In a landmark move set to reshape Africa’s travel landscape, Rwanda has announced visa-free entry for all African citizens, effective immediately. This groundbreaking decision aligns with the country’s vision of fostering regional cooperation and economic integration, mirroring the European Union’s Schengen Area.
Words From The President of Rwanda
President Paul Kagame, addressing the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council in Kigali, emphasized the immense potential of Africa as a unified tourism destination. He underscored the continent’s reliance on external tourism, with 60% of visitors originating from outside Africa.
“Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish and they will not pay a thing to enter our country,” President Kagame declared.
This proactive step aligns with Rwanda’s unwavering commitment to promoting intra-African travel and business opportunities. Kagame eloquently stated, “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.“
Visa Free Policies For African Nationals
With this decision, Rwanda joins the ranks of Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles, which have previously implemented visa-free policies for African nationals. Kenya, under President William Ruto’s leadership, has also pledged to follow suit by December 31, 2023.
President Ruto aptly remarked, “Visa restrictions amongst ourselves is working against us. When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers.“
The African Union’s (AU) aspiration to create a unified African market received a significant boost in 2016 with the launch of the African passport. While initially intended to rival the European Union’s passport, its issuance has been limited to diplomats and AU officials thus far.
The AU envisions the African passport and free movement of people as catalysts for “removing restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel, work and live within their own continent.“
In parallel, the AU has established the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a continent-wide free trade zone with an estimated value of $3.4 trillion. The AfCFTA aims to create a single unified market for Africa’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, fostering economic growth and development.
Rwanda’s decision to eliminate visa requirements for African citizens marks a pivotal step towards a more connected and prosperous Africa. It signals a strong commitment to regional integration, economic collaboration, and the unleashing of the continent’s immense potential.