Rwanda has made a major boost to free movement in Africa by announcing that it will allow all Africans to travel to the country without requiring a visa. This decision, unveiled by President Paul Kagame during the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council in Kigali, marks a pivotal moment for the continent’s efforts to create a single visa-free zone, similar to Europe’s Schengen zone.
President Kagame emphasized the potential of Africa as a unified tourism destination. He highlighted that despite Africa’s rich tapestry of cultures and landscapes, it still receives 60% of its tourists from outside the continent, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Kagame stated, “Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country.”
“We should not lose sight of our own continental market,” he said. “Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come.”
This move by Rwanda follows a trend on the continent, with several other nations already removing visa requirements for Africans. Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles have taken similar steps to promote free movement. In addition, Kenya’s President William Ruto recently announced plans to allow all Africans to travel to Kenya without a visa by the end of this year.
The African Union, in 2016, introduced the African passport as a means of fostering unity and eliminating travel restrictions for Africans within their own continent. However, to date, only diplomats and AU officials have been issued the African passport.
The African Union has also launched the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, aiming to create a single unified market for the continent. This initiative aligns with the immediate goal of the African Union to remove barriers to travel, work, and live within the continent.