Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on Thursday announced a move further to enhance the free movement of people within Africa to facilitate trade and tourism integration. The initiative entails visa-free entry into the country for all Africans.
The timeline for its full implementation is currently unclear.
Mr Kagame made this announcement during his address to the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council currently being hosted in his country’s capital, Kigali, underscoring the need for Africa to shed the constraints of historically imposed colonial borders, which stood in the way of recognising the potentials of open border trade and cultural integration within African nations.
Africa is “a unified tourism destination,” Mr Kagame said.
“Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish and they will not pay a thing to enter our country,” he added. “We should not lose sight of our own continental market.”
Embracing this vision would not only facilitate easier movement of people within the continent but also strengthen economic ties among African nations. It would lead to more extensive trading networks, providing a fertile ground for businesses to flourish and for African economies to thrive collectively.
The key basis of Mr Kagame’s proposal, tourism, has been repeatedly argued to be an under-explored source of revenue for the continent.
Simplifying travel for Africans within Africa is crucial to boosting tourism and cultural exchanges, allowing the world to discover and appreciate the rich and diverse tapestry of African nations, contributing to economic growth and fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of the continent’s unique heritage.
“Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come,” he added.
This policy direction makes Rwanda the fourth country to welcome the open borders initiative for Africans. Other countries that have waived visas to African nationals are Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles.
Kenya’s President William Ruto also announced on Monday that his government plans to allow all Africans to freely travel to the East African nation visa-free by December 31.
“Visa restrictions amongst ourselves are working against us. When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers,” Mr Ruto told an international summit in Congo Brazzaville.