In trying to Key into the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), agenda, Kenya’s President, William Ruto, has announced plans to abolish visa restrictions for African citizens traveling to the country to do business.
Ruto made the promise while speaking at a session on AfCFTA in Nairobi recently where he apologized to public and business sector leaders over the existing visa requirements for entry into the east African nation.
He said: “My minister (for Trade Moses Kuri) has informed me that somehow some of our officials made you pay visas to come home and asked me to apologize, which I do. When one comes home, they don’t pay to come home.”
“I want to promise you that this might be the last time you are looking for a visa to come to Kenya because of two reasons. Number one, because this is home, and number two, we support wholeheartedly the AfCFTA. We must remove any impediments to the movement of people around our continent,” Ruto added.
AfCFTA, which was signed in 2018 and officially commenced on 1 January 2021, is an ambitious continental trade pact to form the world’s largest free trade area by creating a single market for goods and services connecting almost 1.3 billion people across 55 countries in Africa and deepening the economic integration.
According to a World Bank 2022 report, the trade area could have a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around $3.4 trillion, lifting 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential depends on significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures across African signatory nations.
The latest announcement by Kenya’s president is in line with the country’s quest to support AfCFTA by removing impediments to the movement of people within the continent, promoting the free flow of products, reducing prices, and ultimately boosting intra-African trade.
In August 2022, Kenya unveiled its AfCFTA implementation strategy (2022 -2027) “with the goal of consolidating, diversifying, and expanding exports to African markets and ensuring that its manufacturing sector attains 5 per cent real value-added increases per annum,” a statement announcing the implementation strategy had said.
In June 2022, Kenya was designated as one of seven countries (including Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Tanzania) to pilot the AfCFTA rollout.
Under the rollout programme, targeted export products include fisheries, medicine, fertilizer, paper, industrial chemicals, livestock, fruits, vegetables, spices, handcrafts, mining, and oil and gas, while priority service exports include professional services, tourism, education, healthcare, financial services, ICT, cultural and sports services, and transport and logistics.
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