Rwanda opens window of hope for intra Africa tourism
During the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council in Kigali, President Paul Kagame made it clear that any African can access Rwanda without paying a cent in visa fees. This is a great boost to intra African tourism.
Going by the data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 60% of Africa’s tourists are from outside Africa. Even then, strategies to tap into the African population that has increased by a 2.7 % rate from 1,460,481,772 in calendar year 2022 to 1,460,481,772 in calendar year 2023 ought to be taken into account. One such strategy is the visa free entry for all Africans.
It is surprising to note that crossing borders by Africans is more restricted to Africans as compared to the Europeans and North Americans. African countries remain closed off to each other, making travel within the continent difficult. Africa is one of the regions in the world with the stiffest visa requirements. This situation is even more restricted for Africans traveling within Africa, as compared to Europeans and North Americans. This is despite the fact that the number of arrivals to the continent’s destinations (and especially intra-African flights) has showed the highest growth globally over the years (IATA, 2010)
Much as the visa entry system is upheld by many countries in the name of ensuring security as well as collecting revenue, it is important to highlight the fact that much has been lost courtesy of such a system. Not only that on our path to a global village, such a system deflates the tires of the vehicle to the realization of the benefits of globalization.
Related to that, the visa system decelerates rather than accelerate the vehicle of regional integration and later a United States of Africa, as envisaged by the late Libyan leaders Col. Muamar Gadafi. It is an open secret that for Africa to cross the political river Jordan to a political Canaan, long desired and preached by Pan Africanists to mention but to save time Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Nelson Mandela, a United Africa is one such a vital component on the menu of strategies to make that a reality.
A visa entry system is accompanied with numerous losses in terms of time and resources. Its disadvantages spill over to other sectors of the economy. Testimony to this is the revelation by then President of African Development Bank Mthuli Ncube, who once said: “Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest visa requirements. Visa restrictions imply missed economic opportunities for intra-regional trade and for the local service economy such as tourism, cross-country medical services or education.”
In the words of President Paul Kagame, Africa has the potential to become a ‘’Unified tourism destination’’. To make this a reality, African states should emulate Rwanda, Seychelles as well as the republic of Benin by opening their borders to other African citizens.
Why a Visa-free entry system?
It ensures free movement of people within the African continent. African workers of all races, students of all levels, researchers of various categories and border residents would freely move across borders. This can boost more investments, businesses and innovation as well knowledge sharing. Consequently, economic growth would be offset.
Strengthens regional and inter regional chains. This is so in the fields of politics, economics and education. Blocks such as East African Community, COMESA, SADAC among others would become more efficient. Related to that the economies of scale operations would be realized much to the progress of Africa. As a result of regional inter linkages and value chains, overall productivity would shoot up which can partly boost the regions’ and overall continent’s bargaining power in the international spaces.
Opportunity to harness the potential of tourism in Africa.
In calendar year 2021, the tourism sector contributed a substantial US$119.2 billion to Africa’s overall GDP which was a 23.5 percent increase from 2020 as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Therefore, by opening the borders multiplies the benefits from the sector.
It aligns with the Africa agenda 2063 particularly Aspiration number twenty: We aspire that by 2063, Africa shall: • Be a United Africa; • Have world class, integrative infrastructure that crisscrosses the continent; • Have dynamic and mutually beneficial links with her Diaspora; and • Be a continent of seamless borders, and management of cross-border resources through dialogue
All said, African countries should address the possible hindrances of a visa free entry system in order to boost intra Africa tourism as well as boost other sectors; agriculture and industrial being hampered by inter border constraints.