Rwanda’s open border policy is such a blessing for tourism

There has been so much depressing news doing the rounds lately. In Uganda the medical workers have put down their tools demanding better pay. As usual the government is playing tough in this high stakes but familiar game of who will blink first.

There has been so much depressing news doing the rounds lately. In Uganda the medical workers have put down their tools demanding better pay. As usual the government is playing tough in this high stakes but familiar game of who will blink first. This back and forth between the medics and the government is sad to watch given that many innocent lives are the always the cost we bear as a nation.

Kenya has just gone through the same with the nurses having one of the longest industrial actions I can recall in the region. The most hit by such situations are the common wanainchi who cannot afford to rely on the private hospitals that often stay in operation during such industrial actions. In places like Uganda and Kenya it is often hard to believe the government given all the wastage of resources and corruption one reads about in the media almost on a daily basis.

On the political scene Kenya continues to struggle with the foggy electoral situation that at some point seems to be threatening to tear the country apart. I spent some time with some Kenyans in Accra, Ghana and I can still recall one of them thinking out loud and worrying about where their country is headed with endless demonstrations that are characterised by lawlessness, court petitions and the political games by the key players.

Kenya found new competition in this sphere where we woke up to news that Zimbabwe’s long serving leader had been pushed aside in a coup that shall not be called one just yet. The pictures of the old man meeting the same people thought to be pushing him out of power reminded many that may be it is not over till the old lady sings.

In Rwanda where the Tour du Rwanda cycling race was still hogging all the prime media real estate, an announcement on the changes of the country’s immigration policy briefly became the talk of the moment. According to cabinet resolution, starting January 1, 2018, travellers from across the world will receive a 30-day visa upon arrival.

Thinking about this deeply it does bring back memories of those Sundays when we used expect several or important visitors and we would open that door that is rarely opened just so that your visitors don’t have to go round and enter your home via the kitchen. Rwanda already has arguably the most liberal border policies for Africans who have been getting visas on arrival.

Now this wonderful visa regime has been extended to cover just about anyone who shows up at the Rwandan border points whether one is from Chad, Iceland or Bolivia or Fiji. Other cool facts about the new policy include the bit where Rwandans living abroad and holding dual nationality will not have to pay visa fees once they present their national IDs.

Foreign residents in the country will now also be able to use their resident ID cards at the airport. In other words they will join locals in using the electronic gates also known as Automated Passenger Clearance System which if I may add, is the coolest thing I have seen at an airport in the region.

The further removal of bottle necks to the process of travelling can only mean that Rwanda will see an increase in the number of visitors. Of course there may be a reduction in the revenue from visas but I am sure more money will be earned from what the visitors spend once they are in Rwanda. Rwanda has been gradually building its tourism package over the years and I think the new visa regime is proof that the country is ready to host more people and in a more meaningful manner.

If you take your eye away from the queues at the border posts and airports, you can tell that this move will further make it easy for the national carrier to also fill up more seats as more and more people try to come into the country with it.

Views, expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the New Times Publications.

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