Leaders of pan-Africanism have always cited regional integration as one of the key pillars for African unity. Both Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere despite their differences supported the notion of regional integration. Why it took the AU so much time to adopt free movement of Africans within the continent still remains a matter of great concern.
The African Union recently adopted a protocol that eased the restriction of movement of Africans within the continent and this was greatly welcomed around the continent. There is no doubt that regional integration facilitates growth as it encourages trading, tourism and commerce.
Although there has been easy movement within some regions to a certain extent for example within the ECOWAS region, Ethiopia seems to have taken the matter of regional integration a step further as prime minister, Abiy Ahmed continues to break the status quo and set new standards for Africa.
The country has announced plans to open her borders to Africans all over the continent through its adoption of the Visa-on-Arrival model.
Before now, only citizens from Kenya and Djibouti were allowed entry into Ethiopia without first applying and receiving a visa. This move, many observers say is a welcome development and will open the country to a new phase of economic growth.
Apart from having one of the best Airline facilities, Ethiopia is home to the African Union headquarters, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and dozens of foreign embassies. It is also a tourism delight and transit point for millions of travelers visiting Europe, America and Asia.
The success of regional integration can be seen in Asia. The free movement of Asians within the continent has spur inter-Asian relationships and enabled huge knowledge and resource transfer – something which Africa is in great need of.
However, not many countries in Africa believe in regional integration. Recently, the visa-on-arrival policy which covered countries like Nigeria, Mali, and Somalia was surprisingly reversed by Tanzania and the country has shown no signs of easing it anytime soon.
Also, when South Africa said they would be easing their visa requirements, many thought it would embrace regional integration; instead, it further opened the gates of South Africa to the Chinese and Indians while Africans still face an up-tenth task in travelling to the country.