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Africa

Five East African nations push for common entry visa

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-03

Five East African nations want to allow foreigners to travel among them with a single visa. Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are negotiating the proposal, which is meant to stimulate the region’s economy.

 

AP - Five East African nations want to collapse their borders so that foreigners will need only one visa to travel to any of the five nations, Kenya's immigration minister said.
 
The proposal is part of an effort to forge Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda into a single market and increase investment in the region, Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang said Friday.
 
Negotiations are at an advanced stage, he said. The European Union's 25-nation zone of open frontiers is being used as a model, said Kajwang. He said he did not know when the negotiations will conclude.
 
Citizens of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda do not need visas to travel within their economic bloc, the East African Community, which on Thursday officially began operating as a single market with one set of regulations. Each country, however, still has to change a wide range of laws including labor, taxation and immigration to conform to the protocol.
 
On Friday, Kenya waived all work permit requirements for East Africans, who will only need to register with the immigration department as a formality, Kajwang said.
 
``We want to show by example that what we have agreed on we are implementing, and this will create a lot of goodwill,'' Kajwang said. He noted that Rwanda in late 2007 eliminated work permit requirements for all citizens of the community.
 
He cautioned, however, that there are still difficulties ahead in fully implementing the East African Community's Common Market Protocol, such as resistance from bureaucrats. It took five years to negotiate the protocol and at times talks stalled because of fears that individual countries would lose their sovereignty or that Kenya's better established businesses would dominate the region.
 
``The politicians know what they want. We want one market,'' said Kajwang. ``But the civil servants will move very slowly. And in this one we are urging them to move very quickly.''
 
Since 2005 the East African Community has charged a uniform set of duties for any imports from outside the region under a customs union agreement. Over a five-year period duties were also progressively cut to nothing all on products and goods produced and traded within the region. The community also has a court and a parliament.
 
Creating a federation is the ultimate goal of the nine-year-old East African Community. It brings together more than 125 million people.

 

Date created : 2010-07-03

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