* As continent opens doors to free movement

Kigali, Rwanda - On November 2, Rwanda made a historic announcement, declaring its intent to permit visa-free travel for all Africans to the country.

This move positions Rwanda as the latest nation on the continent to take steps aimed at fostering free movement of people and facilitating trade, with aspirations of rivaling Europe's Schengen zone.

President Paul Kagame unveiled this groundbreaking measure in the Rwandan capital, Kigali during the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

He emphasised the vast potential of Africa as a unified tourism destination and urged the continent to seize this opportunity.

Currently, Africa relies on tourists from outside the continent for 60 percent of its visitors, according to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Kagame stated, "Any African can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country." He underscored the significance of the continental market, proclaiming, "We should not lose sight of our own continental market.

“Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come."

Once implemented, Rwanda will become the fourth African nation to eliminate travel restrictions for fellow Africans. The Gambia, Benin, and Seychelles have previously waived visa requirements for African nationals.

Furthermore, Kenya's President William Ruto revealed plans to allow visa-free travel to all Africans in his East African nation by December 31. Ruto, speaking at an international summit in Congo, Brazzaville, emphasised the adverse effects of visa restrictions among African nations.

He stated: "Visa restrictions among ourselves work against us. When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel, we all become net losers."

The African Union (AU) initiated the concept of an African passport in 2016 with the ambition of rivaling the European Union's model and "unleashing the potential of the continent."

However, to date, only diplomats and AU officials have been issued this travel document.

The African Passport and the broader free movement of people initiative aims to "remove restrictions on Africans' ability to travel, work, and live within their own continent," as indicated on the AU's official website.

Additionally, the AU introduced the African Continental Free Trade Area, a continent-wide free trade agreement estimated to be worth USD 3.4 trillion, with the objective of establishing a unified market for the continent's 1.3 billion people, thereby stimulating economic development.