When Rwanda on January 1, 2013 launched a visa on arrival policy for citizens of African Union member states, critics were swift in both denouncing the change and dooming the initiative, mostly of course bureaucrats who benefit from holding the reins of power when it comes to granting, or rejecting visa applications.
Africa is known to make it difficult for Africans to travel across the continent and countries like the Seychelles, which requires no visa at all for visitors from any country in the world that remain the exception.
However, Rwanda implemented the change and prevailed, and progressively other countries in Africa have taken a hard look at their own visa application process, probably smelling money flowing into their coffers through increased tourism and trade arrivals.
Ghana earlier in the year followed Rwanda’s lead and started to issue visa on arrival for African Union member state citizens, and today Benin followed suit.
Benin’s President, Patrice Talon, on a state visit to Rwanda, made the announcement earlier today in Kigali when he said: ‘‘Learning from Rwanda, I have decided that Benin will no longer require visas for other Africans,” bemoaning the extent to which Africans visited the rest of the world but not each other.
Benin joins a handful of countries to make travel easier, and members of the “Team Africa” organizations were swift to commend the move. In July, the African Union had floated the idea of a pan-African passport, but cognizant of the fact that such flowery declarations take often decades to implement – The Yamoussoukro Declaration is a very good example for that – Team Africa has recommended to instead waive visa application requirements and have African Union member states embrace Rwanda’s example and begin to grant visa to African travelers on arrival.
Well done to Benin, and of course kudos to Rwanda once again for blazing the trail and showing the way.