Rwanda has declared that it will permit visa-free travel to the country for all Africans, joining a growing number of nations on the continent in a bid to promote free movement of people and facilitate trade, rivaling Europe’s Schengen zone.
The announcement came from President Paul Kagame in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, as he emphasized the potential of Africa as a unified tourism destination. Currently, Africa relies on 60% of its tourists from outside the continent, as per data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
President Kagame revealed this historic move during the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council. He affirmed, “Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country.”
The President went on to stress the significance of Africa’s own continental market. He stated, “Africans are the future of global tourism, as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come.”
Upon implementation, Rwanda will become the fourth African country to eliminate travel restrictions for African nationals. Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles have already waived visas for African visitors.
Kenya’s President, William Ruto, had previously revealed plans to allow visa-free travel to the East African nation for all Africans by December 31. He highlighted the drawbacks of visa restrictions among African countries, stating that they hinder business and entrepreneurship and ultimately result in collective losses.
In 2016, the African Union introduced an African passport with the ambitious goal of competing with the European Union’s model in unlocking the continent’s potential. However, to date, this travel document has been issued exclusively to diplomats and AU officials.
The African Union aims to use the African Passport and free movement of people to remove restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel, work, and reside within their own continent, as stated on its website.
The AU has also initiated the African Continental Free Trade Area, a continent-wide free trade agreement estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion. Its primary objective is to establish a single unified market for Africa’s 1.3 billion people, thereby fostering economic development on the continent.