By the end of the year, Kenya will open its borders to all African Union member states.
Alfred Nganga Mutua, the cabinet secretary for Foreign & Diaspora Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, made this known in his welcome address at the 43rd ordinary session of the African Union Executive Council in Nairobi on Thursday.
“Kenya is committed to progressively, and we are moving very fast, to the end of this year, to abolish visas to citizens from African Union member states to make it easier to invest and do business in Kenya and across the continent,” Mutua said.
This, according to him, was Kenya’s contribution to the union’s free continental trade aspirations.
“We are going to open the borders of Kenya. We do not fear our fellow Africans,” he said.
“Come, travel to Kenya. Live and do business in Kenya. Trade and make money in Kenya, and we hope we will get reciprocity with the rest of you. Let us open our continent so that we can make money and live together.”
The Kenyan diaspora cabinet secretary said that the African continent is blessed with many resources, yet it is often described as a poor continent, with people suffering from poverty, instability and insecurity.
“We are not a poor continent,” he stated, “but for us to be recognised for who we really are, we need to unlock our collective socio-economic potential. And it is critical that we accelerate our integration, create synergies, and build on our comparative advantages that allow us to trade freely with each other. We have to consolidate our markets, trade more with each other, and allow free movement of people across borders.”
Mutua emphasised the economic disadvantages of the restrictions imposed on Africans in accessing countries within their borders while Europeans were given the right of way.
“Today in Africa, the reality is that for an African to visit a European nation is like trying to milk an elephant, because of the visa process.
“However, for a European to visit an African nation, most of our nations, it is like a walk on the beach; it’s like going to have a cup of tea. But then, that is not the problem.
“The tragedy is that for an African to visit a fellow African within the African Union, the visa restrictions in many of our nations, among us, is like trying to brush the teeth of a crocodile.
“For us to really enjoy the true economic benefits of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, we need to behave like the Europeans and allow for the free movement of people and trade. Our development agencies, such as the African Union Development Agency and others, cannot really succeed when there are all these restrictions among ourselves.”
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