Delegates from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda are meeting in Kigali for further discussion on the use of national identity cards as travel documents and the issuance of a single tourist visa.
The meeting that seeks to iron out issues under the tripartite arrangement, is a follow-up to the Heads of State Summit in Entebbe, Uganda, in June.
Then, the Heads of State from the three countries agreed to fast-track a joint railway line project, oil pipeline, adoption of national identity cards as travel documents, as well as establishment of a single tourist visa, and a single customs territory.
Rwanda was assigned to spearhead single tourism visa, use of IDs as travel documents as well as single customs territory.
The two-day trilateral meeting that opened yesterday brought together heads of institutions responsible for Immigration, Tourism, Internal Affairs, Visa, Identity Cards and other relevant institutions from the three EAC countries to review the application modalities ahead of implementation.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the meeting, yesterday, Monique Mukaruliza, the national coordinator of the tripartite initiative, reiterated that the move aims at deepening regional integration.
"Ugandans will use their voter's card as travel documents to Rwanda and Kenya because they do not have national ID cards. Students without voter's card can use school identity cards," Mukaruliza said.
"We are discussing the application of entry coupon that will accompany the identity cards. The coupon will act as an entry stamp."
She said the forum will also look into the proposed design of the single tourist visa sticker ahead of final approval by the ministerial meeting which takes place today.
The $100 (about Rwf65,500) visa with 90 days validity will be paid at the point of entry or in foreign missions.
According to Mukaruliza, each state will take a share of $30. However, the country that processes the visa entry will receive an extra $10 in an administration cost, she added.
Mukaruliza said the use of national identity cards as travel documents and the issuance of a single tourist visa within the three EAC partner states will come into effect in January next year.
Tanzania, Burundi not isolated:
Meanwhile, Mukaruliza rejected suggestions that the three countries were isolating Tanzania and Burundi, members of the EAC, saying what is on the table is aimed at fast-tracking the implementation process of some of the projects.
"Tanzania and Burundi will join us once they are ready to implement the projects and move on the same pace with us," she said.
The director of Kenya immigration, Jane Wangare Waikenda, also said there are no intentions of isolating any partner state.
"The move is based on the principle of variable geometry as provided for in the ECA Treaty. Three willing partner states can move to integrate as they wait for others to catch up," Waikenda said.
She said the use of national IDs as travel documents will facilitate people to move freely across the national borders.
"Tourism is going to flourish because we shall be marketing our countries as a single tourist destination," Waikenda added.
Currently, Kenya and Uganda charge $50 (about Rwf32,000) for tourist visa while Rwanda charges $30.
Rwanda Development Board statistics show that visitors from neighbouring DR Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya accounted for 915,000 tourists who visited the country last year, compared to 714,000 in 2011.
Last year, Rwanda's tourism sector generated $281.8m (Rwf178 billion) compared to $251.3m (Rwf159 billion) the previous year.
Godfrey Sasagah Wanzira, the director of immigration in Uganda, said issues concerning trade partnership, infrastructure development and revenue generation need urgent action.
"Our aim is to fast track these initiatives and move forward in deepening regional integration," Wanzira said.