on poor people, and making cuts to public investment”.

Liberia has a huge untapped potential we can utilize to further expand economic activities, and stop being a spectator as “African countries stand to gain substantially from intra-regional trade“.

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