Kenya ranks highly on accessibility
According to the Africa Visa Openness Index released late January, Kenya moved up six places into the top 10 countries with the report ranking the country position 9 up from position 15 the previous year, and 16 in 2016. This means that the country’s degree of accessibility—when it comes to either visa-free entry or requiring visa on arrival to Africans—rose to 96 per cent, up from 89 per cent in the previous year, and 89 per cent in 2016. “The country’s improved score follows its new visa-on-arrival policy for all Africans, which was highlighted in President Kenyatta’s inauguration speech in November 2017,”notes the report. This comes against the backdrop that African countries on average are becoming more open to each other, with indications that travel within the continent is getting easier. “Compared to 2017 and 2016, progress has been made in 2018 against visa openness indicators,” notes AfDB, adding that Africans currently do not need a visa to travel to more countries than in previous years, and they need visas to travel to fewer countries. Moreover, Africans now do not need a visa to travel to 25 per cent of other African countries (up from 22 per cent in 2017, and 20 per cent in 2016). Also, Africans can get visas on arrival in 24 per cent of other African countries (also 24 per cent in 2017, and 25 per cent in 2016). However, the study noted the fact that Africans still require visas to travel to just over half of other African countries shows more progress is needed to realise free movement of people continent-wide. “Africans need visas to travel to 51 per cent of other African countries (down from 54 per cent in 2017, and 55 per cent in 2016).” It says that going forward, the possible visa openness solutions include Governments implementing more “Visa on arrival for Africans” policy, visa-free regional blocs, as well as regional bloc visas. Others include multi-year visas, as well as promoting positive reciprocity--that is citizens of countries that relax visa requirements to benefit from similar requirements when visiting other African countries. Its travel document solutions include regional travel using regional passports or national identity cards.
At the same time, AfDB recommends simplifying the visa process in terms of documents required, fees, processing time, online applications, and better still, introducing eVisas to facilitate timely visitor access. However, the most radical of measures proposed in the report is for African countries to be 100 per cent visa open, a point African Development Bank Group President, Akinwumi Adesina underscored as follows: “Regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank... we must accelerate investments in regional and national infrastructure, especially, to boost connectivity, reduce costs and raise competitiveness.”
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