To kick off the start of his second five-year term, Kenya’s president, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, has declared that any African can get a visa on arrival in Kenya — a move designed to strengthen ties between African countries, possibly prompt other African states to open their borders and promote free trade, movement and cooperation across the continent.
The quirky thing is the visas are not being issued on a reciprocal basis. In other words, the visa-on-arrival policy stands whether or not other African countries choose to implement the same or a similar policy within their borders.
“The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become. The political balkanization that risks our mutual security and the negative politics of identity, will recede as our brotherhood expands to embrace more Africans,” — President Kenyatta
But wait. There’s more!
Citizens of East African countries (a bloc of states known as The East African Community) can now work, conduct business, own property, farm, marry and settle in Kenya — and all without a work permit. All they need is their national ID card and observance of local laws. In other words, East Africans will be treated like Kenyans while in Kenya, an act driven by the desire for deeper regional integration.
“You are our closest friends; our fate and yours are joined at the hip; our troubles and triumphs are yours, and yours are ours. I will work with you, my brothers, the leaders of the East African Community, to bring a renewed energy and optimism to our union,” — President Kenyatta
Reactions to this visa/while-in Kenya-be-treated-as-a-Kenyan announcement are mixed. On one hand, joy; on the other, angst. Joy in that it’s a positive development that should spur growth and ease travel within the continent. Angst in that the policy could attract drug dealers and cartels and should only be offered to countries that reciprocate.