Tourists will have to wait a little longer to visit the East African Community (EAC) using a single visa since partner states have not put all the requirements in place. According to the Minister of East African Community Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza, some member states, are yet to set up necessary infrastructure to facilitate tourists who intend to visit the five-member bloc to utilize the EAC tourist visa system.
“The process to have a single tourist visa is underway and regional immigration chiefs are working on it. So far, what has been agreed upon is to speed up the process. We have to implement the foreign policy coordination by July 1, and issuing the single visa will be part of this policy,” Mukaruliza said.
She added that Rwanda is ready but cannot go it alone. We have to ensure that other countries are ready to move together on this project. We have enough IT equipment but we have to wait for other countries to acquire them as well. According to Mukaruliza, countries also need to put in place the legal framework that will facilitate the initiative.
The single EAC visa system, if enacted, is expected to allow people to use one visa to enter any of the countries in the region without any hindrance. The move to have the single EAC visa followed an appeal by tourism boards of partner states requesting for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination.
“Currently, we are at a level of assessing how partner States are ready to implement the single tourist visa but we need to have the required equipment that will allow partner States to exchange security data to ensure there are no fake visas,” Mukaruliza said.
She, however, noted that beating the July 1 deadline is impossible, adding that the EAC Secretariat had conducted a study on how ready the partner States were and what was missing to initiate the visa. The minister said that there is no deadline set yet but all countries are keen on speeding up the process.
Tourism is a vital sector for the East African trading bloc and, as a key foreign exchange earners, has contributed immensely to the development of the region. The head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB, Rica Rwigamba, and the single entry visa into EAC would enable tourists access the entire region easily.
“The visa will attract people who are already visiting in the region to easily move to other countries,” said Rwigamba. She added that Rwanda is currently at the forefront of promoting the single tourist visa. Rwanda collected about $ 200 million as tourism revenues last year.