The 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.
The proposal is part of an effort to forge Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania into a single market and increase investment in the region said the Kenya Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang.
Negotiations are at an advanced stage, he added. The European Union’s 25-nation zone of open frontiers is being used as a model, and negotiations will conclude soon.
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.
If all goes as planed, there will be easy movement of Tourists with in the East Africa Region, leading to the development of the Tourism Industry in the Region.