In a move aimed at promoting the free movement of people and trade within the continent, Rwanda declared on Thursday that it will allow visa-free travel for Africans to the country. This decision positions Rwanda as the latest African nation to implement such a measure, with aspirations to rival Europe’s Schengen zone, writes the AP.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame made this significant announcement in the capital city of Kigali, where he underscored the potential of Africa as “a unified tourism destination.” According to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the continent currently depends on tourists from outside Africa for 60% of its tourism.
During the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, President Kagame emphatically stated, “Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country.”
Kagame further stressed the importance of recognizing Africa as its own continental market, remarking, “We should not lose sight of our own continental market. Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come.”
Once put into practice, Rwanda will join the ranks of four African nations that have removed travel restrictions for African nationals. The other countries that have already waived visa requirements for Africans are Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles.
Similarly, Kenya’s President William Ruto unveiled plans on Monday to enable all Africans to travel to Kenya without a visa by December 31. Ruto highlighted the detrimental impact of visa restrictions on intra-African travel, stating, “Visa restrictions amongst ourselves are working against us. When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers.”
Notably, in 2016, the African Union (AU) launched the African Passport, a symbolic endeavor to rival the European Union model in “unleashing the potential of the continent.” However, it’s pertinent to mention that, thus far, the African Passport has primarily been issued to diplomats and AU officials.
The African Passport, coupled with the broader concept of free movement of people, seeks to eliminate barriers and restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel, work, and reside within their own continent, as highlighted on the AU’s official website.
The AU has also introduced the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an expansive continent-wide free trade area with an estimated worth of $3.4 trillion. The primary objective of this initiative is to create a single, unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people, fostering economic development and trade across the African continent.
In conclusion, Rwanda’s decision to facilitate visa-free travel for all Africans is a significant stride toward realizing the African Union’s vision of a more interconnected and integrated continent. This development aligns with a growing trend across Africa where nations are working together to promote free movement, tourism, and economic development.