ITUC-Africa highlights concerns with implementation of Kenyan visa-free policy, seeks review

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By Michael Oche

As a follow-up on the implementation of Kenyan Visa-Free Border Policy, the Africa regional organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has written to Kenyan President, William Ruto, highlighting some concerns with some aspects of the new visa regime in the country.

In the letter signed by ITUC-AFRICA General Secretary, Akhator Joel Odigie, the regional organisation said it acknowledges the noble intentions behind the visa-free policy, but proposed that urgent adjustments be made to ensure its successful implementation.

“The mandatory ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) online registration system has given rise to several issues,” Odigie noted in his letter on Wednesday, January 17th.

The ETA system replaced the Kenya eVisa since January 1, 2024, after President Ruto announced a new free visa policy.
The Kenya ETA is a pre-screening process for visa-exempt foreign nationals. It typically involves a visa applicant submitting their personal and travel information.

Odigie noted that the extended processing time of 72 hours for the ETA, coupled with uncertainty about approval, presents challenges for prospective travelers.

He stated further that the associated $35 fee for the ETA gives the appearance of a tariff, undermining the core principles of a visa-free measure.

“This approach introduces unwarranted complexities and setbacks to the overarching objective of facilitating free movement.

“The requirement to reapply for an ETA following flight changes adds a layer of complication and frustration for travelers.

“Mr President, the challenge with this current visa-free arrangement is that even citizens from nations previously eligible for visa-free entry must now obtain an ETA, involving cumbersome details such as hotel bookings and return ticket information,” Odigie stated.

He said addressing these concerns will significantly contribute to the success of this laudable integration-enhancing policy, adding that ITUC-AFRICA stands ready to offer any support necessary to realise an open and integrated Africa.

The ITUC-AFRICA General Secretary therefore called for a thorough review that aligns with the practices of some African countries like Benin, Rwanda, Mauritius, and Seychelles, which have effectively introduced visa-free border arrangements.

He said further, “As an organisation advocating for an open African border, we trust that your government, as one of the 15 African Champions for the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), will consider our concerns. We also reiterate our request for the Kenyan government to ratify the African Union Free Movement Protocol (AU-FMP), which gives a pragmatic framework for the continent’s mobility aspirations.”