by Jackie Lumbasi
Travel across three east African countries namely Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda has been made much easier over the last few years. I recall the first trip I made out of Kenya, armed with only my national ID I approached the immigration guys at Malaba border post, paid 400Ksh and had a temporary travel document printed for me. I used this for a few years before I could apply for an East African Community passport, at that time thanks to the EAC one did not need to acquire an international passport with no impeding overseas trip. Besides, the East African passport was cheaper.
When time was ripe, I got myself a Kenyan international passport, that was such an achievement at the time. It has been more than 20 years of travelling within the EAC and at every turn there will be some incredible development. Today for travel within the three countries one does not need to have a passport; we can cross through the borders by producing a national ID. There is a card that is stamped and presented to a traveler at the border and this they produce when traveling back whether by road or air.
As the East African citizens continue to celebrate the small milestones, foreign tourists were also given a reason to toast, with the introduction of the East African Tourist Visa! With this, anyone booking a trip to either Kenya, Rwanda or Uganda would not need to pay visa fees to each individual country, instead they would purchase one visa and be able to traverse the region at no extra visa cost.
In a conversation I had with an acquittance Claire who traveled to Rwanda in August 2022, her journey to Kenya and later Uganda went on smoothly because of the one tourist visa. She had visited the region before the one tourist visa policy and had decried the visa acquisition process each time she had to cross into another country. She says in some cases she would be delayed unnecessarily, or even be asked to pay ‘kitu kidogo’ (bribe).
Another traveller, Nancy who is a Kenyan nationality but British citizen travels with a British passport. Nancy is full of commendation for the ease in the movement within East Africa-thanks to dual citizenship- she does not need to carry her passport around the region as long as her Kenyan national ID is intact.
Africa is right on course with ensuring that travel within the continent is seamless and hustle free. It is encouraging to see regional blocks like EAC, lead by example. If we can travel hustle free within our regional economic blocks we will surely and very soon travel across the continent without having to worry about visa issues.
For now travel within Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda does not require visa and it’s hoped that the same will apply to travel within the remaining EAC member states; Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, and DRC. With ease of travel comes ease of inter-trade and that should help our economies boom. Rwanda is one of the countries on the continent that has removed visa requirements for travellers from across the African continent and beyond. For someone who intends to travel to East Africa for business or leisure, there never has been a better time.