Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda unveil joint tourist visa in UK

  • By Ben Gasore
  • November 08, 2013
MILESTONE: L-R: Kenya’s Kandie, Rwanda’s Nkurunziza and Uganda’s Egunyo toast to the new regional tourism order on Tuesday. The New Times / Courtesy

Tourists visiting the East African countries of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, will effective January 1, 2014 find it easy and cheaper after the three countries created one seamless tourist destination with the launch of the East African single joint visa on Tuesday.

The new cross-border visa, unveiled during the ongoing annual World Travel Market expo in London in the UK, will simplify travel arrangements for holidaymakers, as well as create a new brand for the whole region and open up opportunities for joint marketing campaigns, the Rwanda Development Board said in a statement.

At present tourists travelling between the East African countries must obtain a separate visa for each nation.

Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are famed for their wildlife, which will, through the introduction of a joint visa, boost regional travel, adding value to the tourism products of the three countries and highlighting the diversity of East Africa.

The introduction of the single tourist visa is a result of a joint initiative and decision made by the Heads of State of the respective countries about six months ago.

The Ugandan tourism state minister Agnes Egunyo, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie, as well as Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the UK Amb. Williams Nkurunziza unveiled the single joint visa at the Rwanda Development Board stand at the world’s biggest tourism expo.

“We celebrate another milestone in East African tourism, the impending transformation of our three markets into one seamless tourist destination. Our Presidents are strong believers in regional integration, including in the management of our tourism assets,” ,” said Nkurunziza.

“They charged Rwanda to co-ordinate the transition to the single tourism visa; six months later, we are happy to announce the realisation of this objective: single visa, one destination.”

He added that the introduction of the single visa will allow the three countries to promote their dramatic and varied, flora and fauna, landscapes and cultural experiences.

“With the single visa, a tourist can enjoy Kenya’s sandy beaches and majestic lions, Uganda’s waterfalls and magic music and Rwanda’s rolling hills and rare mountain gorillas,” he added.

The joint visa will cost $100 (about Rwf68,000), while the current cost of a single entry visa for Kenya is $50, for Rwanda is $30 and Uganda $50.

“We are delighted to be joining hands with our neighbours in a move that will benefit tourists visiting our diverse region, and also boost the respective tourism sectors through new joint marketing and trade opportunities,” Kenya’s Kandie said.

She noted that the single joint visa will now enrich diversity and at the same time increase the value of the tourism sector products in the region.

Uganda’s tourism state minister Egunyo lauded the cross-border visa, saying it is convenient for tourists since it is multinational.

She observed that the venture will make the three member states more competitive and at the same time build on regional integration.

Tourism is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner, with the country recording $142.5m (Rwf96.9b) in revenues in the first half of this year compared to $128.4m (about Rwf87.3b) in the same period last year. The country received 664,729 visitors, up from 583,096 during the same period last year. This represented an increase of 11 per cent in earnings and 14 per cent in tourist numbers.

Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism and conservation at RDB, explained that most of the tourists to Rwanda and East Africa come mainly from the US, the UK and Germany.

“Tourists will be able to choose which country to visit without limitations like delays or affordability since the single visa will be cheaper compared to the current arrangement,” said Paolo Scarsellato, the Top Tower Hotel general manager. He said Tanzania and Burundi should be encouraged to join the initiative to give tourists a complete experience across the East African Community.

“Other EAC members will join us along the way since we have not locked anyone out,” said Kandie.

The joint visa has worked in other regional blocs with member countries leveraging comparative advantages and maximising on it by pulling together their efforts and marketing the region as a single destination.

Contact email: ben.gasore[at]


Well done EAC. This will make our region more attractive and convenient for Tourists.

04:23:37 Friday 08th, November 2013 Seoul - South Korea - Tony

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i believe in you

10:00:04 Friday 08th, November 2013 kigali - john to Tony

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Yesterday, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete told the parliament, apparently through them, to the nation, that their country is side-lined by the EAC members state (of course except Burundi)- and the reason are the countries want to enjoy from Tanzania's land, immigration and jobs!

A reasonable Tanzanian would ask him about how much of the revenues from tourism, in this case, would the country lose from holding on their own land. By the way, is the Tanzania land arable that one in the other countries?

Could the academics, civil society or indeed the parliament help the country understand how the other regional blocks such as the EU - the main funders of Tanzania- have gone beyond the country boundaries to build and forge strong economic bonds?

Rhetoric as he is, President Kikwete did not tell the Tanzanians about what they stand to again from remaining who they are as members of EAC.

08:17:27 Friday 08th, November 2013 Rusizi - Abdul Kanoti

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Dear Abdul,

I really don't think this initiative, or the others on infrastructure and ease of travel using national ID, voter or student cards, involving Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda (and soon South Sudan), has anything to do with Tanzania; it is solely about those countries involved.

Talk of isolating anyone is to cast this achievement in a light that was not intended by those who have taken the action. Anyone can read what they wish from this initiative, but some of the interpretations are totally unrelated to the explicitly stated goals of the three heads of state of the cooperating countries.

And for those who make those wild conclusions we say, shauri zenu. Museveni, Kagame and Kenyatta do not wake up every day thinking, how can we isolate Kikwete and Tanzania further. They wake up thinking, how can we step up cooperation among Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya in order to speed up the creation of greater business opportunities for our people and therefore ensure a better tomorrow for all of our countries.

Their focus is fully on their own countries, not on any other. They probably regret all the time wasted as, had they implemented these initiatives before, their countries would be further on the road to greater prosperity than they are now.

09:44:55 Friday 08th, November 2013 - Mwene Kalinda to Abdul Kanoti

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The behavior of KE, UG and Rwanda is bent on tarnishing Tanzania's image internationally. Our President is being contempted upon for being a Muslim and Mswahili!!

09:04:45 Friday 08th, November 2013 DSM - Ferd of Aragon

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no no my dear,don't be blind folded with your cheap thinking however one old man when i was young once told me "not to read a news paper but to analyze the paper" so read and understanding more cse in English there is a saying " that a bad work man blames his tools" when you a lazy u start blaming ur hoe !!!

10:05:30 Friday 08th, November 2013 kigali - james to Ferd of Aragon

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English, please: What is 'contempted upon"? On the substance, why do you Tanzanians believe what Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda do FOR THEMSELVES, has anything to do with YOU? Are you really so self-centred, or so insecure you really think what others do is always with YOU in mind?

At the risk of disappointing you or hurting your feelings in any other way, I think it is necessary to let you know you were nowhere in the three countries' consideration when they took this decision for THEIR OWN INTERESTS.

10:22:30 Friday 08th, November 2013 - Mwene Kalinda to Ferd of Aragon

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In fact it is Tanzania that is isolating other EA member states. Whereas J Kikwete is wondering whether or not the other heads of state "hate" him ( according to his speech to the parliament), his leadership has convinced his fellow Tanzanians that TZ is self sufficient and does not need other East Africans.

He would rather allow big chunks of land go to the Arabs and stay idle rather than seeing wananchi from other EA member states residing freely and working alongside Tznians for the common good of our region.

He has achieved this by imposing high working permit fee to discourage free movement of labor, mistreatment of the so called "wahamiaji haramu' unfortunately including even some of Tz citizens.

All these are on the record. That is Mheshimiwa Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete's vision for EAC.

09:17:51 Friday 08th, November 2013 Kayonza - Kamatari J

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wahamiaji haramu, explain that - mr kamatari

13:24:16 Friday 08th, November 2013 kigali - didier to Kamatari J

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President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete is a wise leader and professional. He wants this regional integration with focus on the EAC Treaty, Nothing else. So if other Head of states decided to go out of the EAC Treaty, Tanzania can not force them to stop their coalition of willing. But Mr. Kikwete was very clear yesterday on his speech to the parliament and the nation that Tanzania can not pulled out of the focus of the EAC Treaty.

So please don't mislead the society by saying that Tanzania declared that it is self sufficient. Tanzania is an active member of SADC and COMESA therefore its philosophy is profitable and sustainable regional integration and not otherwise.

11:50:48 Friday 08th, November 2013 Kigali - Kayitare J

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I dnt undastand wat all this fuss iz all abt?kama tz is dragin its feet en stil sleepin,let other partner states go on with their planz.kuna msemo kwa kingereza which sayz"let the sleepin dog lay".

13:35:32 Friday 08th, November 2013 Dar - Emmanuel

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Tanzania is not a member of COMESA as you claim. It withdrew in 2000. At the time talk was that this would be a fatal blow to the group. Instead it has moved from strength to strength with more countries asking to join and impressive intra-group growth in trade.

As for what Kikwete wants with the EAC, I guess that is his right. Just as it is also the right of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to move forward on their own vision of more rapid integration for themselves. The three have no problem with Tanzania moving at its own pace. They have no complaint with Tanzania's choice.

They are just determined to move on at their own pace - and it is similarly no business of Tanzania.And that is as it should be. I haven't heard anyone else other than Dar complain about anyone else's choice.

The problem for Tanzania is that it wants everybody else to move at its snail's pace with integration. The others are saying, no thanks; we want to move faster, and we will do so within or outside the EAC framework. And so, Dar should come to terms with that reality which it cannot change.

13:52:47 Friday 08th, November 2013 - Mwene Kalinda

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I sincerely ask JKikwete to uphold wisdom and understand article 7(e) of the EAC protocol which was duly signed by TZ as well. This is on variable geometry arrangement and what is happening with respect of northern corridor projects and single tourism visa is well within the protocol framework and TZ in no uncertain terms should live with this reality. The train has already left the station and no turning back!

22:19:07 Friday 08th, November 2013 Dar - Kasae

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Hello! i wounder why Tz is blamed here in this discussion, remember Tz is full independent country so her decision ought to and must be obeyed pres. Jk's speech was clear undestood ....and i congratulate Ug.Ke

00:10:22 Saturday 09th, November 2013 Kilimanjaro - philip

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This is the point: only Tanzanians are insisting that what Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are doing to accelerate the integration of their transport and other infrastructure and migration policies be seen in an anti-Tanzania prism. President Kikwete's "Why do they hate me so much" speech in his parliament underlines this Tanzanian egocentrism tinted with a heavy dose of a persecution complex.

No one is out to get Tanzania, a sovereign country entitled to act in what it considers its own fundamental interest. But sovereignty cuts both ways. Which is why Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda (with South Sudan already knocking at the door) are moving forward to advance their own interests on matters on which, rightly or wrongly, they judge Tanzania has been holding them back.

The moves are about the three countries accelerating the integration of their economies and critical political decision-making in certain key aspects in order to make that accelerated integration possible. It is not about isolating Tanzania or anyone else.

The reason Tanzania is left behind is by its own choice. As President Kikwete said in his much-commented address to Bunge in Dodoma this week, Dar's slow pace on East African integration is not solely his personal stance; it is the preference of a majority of Tanzanians.

That is a legitimate national position which Tanzanian officials have instructions to uphold in EAC discussions (in Minister Sitta's words, they should only listen and contribute but not make any commitment).

It shouln't therefore surprise Tanzanians (official and more general public) that those others who see their own national interests as best served by forging ahead faster would do so in one way or another. This is not about Tanzania.

It is about Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Only Tanzanians insist on making it about themselves.

12:15:01 Saturday 09th, November 2013 - Mwene Kalinda to philip

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Fantastic - considering that 99% of the tourists, due to lack of time in their holidays, can visit only one country at once, they will now have to pay, instead of $50 or $30 for their single country visa, $100 for a regional visa they actually do not need.

This makes trips to East Africa even more expensive viewed from an economically already tough European environment. Can only hope that tourists will not all be forced to get this visa only.

10:26:05 Tuesday 12th, November 2013 Nairobi - Hans Willmers

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