Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s swearing-in yesterday ushered a new era in regional and continental integration. Just like Rwanda decided three years ago, African nationals will be eligible for an entry visa upon arrival.
This pan-African decision augers well with the principle of free movement that the continent’s leaders have been saying for long but with no tangible results to show for it. But slowly by slowly the benefits of removing unnecessary travel restrictions are beginning to seep in.
It beats the integration logic when some African countries put in place stringent visa requirements for fellow Africans but fall over themselves opening their borders to people outside the continent.
Kenyatta’s inauguration message was even sweeter to East Africans’ ears when he announced that they would henceforth be treated as Kenyans. All they will need is their national identity cards to enjoy the full benefits.
In a bid to speed up the implementation of the Common Market Protocol, member countries of the East African Community (EAC) had set December 31, 2015 deadline to have implemented free movement of labour and goods. But that has not materialised
By scrapping work permits for EAC nationals, a decision that was implemented by Rwanda many years ago when it first joined the community, Kenya throws the ball in other member states’ court – those that have not done so, especially Tanzania and Burundi.
The road to full implementation of the EAC integration is still bumpy, but it will be travelled by only those who summon enough courage and take the first step. At the end of the day it will prove more profitable to open up than putting up unnecessary restrictions as has been the case with Rwanda.