By John Ikani
President William Ruto has disclosed that starting in 2024, Kenya will be opening its doors to African visitors by waiving visa requirements.
He made the disclosure while delivering his keynote address at the Three Basins Climate Change Conference in Brazzaville, Congo over the weekend.
This momentous decision stands as a remarkable boon for travellers, as it promises greater ease of access to Kenya for people from all corners of the African continent.
According to the President, the move is motivated by the desire to fortify trade relations with neighbouring African nations.
In his address, Ruto also spotlighted the pressing need to address the current deficiencies in intra-African trade.
He laid out a proposal to slash customs tariffs across the continent, a measure that could fast-track the realization of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
In his own words, “It’s high time we recognize the value of trading amongst ourselves and allowing goods, services, people, and ideas to flow freely across the continent.”
Before that, President Ruto underscored how the removal of visa requirements and tariffs would ignite a significant surge in trade among East African Community nations.
He stressed the importance of encouraging countries in tropical forest basins to safeguard their forests, emphasizing the advantages of such actions for preserving the climate.
Kenya had already taken steps in this direction by recently eliminating visa requirements for citizens of Angola.
Back in May, at the African Private Sector Dialogue Conference on Free Trade, President William Ruto hinted that this could mark the end of visa fees for African delegates visiting Kenya.
This progressive move continued as Indonesia became the third country in a month to enjoy visa-free access to Kenya in August.
Similarly, nationals from Comoros and Senegal were given the freedom to enter Kenya without visas in July. Earlier in February, Kenya and Eritrea had made the joint commitment to permanently waive visa requirements for their citizens.
Further collaboration led to Kenya and Djibouti establishing a visa-free regime in June, with the shared goal of stimulating trade between the two nations.
In addition, a new visa-free agreement between Kenya and South Africa granted Kenyan passport holders unrestricted access to South Africa, thanks to the intervention of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Now in this latest move, Ruto declared, “By the end of this year, no African will require a visa to enter Kenya. The time has come for us to fully appreciate the importance of trading among ourselves.”
This proclamation signifies a significant stride toward promoting unity and enhancing trade among African nations.