Kenya plans to eliminate visa requirements for all African visitors by the end of 2023, according to Kenyan President William Ruto.
Speaking at the international conference, President William Ruto said “it is time we…..realize that having visa restrictions amongst ourselves is working against us”.
For the past decade, the African Union (AU) has hoped for visa-free travel to other African countries and continents.
While regional deals and bilateral agreements exist, progress towards no restrictions has been slow.
According to a 2022 AU-backed research, Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles are the only countries on the continent that offer visa-free travel to all African citizens.
According to a research from Africa a visa Openness Index, which is specialised in measuring the extent to which each country in Africa is open to visitors from other African countries, most countries are making and removing restrictions to some other countries.
In 2022, Kenya was ranked 31st on the index out of 54 states.
President Ruto told an audience in Congo-Brazzaville that it was bad for business.
“When people cannot travel, businesspeople cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers.
“Let me say this: As Kenya, by the end of this year, no African will be required to have a visa to come to Kenya,” he said to loud cheers from the conference delegates.
“Our children from this continent should not be locked in borders in Europe and also be locked in borders in Africa”, as quoted by BBC.
He was speaking at a summit aimed at protecting some of the world’s largest rainforests.
The AU launched its African passport in 2016. The idea behind the passport is for all African citizens to be able to travel throughout the continent without visas – but it is still not widely available.
This is in part because of concerns about security, smuggling and the impact on the local employment markets.
If dropping all visa restrictions is currently a step too far, the Visa Openness Index report recommends a number of other measures. These include lowering fees, making visa on arrival standard for African visitors and implementing a secure e-visa system.