10 December 2012

Rwanda Opens Up to Africans

Photo: Timothy Kisambira/The New Times
The country's international airport.

Effective January 1, 2013, nationals from all African countries travelling to or transiting through Rwanda will be issued with entry visa upon arrival at any Rwandan entry point.

This notice was made last week by the government of Rwanda through the directorate of immigration and emigration.

The decision was taken in a bid to remove formalities in visa acquisition from Rwanda's respective embassies in the travelers' countries of origin.

According to Anaclet Kalibata, the director of immigration and emigration, this will help both the foreigners coming to Rwanda and the country itself.

On the side of applicants, it will avoid delays in acquiring a visa while removing the condition to pass by their respective embassies or the risk of missing all requirements while applying online.

"Asking African countries nationals to apply for an online visa is a bit difficult since not all of them have access to internet. Some could even come without all the requirements," said Kalibata, adding however, that the online option is still valid.

For the country, Kalibata said, it's very beneficial because it opens more doors to businessmen, tourists and workers who, upon arrival will understand that the country is hospitable indeed.

Diplomats representing their respective countries in Rwanda welcomed the initiative which they said will help grow the business cycle among African countries.

Richard Kabonero, Uganda's High Commissioner to Rwanda said that this was within the spirit of integration that is being promoted under the East African Community.

"Our region is ahead in protocols of reintegration. We allow free movement of people, and I think this is what Rwanda keeps promoting," said Kabonero, who is also the Dean of Diplomats accredited to Kigali.

Kabonero finds this an advantage of promoting trade and education.

"Even the intra African trade will benefit from this facility," he said.

For Idrees Muhammed Ali, the Charger d'Affaires at the Sudanese embassy in Kigali; "it's a great step since it will consolidate the relationship between African countries, while facilitating trade."

He thinks this is a good step that even his country would like to adopt in the future.

Concerning the awareness of the new system, Kalibata said they are disseminating information on what is required to apply for an entry visa at arrival on their website and different social websites for the public to know what they need to apply for a visa.

Thus, he says, there will not be any risk for one to be sent back upon arrival in Rwanda.

The entry visa acquisition doesn't concern residents from regional blocs like the East African Community, the Economic Commission for the Great Lakes Region (CEPGL) as well as individual countries like Mauritius, with which Rwanda has existing agreements.

Similarly, member states of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa are already enjoying this facility.

The visa title's cost is $30 and lasts for 1 month, except for the tourist's visa that is valid for three months.

The Rwanda immigration and emigration has previously scooped several national and international awards because of its efficiency in services delivery.

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