In a historic move, Rwanda has announced its decision to grant visa-free travel to all Africans, joining a growing list of nations on the continent promoting free movement and trade. President Paul Kagame made this groundbreaking announcement in the capital city of Kigali during the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Kagame emphasized the potential of Africa as “a unified tourism destination” and noted that the continent still heavily relies on tourists from outside Africa, with a significant 60% of its tourists originating from other regions, according to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The President highlighted the significance of this decision, stating, “Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country.”
Furthermore, Kagame emphasized the importance of recognizing the value of the continental market, saying, “We should not lose sight of our own continental market. 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 nation to eliminate travel restrictions for Africans. The other countries that have previously waived visas for African nationals include Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles.
This move towards greater African integration aligns with Kenya’s recent announcement by President William Ruto, who plans to allow visa-free travel for all Africans to Kenya by December 31. President Ruto, during an international summit in Congo Brazzaville, stressed the importance of removing visa restrictions among African nations, stating that such restrictions are detrimental to business, entrepreneurship, and overall continental progress.
In 2016, the African Union launched the African Passport, aiming to empower Africans with the freedom to travel, work, and live within their continent, yet so far, only diplomats and AU officials have been issued this travel document.
This decision is in line with the African Union’s broader initiative, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which seeks to create a unified market estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, fostering economic development and providing benefits to the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
Africa is increasingly working towards its vision of greater unity, and Rwanda’s commitment to visa-free travel for all Africans is a significant step in the right direction.