When Rwanda broke ranks with other African countries two years ago and implemented their decision to grant Visa on arrival for citizens of African Union memberstates. Many other African countries either dismiss the new reality as a publicity stunt or else ignored it altogether.
Norm in Africa still is that African travelers, unlike many Western passport holders, must apply for Visa in advance, often producing a mountain of paperwork including invitation letters et al, before, fingers crossed, eventually being granted access to the country they want to visit.
UNWTO research suggests, as does national research across the continent, that countries which reduce or remove Visa restrictions and cut down on red tape, will reap enormous economic benefits from increased travel, by Africans across the continent.
Clearly encouraged by their move taken two years ago, and probably cognizant of the fact that RwandAir is soon going intercontinental and needs more transit passengers via Kigali – passengers who will hopefully stop over in Rwanda for a visit – has Rwanda now announced that by 2018 they will remove all Visa requirements for AU citizens wishing to visit the Land of a Thousand Hills.
When Rwanda played host to a major African continental football tournament a few months ago, did the country already waive Visa requirements for the teams and team officials and this latest move will put Rwanda into pole position to become, besides the Seychelles, the first country on the African mainland to open the doors to African visitors with no ifs and buts.
Comments received from Kigali also dismissed the broad fear over illegal immigration and for allowing ‘unwanted’ individuals into the country, fears regularly cited by other African countries.
It is obvious to informed observers that Rwanda will put mechanisms into place, similar no doubt to what the Seychelles already does, to keep track of visitors by requiring hotels and hospitality businesses to reflect the immigration number stamped into the passport, so that there is a trail of travel wherever visitors go.
That said, will the move no doubt generate additional conferences to come to Rwanda, as delegates from Africa are from 2018 onwards assured of a no Visa policy, important for conference organizers as well as regular travelers who have come to detest the bureaucrazy – pun intended – of having to get Visa applications filled, processed and yet not guaranteed to be granted.
While there is an AU policy decision in place to reduce and remove Visa requirement, are only 13 of 55 member states presently on course to accomplish this goal by 2018, and no surprise there, Rwanda will no doubt be among the first to fully comply and remove travel barriers.
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