Rwanda plans to remove visa requirements for African nationals travelling to the country by 2018, as it seeks to woo more investors and tourists from the continent.
This is in line with an African Union target of abolishing visa requirements for Africans in African countries by 2018.
The 2016 Africa Visa Openness Report released recently by the African Development Bank (AfDB) ranks Rwanda among 13 countries with the best African-friendly visa policies.
In 2013, the country relaxed its visa regime by allowing citizens of African countries transiting through Rwanda to be issued with visas upon arrival in the country. But now Rwanda wants to move one step further by abolishing the visa altogether.
“The plan is to have no visa requirements for African nationals by 2018, and to be among the few countries on the continent that will have abolished visas for African travellers by that time,” said Yves Butera, the spokesperson for the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration.
“We want to make our visa regime more accommodative for Africans; but it will depend on the outcome of studies being conducted to see how feasible it is to implement this important protocol.”
Asked whether Rwanda would consider maintaining visa charges for African countries that require Rwandans to pay for visa, Mr Butera said that, “Our goal is to be open to the continent regardless of whether other nations comply. But of course under special circumstances, we may waive this arrangement.”
The AfDB report notes that two years to the deadline, only 13 out of 55 African countries offer visas to African nationals on arrival, while only Seychelles has abolished visa requirements for Africans.
“African countries have until 2018 to abolish visa requirements in order to promote free movement of people on the continent.
East and West African countries were single out as having less restrictions on travel for Africans, while the Central and North African nations have not abolished visa requirements two years to the deadline.”
Read the full report on African Integration here: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Full-integration-tied-to-visa-free-movement-in-Africa/-/2558/3147084/-/kco7u/-/index.html
Experts say that not many nations will be able to meet the 2018 deadline, due to fears arising from terrorism and insecurity.
Previous xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans in southern Africa and high unemployment rates in many parts of Africa have also been singled out as challenges for African nations to fully opening up.