Kenya to join list of visa-free countries by end of 2023.

President William Ruto has announced that Kenya will eliminate visa requirements for all African visitors by the year’s end.

Speaking at an international conference, he said “It is time we… realise that having visa restrictions amongst ourselves is working against us”

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The African Union (AU) has aimed for visa-free travel within the continent for the past decade. Despite regional deals and bilateral arrangements, progress toward this goal has been slow.

As of a 2022 AU-backed report, only Seychelles, The Gambia, and Benin allow entry to all African citizens without a visa.

The Africa Visa Openness Index, which assesses how open each African country is to visitors from other African nations, indicates that most countries are moving toward simplifying entry processes and reducing restrictions on some nations.

In 2022, Kenya was ranked 31st out of 54 states on this index.

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President Ruto expressed in Congo-Brazzaville that such restrictions are detrimental to business.

“When people cannot travel, businesspeople cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers.

“Let me say this: As Kenya, by the end of this year, no African will be required to have a visa to come to Kenya,” he said to loud cheers from the conference delegates.

“Our children form this continent should not be locked in borders in Europe and also be locked in borders in Africa.”

President William Ruto was addressing a summit aimed at protecting some of the world’s largest rainforests.

In 2016, the AU introduced the African passport with the vision of enabling unrestricted travel for all African citizens across the continent, but its widespread availability is still limited.

Security, smuggling concerns, and potential impacts on local employment markets contribute to the hesitancy in fully implementing this initiative.

Recognizing the challenges, the Visa Openness Index report suggests alternative measures if completely lifting visa restrictions proves challenging.

These measures encompass reducing fees, standardizing visa on arrival for African visitors, and establishing a secure e-visa system.