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Rwandan youth call for a visa-free Africa

Young people in Rwanda are calling upon African leaders to remove visas requirements for Africans traveling to other African countries.

The youth from "Kigali Global Shapers Hub", an arm of the Global Shapers Community, believe in integration of Africa with a common travel policy that would enable visa-free travel on the continent.

The Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, is a network of localized hubs developed and led by young people in their respective countries, who are exceptional in their potential, their achievements and their drive to make a contribution to their communities.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Ephraim Rwamwenge, a member of the Kigali Hub, said that they are calling on leaders of African nations to consider offering visa-free entry to fellow Africans from other countries on the continent.

"Our leaders always talk about boosting intra-African trade and promotion of Africa integration, but they have remained tight-lipped on free movements around Africa for African passport holders.

"We call upon our leaders to allow a visa-free Africa to enable Africans traverse the continent without any hindrances," he noted.

The recently released "Africa Visa Openness Report 2016" by the African Development Bank revealed that only 13 countries in Africa offered visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to all Africans.

In 2013, Rwanda opened its borders to African passport holders, thus allowing visitors to get visas on points of entry and removing formalities in visa acquisition from Rwanda’s embassies on the continent.

Officials from Rwanda Directorate of Immigration and Emigration say the move has since increased the number of tourists, especially from countries where Rwanda doesn’t have a consulate.

East African partner countries comprising Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda are rolling out various regional integration initiatives, including the introduction of identity cards as valid travel documents to ease the movement of people across the three countries’ borders.

According to Phillipe Nyirimihigo, another member of Kigali Shapers Hub, a visa-free Africa would be a big boost to African investors.

"True integration of Africa will take place only if people are able to move freely across the continent and leaders need to take action to make this happen," he said.

Rwanda plans to remove visa requirements for African nationals travelling to the country by 2018, as it seeks to entice more investors and tourists from the continent.

Seychelles is only country in Africa that has scrapped visa requirement for all other African countries.

For the past 30 years, Africa has attempted to address free movement, but nothing concrete has materialized.

African Union’s target is to abolish visa requirements for Africans in African countries by 2018.

Jimirasire

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