KIGALI MEETING DRIVES SINGLE TOURIST VISA AGENDA FORWARD
(Posted 13th September 2013)
Experts from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda met in Kigali yesterday to advance discussions on how to implement the directive of their heads of state to have a single tourist Visa available from 2014 onwards, to enhance the flow of tourist visitors across the three countries without any added fees. The same meeting also discussed the implementation of passport free travel for citizens of the three, simply using existing ID cards in the case of Kenya and Rwanda and of voters cards in the case of Uganda, as there the process to issue national ID cards has just gone underway.
The three countries have of late found themselves spearheading developments which under the auspices of the East African Community were long overdue but failed to take off over constant objections and querulations by one member country in particular. Uganda hosted a first summit of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ a few months ago in Entebbe, and inspired by the range of mutual agreements did Kenya host another summit just two weeks ago, during which yet more progress was made and key decisions taken on the issue of connecting the three by rail.
Another summit will be held in two months time in Kigali to review what the panel of experts has agreed on before implementing Visa and ID travel arrangements.
The cost of 100 US Dollars for a Visa covering all three countries will be shared equitably with each country being allocated 30 US Dollars while the first entry point country will get a further 10 US Dollars for administration cost.
Official were hard pressed to alleviate suggestions that Tanzania and Burundi were left out of the exercise, but with the writing on the wall it was clear that the three would no longer be held back in implementing what is good for them while leaving the doors open for others to join, as and when, if ever, they were ready to do so.
The information was received with great anticipation by the tourism sectors of the three countries where hopes are high that the measures will increase visitor numbers and revenues. It was pointed out though that provisions must be made for duly registered expatriates resident in any of the three countries, holding a work permit or a residency permit, that they too can from January onwards travel freely across the borders without having to pay Visa fees, which currently acted as a major obstacle for expats to spend their local vacations in the region and instead often opted to visit such places like South Africa or the UAE where they are not subject to Visa fees. Watch this space as progress is made towards the common tourist Visa and for the announcement when it will go ‘live’.