What is the change? Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who took the helm of the African Union this year, has announced his commitment to a visa-free Africa, stating that free movement within the continent is “achievable in 2018.”

What does the change mean? Though a visa-free continent is unlikely to be accomplished this year, the goal of visa-free travel for all African citizens is a stated objective of the African Union, and African travelers should expect more countries to remove visa requirements in the coming year.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visa waivers and visas on arrival.
  • Who is affected: African nationals traveling within Africa.
  • Impact on processing times: Visa waivers eliminate processing at consulates.
  • Business impact: Visa-free access will ease continental travel and encourage country-to-country and regional partnerships.

Background: The African Union’s long-term agenda includes visa-free travel for all African citizens as a means of facilitating trade and regional cooperation. A common African passport, scheduled to roll out by 2020, is expected to boost trade and investment. According to a report on visa openness published in 2017 by the African Development Bank, African nationals currently require visas to travel to 55 percent of countries in Africa.

BAL Analysis: Kagame is well known as a strong proponent of visa liberalization. Rwanda is one of several countries to issue visas on arrival to all African nationals and, as of Jan. 1, all nationals may obtain a visa on arrival if visiting Rwanda for tourism. BeninGhana and Kenya are among the countries that have also waived visas for all Africans. The plan to complete free movement by the end of 2018 may be overly ambitious, but President Kagame’s announcement indicates that visa liberalization is among the priorities of the African Union in the coming year

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