The New Times (Kigali)

11 May 2012

East Africa: Aviation Chiefs Push for Single Regional Tourist Visa

Civil aviation authorities from East African Community (EAC) member states want the bloc to expedite the introduction and implementation of a common passport to reduce barriers that still exist at the entry points.

The call was made during a consultative meeting on facilitation of air transport which brought together civil aviation chiefs and tourist agencies from the five EAC partner states.

According to the civil aviation authorities, issuance of a single EAC visa and EAC passport would ease movement across the EAC region without need for a national visa, an initiative they say would greatly boost regional integration and tourism sector.

It was cited in the meeting that bureaucracies and barriers at the member countries' entry points are still a challenge to the citizens of EAC.

The Director General of Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), Dr Richard Masozera, said there was need for better facilitation, especially for tourists, saying tourism is currently a major factor among partner states.

"It's our time as technocrats to begin laying strategies on how the issuance of the single visa can be implemented as soon as possible," he said.

EAC secretariat plans to implement a single tourist visa, the internationalisation of the East African Passport, the use of national identity cards for movement within across EAC states and liberalisation and domestication of the region's airspace.

"This whole integration process should stop being on paper and be implemented for the good of the EAC citizens," said Uganda's Kalumba Kagawa, Assistant Commissioner in charge of air transport in the Ministry of Works and Transport.

Lack of common database at the entry points also affects the issuance of EAC passports, the officials observed.

Eng. Ladslas Matindi, the Principal Officer in charge of aviation sector in the EAC Secretariat, said his office was working on harmonisation among the EAC immigration offices to see to it that tourists or citizens are recognised in all partner states.

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