Foreword by the African Union Commission

Continental integration advanced considerably over the past year as countries continued their work to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the flagship project of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s framework for structural transformation. Through AfCFTA, Agenda 2063 aims at increasing intra-African trade and producing more industrial, agricultural, and infrastructure development. The ultimate aspiration is a prosperous Africa grounded in inclusive growth and sustainable development.

The negotiations on AfCFTA are often complex. Protocols on trade in goods and services and on dispute settlement have been largely finalized. So, have disciplines on investment, competition policy, and intellectual property rights. Protocols on digital trade and on women and youth in trade are being negotiated. These are key components of ACFTA’s transformative agenda.

In 2022, trading under AfCFTA began among a group of countries—some geographically remote—that until then had never traded on preferential terms. This pilot project is now being extended to trade in services.

Trade in goods cannot thrive without liberalizing trade in services, both of which rely on people moving across Africa’s borders unencumbered by excessive bureaucracy. Cooperation on intra-African labour migration and human mobility is inextricably interwoven with continental integration and is an inherent catalyst to the successful implementation of the AfCFTA. Extending the pilot project to trade in services will send an important signal that Africa is open for business.

Bolstering and fast-tracking policy initiatives that establish a simplified continental trade system that streamlines visa procedures, border procedures, and payment systems is paramount to achieving a socioeconomically integrated continent.

This year’s Africa Visa Openness Report reveals that Africa is continuing its upwards trajectory on freeing the movement of people on the continent. In 2023, visa openness achieved its highest score ever, surpassing levels last seen prior to the pandemic. Many changes were incremental relaxations of countries’ visa regimes. But 2023 also saw an increase in the number of champions that offer visa-free access to all African citizens.

The African Union is proud of countries’ progress on freeing the movement of people. This report tells success stories from around the continent and recommends ways to realize even more progress in the years to come. We have never been closer to realizing AfCFTA’s potential to integrate the continent.

H.E. Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma

Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development

African Union Commission