Following in Angola and Kenya’s footsteps to open their borders to their African neighbours, Rwanda announced last week that it would grant Africans visa-free entry by the end of the year.
“Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
He spoke at the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, where he spoke about “a unified tourism destination”, reported APnews.com.
Although a timeline for implementing the visa-free system for Africans from other nations entering Rwanda is unclear, the continent is key to the country’s economic strategy. According to stats from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 60% of Rwanda’s visitors come from outside the continent, presenting a massive opportunity for the East African nation to establish better ties with the rest of Africa.
“We should not lose sight of our continental market,” said Kagame. “Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle-class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come.”
This is also in line with key African policy maker’s mission to stimulate intra-African trade and tourism under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by ensuring ease of access to countries by dropping visa regimes and liberalising the skies on the continent.
Speaking to Tourism Update on this recently, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, and Interim Chair of the Southern African Development Community Business Council Tourism Alliance, said: “Countries like Mozambique, South Africa, Seychelles, Kenya, and Ghana have reported remarkable increases in tourism figures [since allowing visa-free access to certain countries].”
He added that barriers to visa liberalisation in southern Africa remained and encompassed security concerns, administrative capacity constraints, and divergent visa policies among the SADC member states.
“For tourists, this lack of a harmonised policy framework exacerbates the process of implementing streamlined visa procedures,” said Tshivhengwa.