As a first important step toward removing barriers to intra-Africa trade, President William Ruto has announced plans to eliminate visa restrictions for African nationals traveling to Kenya for business.
Dr. Ruto apologized for the visa requirements to public and private sector executives attending a seminar on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in Nairobi on Monday.
“My minister [for Trade Moses Kuria] informed me that some of our officials forced you to pay visa fees to return home and asked me to apologize, which I do.” “When one comes home, they don’t pay to come home,” he said the event in Turkana, Kenya, while telling the narrative of human evolution.
“I want to assure you that this may be the last time you apply for a visa to visit Kenya for two reasons. First and first, because this is our home, and second, we heartily support the AfCFTA. We must remove any barriers to individuals moving across our continent.”
The declaration on Monday was a continuation of Kenya’s stance toward African unity, which gained traction during the term of immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In November 2017, Dr. Ruto’s predecessor made any African visiting Kenya eligible for a visa on arrival.
Kenya’s action came in the same month that Rwanda issued a similar instruction in the spirit of pan-Africanism, with no obligation for reciprocity from other countries.
“Free movement of people on our continent has always been a cornerstone of pan-African brotherhood and fraternity for my fellow Africans.”
“The more free we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become,” Mr Kenyatta remarked on November 27, 2017, when he was sworn in for his second and final term in government.
For years, Nairobi has advocated for the reduction of trade obstacles among African countries in order to facilitate the movement of commodities, services, and labor through the integration of regional trading blocs.
Kenya was chosen last year to participate in the pilot phase of the AfCFTA Initiative on Guided Trade as part of efforts to encourage the movement of goods under preferential trading, which will begin on January 1, 2021.
Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Tunisia were among the other countries represented.
Africa’s underdeveloped transportation networks have been criticized for raising the cost of goods and services by up to 40%, making intra-African trade uncompetitive in comparison to trade with industrialized continents like Europe.
For example, the first cargo of Kenya’s value-added tea to Ghana, which left the nation in October, arrived at the Port of Tema in February of this year, highlighting the infrastructure challenges that intra-African commerce faces.
“This is why we must take such barriers as weak transport and logistics capacity, customs-related delays, rules of origin, import bans and export restrictions, quotas and levies, technical barriers, import permits and licenses, and so on, very seriously because they ultimately reverse all the depths we try to make towards a free trade area,” Dr Ruto said.
“They may appear minor and incremental, but their cumulative effect amounts to a reversal of what we are attempting.”
According to preliminary figures compiled by the Central Bank of Kenya, Africa contributed for 18.49 percent, or Sh622.56 billion, of Kenya’s overall trade value in 2022, almost constant from 18.39 percent the previous year.