The East African Community (EAC) has commended the decision made by the Republic of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to eliminate visa fees for their citizens traveling across the two borders.

This landmark decision was reached during the eighth Ordinary Session of the Joint Permanent Commission between the two Partner States, held in Kinshasa, DRC, last week. It is expected to have a profound impact on regional trade, a core driving force behind the integration process.

Uganda has now become the third EAC Partner State, following in the footsteps of Kenya and Tanzania, to waive visa requirements for DRC citizens.

Members of the EAC and Somalia team that are taking part on the talks. (Photo EAC).
Members of the EAC and Somalia team during previous talks. Photo|courtesy. 

EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki, said Uganda and the DRC’s move to waive visa fees aligns with the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol, which guarantees the free movement of individuals and workers across the region among other rights and freedoms.

Mr Mathuki highlighted that the elimination of visa entry requirements reflects a genuine political commitment to advancing integration and will significantly boost intra-regional trade, which currently stands at only 15 percent.

“This decision represents a substantial step towards strengthening regional integration, fostering unity, and encouraging collaboration among member states. Removing these travel barriers will not only facilitate the free movement of people but also stimulate trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges within the region,” he said.

“Where people are allowed to move freely across national borders, trade volumes will rise. In addition to increased trade, we can expect greater labour mobility, cultural exchange, and domestic tourism in East and Central Africa.”

Mr Mathuki said increased opportunities for trade and investment in the region will ignite socio-economic growth across the bloc, which boasts substantial human and natural resources.

He also pointed out that the elimination of visa restrictions will further strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between Uganda and the DRC, ultimately benefiting the entire East African region.

The Democratic Republic of Congo became the seventh Partner State of the EAC two years ago, joining the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The secretary-general urged other Partner States that have not yet waived visa requirements for DRC citizens to expedite negotiations with the bloc’s newest member in accordance with the provisions of the Common Market Protocol on the free movement of persons and workers.