Passport holders of 30 countries in Africa will no longer require a visa to travel to the West African nation of Benin, and will be allowed to stay for 90 days for free, reports from Cotonou, the commercial capital of Benin, said last week.
This decision brings the number of African countries that do not need Benin visa to 44, including 14 countries of ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc that comprises countries such as Senegal, Gambia and Nigeria.
Benin President Patrice Talon said the decision was inspired by his recent visit to Rwanda, where foreigners are given free entry for a stay of three months.
Rwanda abolished an entry visa for all African countries on 2 January 2013. Only a ‘small’ stamp is needed at all its border posts.
Benin’s new law will come as a relief for millions of Africans who face tough requirements and exorbitant fees to be issued a visa to travel across their own continent.
Visas for ‘special’ countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, among others, cost an arm and a leg for an ordinary African traveller.
Besides, the applicant would have to meet tough conditions and bring a stash of ‘unnecessary’ papers which include a return ticket, medical insurance, letter of invitation (from an individual or organisation), hotel bookings, and in other cases a deposit of up to US$1 000 to the embassy of the applicant’s country that will be returned if the traveller ever returns.
“I’m excited about the government of Benin’s initiative to abolish a visa for 30 African countries. We used to pay US$50 for each trip and meet a minimum of conditions before getting a visa. This will make our lives much easier and boost our profits,” Moseka Lokondo, a DRC businesswoman who travels regularly to Benin, told Sifa News.
Last year, Ghana adopted a similar measure, but critics swiftly brushed it aside because the traveller must pay US$100 on arrival to be let in.
Talon said the law, which was adopted on February 15, is meant to give a real meaning to the south-south cooperation.
Benin commercial capital Cotonou is a bustling city overlooking the mighty Atlantic Ocean that attracts cross-border traders from all corners of Africa flocking there to buy colourful African dresses and outfits, among others, at a small price to resell elsewhere.
Here is the list of the 30 countries:
South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Comoros Islands, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Sao-Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Swaziland, Chad, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Photo: a majestic view of the city of Cotonou. Credit: Expat.com