JOHANNESBURG – Following 23 years of negotiation, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) has reached a key milestone agreement making travel within the six-member regional bloc visa-free, the Voice of America (VOA) has reported.

Citizens of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Chad no longer need visas to travel within the six-member economic bloc.

The agreement was announced by Chad’s President Idris Deby at the CEMAC heads of state summit in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital.

Explaining the move, Deby said it was a concrete measure demonstrating the integration of central Africa as a reality, the raison de etre of CEMAC.

However, challenges remain to ensuring free movement and deepening economic integration.

Former Chadian prime minister, and economist, Youssouf Saleh, said the effectiveness of the free movement of goods and people would depend on whether there was also an integrated and competitive economy and whether political divides that have hampered economic activity could be broken.

Last year Gabon and Equatorial Guinea sealed their borders to prevent youths seeking employment flooding into their countries and also expelled a number of CEMAC migrants, exacerbating a down-turn in both of their economies following the global drop in oil prices.

- African News Agency