Ethiopia has started issuing visa online for tourists and other visitors across the world effective today (June 1). The Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Fitsum Arega said "A relaxed visa regime will enhance both #Ethiopia's openness and will allow the country to harness the significant stopover transit traffic of @flyethiopian".
The online visa is seen as one of the most innovative services implemented in the area of freedom of movement but not many African countries have embraced electronic visa service. Online visa application service is regarded as an essential component of a modern, integrated visa management system, which enhances both security and convenience.
The Ethiopian Tourist eVISA was launched by the Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs in Ethiopia in June 2017 but the service has only been open to a few countries (37 countries). The eVISA for Ethiopia now authorises tourists from across the world to apply for a tourist eVISA online. Once issued, the Ethiopian eVISA is valid for 30 or 90 days depending on the applicant's selection, according to ethiopiaonlinevisa website.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month revealed that the country will "very soon" follow Rwanda's example allowing all Africans to travel to the country without visas. Ethiopia's move to relax its visa regime will open up the east African country to African visitors, and it will undoubtedly ease the free movement of African nationals and boost tourism.
Prime Minister Ahmed's plan was revealed during a state banquet which he hosted for Rwandan President Paul Kagame who was in Ethiopia last month on a three-day official visit. The two leaders held bilateral talks in Addis Ababa, and made a commitment to strengthen relationships in key sectors.
While Prime Minister Abiy did not give specific details of the plan to allow all Africans to travel to Ethiopia without visas, the proposal was warmly welcomed, seen by many observers as a laudable step to open Africa's borders. The policy will undoubtedly open up the east African country to African visitors, and it will ease the free movement of African nationals and boost trade and tourism.
Towards a more open Africa
The announcements by Prime Minister Abiy and his Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega are indeed laudable and demonstrates that African countries are beginning to act on the implementation of the African Union's (AU) 2063 Agenda for "a continent with seamless borders" to help facilitate the free movement of African citizens.
A number of African countries have in the past year started implementing the 30-day visa-on-arrival policy recommended by the AU, and these include Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe offers visas on arrival for SADC members and several international countries).
However, other countries have been slow in implementing the 30-day visa-on-arrival policy recommended by the AU. The visa policies of most African states remain restrictive, and the countries are inaccessible to African visitors.
The AU has appealed to countries to review their visa policies to "implement mechanisms allowing for the issuing of visas on arrival for citizens of Member States, with the possibility of a 30-day stay".
Credit: This is Africa
The United States' closest allies attacked the Trump administration on Friday for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports and mounted challenges with the world's top trade body, fouling the mood at a G7 finance leaders meeting.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the prime target of the criticism at the meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors in Canada, with the six other G7 member countries subject to the U.S. metals tariffs, which were imposed on national security grounds.
The tariffs also are complicating U.S. efforts to gain cooperation to challenge China's trade practices as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrives in Beijing on Saturday for talks aimed at averting a U.S.-China trade war. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, whose country's steel and aluminium producers have been paying the U.S. metals tariffs since March 23, called the U.S. action "deeply deplorable."
"This doesn't happen that often at G7 meetings, but it was U.S. against everyone else," Aso told reporters.
The European Union and Canada both filed challenges with the World Trade Organization. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that the tariffs were "imposed under a false pretext of safeguarding U.S. national security."
At the G7 meeting in the Canadian ski resort of Whistler, British Columbia, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said he expressed to Mnuchin "our absolute view that this is absurd that Canada could in any way be a security risk."
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said Mnuchin was clearly isolated at on the tariff issue, with the group devolved to a "G6 plus one" with the six expressing "total incomprehension" over the destabilising U.S. move.
"We must find a way to get out of this," German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told reporters. "That was said clearly by everyone and I think it was even taken on board" by Mnuchin.
Mnuchin, regarded as one of the more moderate trade voices in Trump's cabinet, said the issue may need to be resolved by G7 leaders at a summit next week in Charlevoix, Quebec, officials attending the meetings said.
The U.S. tariffs of 25 percent on imports of steel and 10 percent on aluminium were imposed early on Friday on Canada, Mexico and the European Union after they refused to accept steel and aluminium quotas in negotiations with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
TRUMP'S TWITTER TIRADE
Trump took to Twitter again on Friday to castigate Canada after his testy exchange with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday over rocky negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump tweeted that Canada had treated U.S. farmers "very poorly for a very long period of time." "Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us," he wrote.
Later on Friday, Trump told reporters that he might prefer separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico instead of a revamped NAFTA.
The White House said Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron of the need to "rebalance trade with Europe."
Trump's words followed swift responses to the tariffs by Canada, Mexico and the EU, which plan to retaliate with levies on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, including orange juice, whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Harley-Davidson's stock dropped about 1 percent on Friday, while shares of steelmakers U.S. Steel and AK Steel both rose 2.2 percent. The broader stock market rebounded on strong monthly jobs data.
Canada, the largest supplier of steel to the United States, said it will impose tariffs covering C$16.6 billion ($12.8 billion) on U.S. imports, including whiskey, orange juice, steel, aluminium and other products.
Mexico announced "equivalent" measures on a wide range of U.S. farm and industrial products, including pork legs, apples, grapes, cheese, steel and other goods.
The EU plans tariffs on U.S. exports running the gamut from canoes to "manicure or pedicure preparations."
"We are determined to protect the multilateral system," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said of the WTO challenge. "We are expecting everybody to play by the rules.
The complaints came on the eve of a visit by Ross to China to try to secure long-term purchases of U.S. farm and energy commodities to help shrink the U.S. trade deficit. The U.S. team also wants to secure greater intellectual property protections and an end to Chinese subsidies that have contributed to overproduction of steel and aluminium.
Officials at the G7 meeting said the tariffs made it more difficult for the group to work together to confront China's trade practices, especially when Beijing, like most G7 members, supports the current WTO-based trade rules and the United States is seeking go around them. Le Maire asked Mnuchin, "How can you get the Chinese to respect international law if you don't?" one meeting participant said.
Mnuchin did not comment to reporters as he left the G7 meeting on Friday. The talks concluded on Saturday.
Eswar Prasad, trade professor at Cornell University and former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division, said that U.S. tariff actions are increasing perceptions that Washington is an unreliable trading partner.
"Rather than creating a common front to address widely held concerns about China's trading and economic practices, Trump has succeeded in alienating key U.S. allies and undercutting broader external pressure on China," he said.
For the EU, a decision on how far to push back will require agreement among the 28 member states that make up the world's biggest trade bloc. Germany, by far the biggest exporter to the United States, is keen to avoid a wider trade war, especially as the Trump administration has floated the prospect of tariffs on cars, which would potentially be devastating to German exporters.
Other EU countries such as France favour a more robust stance against what they see as American bullying.
The Trump administration may soon claim as much as $1.7 billion (£1.2 billion) penalty from ZTE Corp, as it looks to punish and tighten control over the Chinese telecommunications company before allowing it back into business, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Commerce Department is also seeking unfettered site visits to verify U.S. components are being used as claimed by ZTE, and wants it to post calculations of the U.S. components in its products on a website, the people said.
China's No.2 telecommunications equipment maker has been crippled by a ban imposed in April on buying U.S. technology components for seven years for breaking an agreement reached after it was caught illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea.
The negotiations with ZTE come as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross heads to Beijing this weekend for trade talks.
One source said Washington also wants ZTE to replace its board and executive team as soon as 30 days, but a deal still has not been finalised and the sources cautioned that the penalties were fluid and the terms could change. Representatives from the Commerce Department and ZTE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
American companies provide an estimated 25 percent to 30 percent of components in ZTE's equipment, which includes smartphones and gear to build telecommunications networks.
The company's status has become an important bargaining chip in high-level trade talks between China and Washington amid reports that if the United States eases up on ZTE, China will buy more American agricultural goods.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted last month that he told Commerce officials to find a way for ZTE to get back into business, later mentioning a $1.3 billion fine and changes to its board and top management as a way to penalise the company before allowing it back into business.
But ZTE's possible resuscitation has met strong resistance in Congress, where both Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans have accused him of bowing to pressure from Beijing to help a company that has been labelled a threat to U.S. national security.
The company, which suspended major operations in May, desperately needs a deal to get back in business, with estimates it has lost over $3 billion since the April 15 ban on doing business with U.S. suppliers, a source familiar with the matter said last week.
PENALTY MAY BE LESS
The April ban came after the Shenzhen-based company admitted that while it dismissed four senior employees who had been involved in the original wrongdoing, it had not disciplined 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, despite statements to the contrary, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters at the time.
While it is expected the administration will claim a $1.7 billion penalty for ZTE, sources said that after breaking the figure down, ZTE will likely actually pay about $1 billion.
In addition, it will be asked to put $400 million in escrow, one of the people said.
In 2017, ZTE paid $892 million in civil and criminal penalties, with an additional $300 million suspended unless there were future violations. As part of a new deal, the $300 million would go into escrow in a U.S. bank, along with an extra $100 million, the person said.
Furthermore, the person said, the U.S. is expected to count $361 million in civil penalties that ZTE paid the Commerce Department last year in its $1.7 billion figure, even though that penalty was already collected as part of the $892 million. As part of any new agreement, the sources said, the U.S. wants ZTE to hire a new person to police its compliance. The compliance contractor would provide oversight along with an outside monitor who was retained as part of the March 2017 guilty plea.
The U.S. also wants its representatives to make site visits to check ZTE's claims about components without coordinating with Chinese government officials, as required by a non-public agreement between the countries, sources said.
Last year, ZTE paid over $2.3 billion to U.S. suppliers, a senior ZTE official told Reuters last month. Qualcomm, Broadcom Inc, and Intel Corp, as well as smaller optical component makers Acacia Communications and Oclaro Inc supply ZTE.