KIGALI, Rwanda — Rwanda and Kenya have become the latest African countries to announce plans to allow Africans to travel visa-free, becoming part of a growing movement to boost free movement of people and trade on the continent.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame made the announcement Thursday in the capital, Kigali, saying that any African can now get on a plane to Rwanda without a visa. Kenyan President William Ruto announced similar plans on Monday, saying that all Africans would be able to travel to Kenya visa-free by December 31.
The moves come as the African Union is pushing to remove restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel, work, and live within their own continent. In 2016, the AU launched an African passport with much fanfare, saying it would rival the European Union model in “unleashing the potential of the continent.” However, only diplomats and AU officials have been issued the travel document so far.
The African Union also launched the African Continental Free Trade Area in 2019, a continent-wide free trade area estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, which aims to create a single unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people and to boost economic development.
Rwanda and Kenya are now among four African countries that have removed travel restrictions for Africans. The other two countries are Gambia and Seychelles.
Analysts say that the move to visa-free travel is a positive step for Africa, as it will boost trade and tourism, and make it easier for Africans to travel within their own continent.
“This is a very important development for Africa,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It will make it easier for Africans to travel, work, and live in other African countries. This will boost trade, tourism, and economic development.”
The move to visa-free travel has been welcomed by many Africans, who have long complained about the difficulty and expense of obtaining visas to travel to other African countries.
“This is a great development,” said Aisha Mohammed, a Nigerian businesswoman who travels frequently to other African countries for business. “It will make my life much easier and save me a lot of money.”
However, some analysts have warned that the move to visa-free travel could also pose some challenges, such as increased migration and security risks.
“It is important to make sure that the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent visa-free travel from being exploited by criminals and terrorists,” said security analyst Peter Kagwanja.