Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Ethiopia would soon introduce visa-free travel for all Africans. Ahmed shared this statement during a state banquet held in honour of visiting Rwanda's leader Paul Kagame. Ethiopia, Ahmed says, would follow Rwanda's example very soon.
The government of Ahmed is thinking about opening up its borders to all Africans. Nationals of fellow African nations would no longer need to obtain a visa to enter the country. Since January 1st this year, nationals of several countries receive a visa on arrival at Kigali International Airport and all land borders. Since June 2017, citizens of eligible countries can apply for an online visa for Ethiopia. One of the main purposes of a visa-free scheme is to encourage travel to Ethiopia.
The goal of lifting visa restrictions on fellow African citizens is to generate more tourism within African nations. Boosting tourism results in a boost in the economy of any host country. Acha Leke, Director at McKinsey & Company and member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Africa said, "for countries who have either visa-free or visa-on-arrival policies you can see the positive impact on the number of visitors to those countries. Over time, you'll also see it in the trade figures."
Visa-free Travel for all Africans
The Visa Openness Index reports that it is easier for American citizens to travel around Africa than it is for Africans themselves. African nationals need visas to travel to at least 55% of other African countries. Countries like Rwanda have opened up their borders, and visa openness levels have shown signs of improvement since 2015.
Nationals of African countries can get visas on arrival in about 25% of other countries, and do not need a visa at all to travel to 20% of other countries in the continent. West African and East African countries lead the openness index.
Opening up borders encourages the free movement of people. Setting visa-free travel for all Africans promotes integration and has a positive impact on the economy and the growth of tourism. The African Union recently held the inaugural African Border Day, which is meant to contribute to the prevention and resolution of border-related disputes. The aim of the African Union is to build "a united and integrated Africa, with peaceful, open, and prosperous borders."
A boost in tourism
Tourism could greatly benefit from open borders. The tourism industry is an essential factor in the growth of the economy in the continent. Currently, tourism contributes to 8.5% of GDP and the growth of tourism is driven by African themselves.
Rwanda is a perfect example of the positive impact of the implementation of a visa-free scheme. The abolition of visa requirements for citizens of the East African community in 2011 contributed to an increase in intraregional tourism. Numbers increased from 283,000 in 2010 to 478,000 in 2013.
The eVISA for Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Tourist eVISA was launched by the Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs in Ethiopia in June 2017. Citizens of eligible countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, China, Germany and Italy can obtain an electronic visa in order to enter Ethiopia.
The eVISA for Ethiopia authorizes the citizens with passports valid for at least six (6) months from arrival date to Ethiopia to apply for a tourist eVISA online. Once issued, the Ethiopian eVISA is valid for 30 or 90 days depending on the applicant’s selection.