In June 2013 Head of States of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad met during their last summit and agreed amongst other issues that visa requirements would henceforth not be obligatory for citizens of member states circulating in these states. This move was to take effect as from January 1, 2014. These six member states out of the eleven member states of the Economic Community for Central Africa (ECCAS) region share a common currency zone (the CFA Franc) and a monetary zone union called CEMAC (Communauté economique et monetaire d’Afrique centrale). I argued in an article published on the 22 July 2013 by Africanliberty.org that the huge population in these six member states makes it potentially a lucrative consumer market, yet regional cooperation arrangements amongst these countries have not succeeded in unleashing this full economic potential and move it towards economic integration.
Equatorial Guinea and Gabon most especially seem not to be in agreement with decisions arrived at during the June 2013 summit. In other to travel to Gabon for instance, citizens of member states are still requested to obtain a visa. As one who has worked closely with the Gabonese Embassy in Yaoundé, obtaining a visa is expensive and documents especially an invitation letter have to be notarized by local authorities in Gabon and sent to concerned individuals and organizations before they can obtain a visa. The process is very frustrating especially for citizens of the same regional group. The situation in Equatorial Guinea is even worse. On the 6 of January 2014 Cameroonians working at the Equatorial Guinean and Cameroonian border town of Kyo-Ossi were dismayed that the border was closed. Cameroonians who worked across the border were not allowed to carry out their operations. The Equatorial Guinean and Gabonese borders were also shut down. What an aberration when we are clamoring for regional integration. Analysts have argued that a state like Equatorial Guinea is afraid that opening up its boarders to citizens of members states will encourage massive illegal immigration of citizens of member states of the CEMAC zone to the detriment of Equatorial Guineans. This precarious situation in the CEMAC zone impinges on the development of the market for consumer goods while stifling local entrepreneurship. Local producers are left with no choice than to be involved with smuggling and illicit exportation. Why can’t the leaders of the CEMAC zone especially Equatorial Guinea and Gabon not copy from other regional groups like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) by eradicating barriers like visas for citizens of member states?
The authorities of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are definitely making a great mistake. Eradicating visa requirements for member states of the CEMAC zone remains a laudable initiative especially as such an initiative would go a long way to facilitate business transactions and economic gains amongst member states of this region. This would definitely unleash the full economic potential and facilitate the move towards economic integration in the region. The eradication of the visa requirements for these six concerned states of the CEMAC would ease the circulation of goods and agricultural produce in these member states. Closing the boarders by Equatorial Guinea is definitely a wrong policy move especially in an era of globalization. Such a move has never stopped illegal immigration and illicit smuggling of goods. The Head of State of Equatorial Guinea needs to rethink fast about such a measure before it causes diplomatic and economic tensions between member states of the CEMAC zone. It is also important that Heads of State of these member states put in place other measures like curbing heavy taxes in their respective member states so as to encourage local business initiatives as well as small and medium size enterprises. Encouraging partnership cooperation among the private sectors of these member states so as to facilitate rapid regional integration and economic growth is also very vital for regional integration. If such measures are not taken into consideration, the CEMAC region will continue to be considered a failure in terms of governance, democracy and economic growth because such porous policies have contributed to the region’s poor image regionally and internationally.
- See more at: http://africanliberty.org/content/regional-integration-cemac-zone-under-peril-implosion-chofor-che#sthash.Gk2z8lhV.dpuf