EDITORIAL: Throwing border gates wide open way to go

The immigration department is one of the most popular government departments because of its seamless operations. They offer rapid services and it is rare to hear any complaints directed towards them. On top of that, they are innovative.

Foreigners applying for a visa did not need to visit Rwanda’s diplomatic representation; it was enough to apply online to receive regular updates. Then one only had to do was to hop onto a plane or other transportation mode to find their visa on arrival.

Then it was visa on arrival for all African nationals without exception and the response was more than expected; tourist numbers spiked and so the most logical thing to do was opening the country to the world; visa on arrival for all without prior application.

Rwanda’s open-border policies have contributed a lot in its growth; shortage of skilled manpower meant that foreigners filled some of the skills gaps until Rwandans were ready.

Now the government is contemplating going even further by scrapping visa fees for citizens of member countries of the Commonwealth, Francophonie and the African Union, virtually nearly everyone.

Free movement is key to economic success, is beneficial to cultural exchanges and building bridges, but to many Rwandans, free movements remains a grey area. For example, Rwandans can enter 28 countries visa-free and get visas on arrival in 41, but which ones?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration department need to communicate better and clearly the countries in question and a simple posting on their websites would suffice. That would save people travelling to Nairobi, Kampala or Dar es Salaam to apply for a visa only to realise that Rwandans were exempted.

People  need to spread their wings and once the government implements the global visa-free policy, one should be sure of seeing many other countries opening their doors to Rwandans in the spirit of reciprocity.


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