Ministers from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have approved the use of national identity cards as travel documents and the issuance of a single tourist visa.
They made the endorsement at the end of a two-day meeting that sought to iron out issues under the tripartite arrangement. The meeting ended Friday in Kigali.
During the Heads of State Summit in Entebbe, Uganda, in June, Rwanda was assigned to spearhead single tourism visa, use of IDs as travel documents as well as single customs territory.
The ministers adopted the use of entry coupon that will accompany the identity cards. The coupon will act as an entry stamp. They also endorsed the design of the single tourist visa sticker.
All the documents will be tabled before the Heads of State from three countries in the October Summit for final approval.
Significantly, this framework does not include the other East African Community partner states–Tanzania and Burundi.
Speaking to The New Times after the meeting, Francois Kanimba, the minister for trade and industry, said the move aims at speeding up the implementation of some of the EAC projects.
“The EAC Treaty mandates more than one partner state to integrate as they wait for others to catch up and this is what we are doing. We need to realise the goal of regional integration for smooth trade and cooperation,” he said.
Kanimba said some programmes like the use of IDs as travel documents and the single tourist visa have been there but some countries are reluctant to implement them, the reason Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya decided to speed up the process.
The $100 (about Rwf65,500) visa valid for 90 days will be paid at the point of entry or in foreign missions and 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.
Visa sticker design
The document, referred to as the ‘East Africa Tourist Visa,’ is green in colour. It has emblems of the three countries, common wildlife, place of validity, a unique visa number and spaces for personal data.
The coupon is marked by the flags of the three countries arranged in alphabetical order. It contains a name of issuing country, traveller’s name and ID/voter/student card number, nationality, an emblem of the issuing country in the background of each coupon and a serial number.
The coupon is valid for six months.
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.
Amb. James Baba, Uganda’s deputy minister for internal affairs, said the move is about facilitating travels within the three countries.
“We have agreed that countries with national IDs use them as travel documents but for the case of Uganda, our ID will take us about a year to get. Member states have allowed us to use voter’s card until such a time Uganda will be able to produce national IDs,” he said.
Amb. Baba said tourists coming to the three countries will find it easy to use a single visa to all the countries.
“We want to make work easy for travelling public, visitors, and investors to move across borders.”
Mutea Iringo, Kenya’s principal secretary for interior, said the development will facilitate free movement of goods and services within in the EAC.
“We have started as three countries and are optimistic other remaining EAC countries will join us in a short while and we have agreed in principle to fully implement the initiatives,” Iringo said. “We look forward to continue sharing that database of the vital documents so that we don’t have criminals abusing the process.”