East African countries to issue common visa

Visas to be effective from fourth quarter of 2014

The East African Community consisting of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi is finalising plans for a single-destination visa for tourists, scheduled to be effective from the fourth quarter of 2014.

East Africa’s tourism industry has been struggling with expensive visa fees, which for a family of four can cost US$1,000 to visit all five member countries.

Such costs are seen as a hurdle to promoting cross-region safari packages, and while Kenya currently permits re-entry after obtaining an initial visa when visiting other countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi or Tanzania, none of the other countries offer the same option.

“This is one among a wide range of measures being undertaken jointly to attract visitors and investors to the region. We are fast-tracking the transposition of national laws that contradict the Common Market spirit,” said Richard Sezibera, secretary general of the East African Community.

“We are upgrading the current 8,100km railway network, in addition to extending it to other parts of East Africa. An additional 5,000km is expected in the near future.”

Uganda’s tourism minister, Maria Mutagamba, said: “We need more airlines and airports. The majority of our visitors are eco-tourists, yet it takes six hours to drive from Kampala to Bwindi or Kidepo [national parks].”

TTG Asia

[pictured: Women rearing goats, Burundi]