In a significant move aimed at enhancing intra-Africa trade, President William Ruto of Kenya has announced the removal of visa requirements for African nationals conducting business in Kenya.
This decision marks a major step towards eliminating barriers to trade within the continent.
During a forum on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) held in Nairobi, President Ruto expressed his apologies to public and private sector leaders for the previously imposed visa requirements.
He stated, “My minister [for Trade Moses Kuria] has informed me that somehow some of our officials made you pay visas to come home and asked me to apologize, which I do. When one comes home, they don’t pay to come home.”
He further emphasized Kenya’s commitment to the AfCFTA and its support for seamless movement across the continent, saying, “We must remove any impediments to the movement of people around our continent.”
This recent announcement builds upon Kenya’s longstanding policy of promoting African integration, which gained momentum during the tenure of former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In November 2017, President Kenyatta had already implemented a visa-on-arrival policy, allowing all African visitors to Kenya to be eligible for visas upon arrival, without requiring prior application.
The decision to remove visa fees aligns with the spirit of pan-Africanism, emphasizing the importance of free movement and fostering a sense of brotherhood and appreciation for the continent’s diversity. Nairobi has long been an advocate for the elimination of trade barriers among African countries, aiming to facilitate the seamless flow of goods, services, and labor through the integration of regional trading blocs.
Kenya has been actively involved in the African Continental Free Trade Area Initiative, participating in the pilot phase of Guided Trade alongside countries such as Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Tunisia.
This initiative, launched on January 1, 2021, encourages the movement of goods under preferential trading terms.
One of the main challenges hindering intra-African trade is the underdeveloped transport networks across the continent.
This issue significantly raises the cost of goods and services, making intra-African trade less competitive compared to trade with developed continents like Europe.
Weak transport and logistics capacity, customs-related delays, rules of origin, import bans, export restrictions, quotas, levies, and technical barriers have all been identified as hurdles that need to be addressed to facilitate free trade within Africa.
The removal of visa fees for African traders is expected to bolster trade and economic cooperation between Kenya and other African countries.
In 2022, Africa accounted for 18.49 percent of Kenya’s total trade value, amounting to approximately Sh622.56 billion.
This move aims to further strengthen these trade ties and foster greater economic integration across the continent.