Nairobi, Kenya | By Michael Wandati | Kenya’s President, William Ruto, has announced the nation’s intention to abolish visa requirements for all African visitors by the end of this year.
Speaking at an international conference, President Ruto emphasized the need to eliminate visa restrictions among African countries, recognizing their counterproductive nature.
“It is time we… realise that having visa restrictions amongst ourselves is working against us,” said President Ruto.
The goal of visa-free travel within the African continent has long been pursued by the African Union (AU), spanning the past decade. While regional agreements and bilateral arrangements have been established, progress towards total visa freedom has been sluggish.
As of 2022, only Seychelles, The Gambia, and Benin permitted entry to all African citizens without requiring a visa, as per an AU-supported report.
However, Africa’s Visa Openness Index, which assesses the extent to which African nations facilitate entry for visitors from other African countries, indicates that most countries are making strides in simplifying entry processes and relaxing restrictions for other nations. In the 2022 index, Kenya was ranked 31st out of 54 states.
President Ruto highlighted the adverse impact of visa restrictions on business, stating that hindrances to travel impede the mobility of businesspeople and entrepreneurs, resulting in collective losses. He declared Kenya’s commitment to a visa-free policy for all African visitors by year-end, a declaration that received enthusiastic applause from conference attendees. He emphasized the importance of not confining African youth within borders, be it in Europe or Africa.
“When people cannot travel, businesspeople cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers.
Let me say this: As Kenya, by the end of this year, no African will be required to have a visa to come to Kenya,” he said to loud cheers from the conference delegates.
“Our children form this continent should not be locked in borders in Europe and also be locked in borders in Africa.”
President Ruto delivered these remarks during a summit aimed at preserving some of the world’s largest rainforests. The African Union (AU) introduced the African passport in 2016, intending to enable unrestricted travel throughout the continent for all African citizens. However, the widespread availability of this passport is hindered by concerns related to security, smuggling, and potential impacts on local employment markets.
While eliminating all visa requirements for African visitors might currently present challenges, the Visa Openness Index report proposes several alternative measures; these measures include reducing visa fees, establishing visa-on-arrival as the standard for African visitors, and implementing a secure e-visa system.