Kenya has expanded its visa openness score by abolishing travel document requirements for foreign nationals visiting the country, thereby enhancing passport mobility for other nations.
The official introduction of Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for foreign nationals replaces the previous visa requirement for countries that mandated it for visits to Kenya.
Last year, Kenya ranked 29th in visa openness, scoring 0.396 compared to Rwanda, which claimed the top spot in Africa with a perfect score of 1.0 after eliminating visa requirements.
Amendments to the Citizen and Immigration Regulations, 2023, which pave the way for the visa-free regime were recently implemented by the government.
On January 2, 2024, Interior and National Administration Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki issued a special Gazette notice, formally replacing ‘Visa’ with ‘Electronic Travel Authorization’ (ETA).
This modification introduces an ETA system aimed at streamlining the pre-screening process for individuals planning to visit the country.
Kenya now joins Benin, The Gambia, Rwanda, and Seychelles in offering visa-free access to all Africans, aligning with the continent’s vision of promoting free movement and trade.
According to the African Union, in 2023, 24 African countries (44 percent of the continent) provided e-visas for Africans, a significant increase from nine countries (17 percent of the continent) in 2016.
The visa-free access to Kenya simplifies travel and positively impacts passport mobility scores for other nations, determined by the number of countries accessible without a visa.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has been instrumental in advocating for African unity and played a crucial role in establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali.
Kenya’s President William Ruto committed to allowing visa-free travel for all Africans visiting the country by December 31 of the previous year, recognising the detrimental effects of visa restrictions on businesses, entrepreneurship, and regional collaboration.
Despite the introduction of the African passport in 2016, which was intended to facilitate travel within the continent, it has thus far been issued only to diplomats and AU officials.
The African Passport and the broader free movement of people initiative aim to eliminate barriers, enabling Africans to travel, work, and reside more easily within the continent.