Rwanda has joined the list of African nations allowing visa-free travel for Africans in an effort to promote free movement and trade. President Paul Kagame made this announcement during the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 23rd Global Summit.
Rwanda aims to position Africa as a unified tourism destination, reducing its reliance on tourists from outside the continent. This move will make Rwanda the fourth African country to remove travel restrictions for African visitors, following Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles.
The African Union(AU) introduced the African Passport in 2016 to facilitate the free movement of people across the continent, but so far, only diplomats and AU officials have been issued this travel document.
The AU aims to remove restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel, work, and live within their own continent. In addition to the African Passport, the AU launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) , an ambitious initiative estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, creating a single unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people to boost economic development.
Rwanda’s decision to allow visa-free travel for Africans aligns with these broader continental efforts to promote unity and economic growth. Days ago, Kenya’s President, William Ruto, also announced a significant step towards enhancing continental unity and economic growth by abolishing visa requirements for African nationals visiting Kenya. This move, scheduled to take effect next year, aims to facilitate easier trade and travel within the African continent.
For years, visa requirements, along with high airfares, have acted as substantial barriers to travel for African passport holders, hindering the free movement of people within the continent. A notable majority of African nations, 32 out of 54, continue to demand visas from the citizens of other African countries, further complicating intra-African travel.
Speaking at a climate change conference in Congo-Brazzaville, President Ruto underlined the significance of this change. He emphasized the need to remove these obstacles and create a more open environment for Africans to explore and do business within their continent. Ruto noted that African children should not be confined by borders within Africa or in Europe.