ECOWAS convenes experts meeting towards the finalization of a harmonized visa regime (ECOVISA)11 Oct, 2022
Regional Experts in charge of issuing and control of visas have converged in Abuja for a three (3) day technical meeting to validate the recommendations of the previously held Task Force meeting, harmonize the cost and design of the visa and deliberate on other associated modalities related to the implementation of the ECOVISA.
The meeting was officially opened this day, 11 October 2022 by the interim Chair of the meeting, Mr McArious A. Akanbong expressed that the meeting was pursuant to the decision of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in 2000. He urged participants to work closely towards the realization of the set objectives.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, Massandje Touré-Litsé welcomed participants on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Dr. Omar Alieu TOURAY, and the new management. She reemphasized the commitment of ECOWAS Commission towards the actualization of ECOVISA which will boost tourism in the ECOWAS region as a major economic activity in terms of income generation, job creation, foreign exchange earnings and cultural exchange which cannot be overlooked. She also underlined the benefits the implementation of the ECOVISA will bring to the region in terms of foreign direct investment drive, strengthened private sector for industrialisation that can boost economic development. Finally, she stated that ECOVISA would play a vital role in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a tool to allow citizens of third countries to focus on our region.
Dr. Yakubu Dadu, Head of ECOWAS National Office in Nigeria, recalled the details of the Experts meeting held in Accra, Ghana in April 2022 which sets the ball rolling. He reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment and trust in the ECOVISA Taskforce in executing the assignment given to them effectively and efficiently. “I have no doubt that the 3-day meeting would greatly enrich us further as we discuss other emerging issues related to the implementation of the ECOVISA in our region”, he added.
Mr. Bakary Sanou, the ECOWAS Component Manager of the GIZ support to African Union Border Program (GIZ/AUBP), acknowledged the commitment the ECOWAS Commission has shown in the process. He expressed GIZ-AUBP’s readiness to support the process for the implementation of free movement across the ECOWAS region for all. He called on participants to use the 3 days to ensure that the interest of the region is considered.
The ECOVISA Experts will also deliberate on the standardized cost of the ECOVISA, present a specimen design and features sample of the ECOVISA for validation and validate the terms of reference for the recruitment of competent local service providers to develop the technology to be used for the ECOVISA.
ECOVISA is sampled from the idea of the Schengen visa which will give non-member states citizens access to any of the 15 Member States with one visa.
The 3-day meeting brought together Experts in charge of issuance of visas, Experts in charge of control of visas at entry points as well as participants from the ECOWAS Commission and GIZ-AUBP.
For reference, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government mandated the ECOWAS Commission to develop the modalities for the smooth implementation of the ECOVISA for Migrants of third countries. In realization of this mandate, the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with GIZ-AUBP launched a study on the modalities for harmonization of Visa procedures and process in the ECOWAS region. An ECOVISA Task Force was set up and series of Experts‘ meetings held with Experts from Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Senegal in April, 2022 to examine the findings of the study. This Experts‘ meeting is therefore, to ensure the final validation to pave the way for the implementation of the ECOVISA.