Experts Agreed To The Harmonised Ecowas Visa Regime Ecovisa To Take-Off21 Oct, 2022
Abuja – Nigeria, October 11th, 2022. Regional Experts in charge of issuance and control of visas have agreed to the harmonised ECOWAS Visa regime christened ECOVISA to be implemented across the region. This recommendation comes on the backdrop of an intense three-day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, 11th -13th October 2022.
The meeting which was called by the ECOWAS Commission sought among other things to validate the recommendations of the previously held Task Force meeting, harmonize the cost and design of the visa sticker and deliberate on other associated modalities related to the implementation of the ECOVISA.
To ensure that the meeting objectives are fully met, participants were split into three working groups to examine scenarios and proffer recommendations. Group 1 was for financial issues and members deliberated on cost, sharing formula, currency for payment, modes of payment, mode of distribution of income from visa issued. Group 2 deliberated on Security with specifics as Duration, Entry Modality-Multiple/Single, travel document required, and security features. Group 2 was also tasked to come up with a visa sticker design. The last group, Group 3 was tasked to deliberate on the application platform, e-banking partnership system and connectivity, software/monitoring hardware, to be used for effective roll-out.
A presentation was made by an Expert from the East Africa Community (EAC) on the Introduction of the Single Tourist Visa in EAC valid for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The purpose was to share the experience, the successes and challenges in the implementation Single Tourist Visa in EAC, be it Institutional, legal framework, financial arrangement, security features, ICT solution for application, etc.
At the end of the meeting, Experts made series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that the ECOVISA is effectively implemented. Notable among them are (1) the need to ensure that the necessary software should be developed by a start-up company in the ECOWAS sub region and as such, a competition should be held to bring together the most talented programmers within the sub-region; (2) The data centre should be domiciled in an ECOWAS Member State; (3) The need for ECOWAS to continue to engage with WAEMU/UEMOA in the harmonization of visa policies. Experts also approved the draft visa sticker design proposed by the ECOWAS Commission. However, the Commission will need to work with security printing experts to ensure that all the security features recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) are taken into account.
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.
The Authority of 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 was organised to enable the ECOVISA Task Force to present its report and its accompanying recommendations for validation by Member States’ Experts. The meeting also presented an opportunity to discuss other emerging issues related to the implementation of ECOVISA such as costs and design of the ECOVISA, as well as procedures for the application process. The recommendations from this meeting will be taken forward for adoption at the highest level.