Upon implementation, Rwanda has joined Gambia, Benin, Seychelles, and Kenya (once implemented on December 31st) to remove travel restrictions for African people.
On Thursday 2nd November 2023, Rwanda declared that it will allow Africans to travel visa-free to the country, becoming the latest country on the continent to announce such a measure aimed at boosting the free movement of people and trade to rival Europe’s Schengen zone.
The announcement was made by the country’s president, Paul Kagame in Rwanda’s capital city, where he pitched the prospect of Africa as “a unified tourism destination” for a continent that still relies on 60% of its tourists from outside Africa, according to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Speaking during the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, the President said, “Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish and they will not pay a thing to enter our country”.
Kagame went on to say “We should not lose sight of our 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”.
Rwanda will be the fourth African nation to lift travel restrictions for its citizens once they are implemented. The Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles are further nations that have exempted citizens of Africa from needing a visa.
On Monday, President William Ruto of Kenya declared that by December 31, all Africans would be able to enter the country of East Africa without a visa. “Visa restrictions amongst ourselves are working against us. When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel we all become net losers” said Ruto at an international summit in Congo Brazzaville.
In 2016, an African passport was launched by the African Union with much fanfare, explaining it would compete with the European Union model in “unleashing the potential of the continent”. However, so far, it is just diplomats and AU officials who have been issued the travel document.
According to the African Union (AU) website, the African passport and free movement of people are “aimed at removing restrictions on African ability to travel, work and live within their own continent”.
The African Continental Free Trade Area was also launched, aimed to create a single unified market for the continent’s 1.4 billion people and to boost economic development. The continent-wide free trade area is estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion.