Kigali, Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame revealed that his country will now allow visa-free entry for all African citizens. The announcement was made on November 2, 2023, during his address at the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, held in the capital city of Rwanda.
President Kagame acknowledged the remarkable recovery of the global travel and tourism sector but expressed concerns about the high costs associated with traveling within African countries. To address this issue, he declared, “The Rwandan government has eliminated visa restrictions for citizens of every African nation, as well as several others.”
He further emphasized, “Let there be no mistake about it; any African can board a plane to Rwanda at any time, and they will not be required to pay an entry fee.”
President Kagame used the occasion to urge Africans to remain focused on their continental market’s potential, stating, “Africans represent the future of global tourism, with our middle class continuing to expand rapidly in the coming decades.”
This groundbreaking decision comes shortly after Kenyan President William Ruto also announced the forthcoming removal of visa requirements for all African visitors by the end of the year. President Ruto highlighted the importance of realizing that visa restrictions among African nations are counterproductive during an international conference.
Although widely praised, these recent decisions by Rwanda and Kenya have raised concerns about security, smuggling, and potential effects on local job markets. To address these concerns, the Visa Openness Index report recommends several measures, including reducing visa fees, standardizing visas on arrival for African visitors, and implementing a secure e-visa system.
One in a series
Once Rwanda implements the visa-free policy, it will become the fourth African country to remove travel restrictions for Africans. Gambia, Benin, and the Seychelles have waived visas for African nationals.
On Monday, President William Ruto of Kenya announced plans to allow all Africans to travel to the East African nation visa-free by December 31.
We are working against ourselves with visa restrictions. Ruto said at an international summit in Congo Brazzaville, “When people, business people, and entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers.”
In 2016, the African Union launched an African passport with much fanfare, stating that it would rival the European Union model in “unleashing the potential of the continent.” However, diplomats and AU officials have received the travel document so far.
The AU states on its website that the African Passport and free movement of people aim to remove restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel, work, and live within their own continent.
The African Union also launched the African Continental Free Trade Area, which estimates the worth of $3.4 trillion. It aims to create a single unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people and boost economic development.