Firms praise President move to open Kenyan borders to Africans

Wednesday November 29 2017

Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) executive director Jacqueline Mugo. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) executive director Jacqueline Mugo. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By LYNET IGADWAH
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Employers have welcomed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Tuesday announcement that Kenya is opening its borders to Africans, arguing it is a step in the right direction.

Mr Kenyatta announced, shortly after he was sworn in for a second term, that any African wishing to visit Kenya will be eligible to get a visa on arrival.

Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) executive director Jacqueline Mugo said that aside from making movement easier, issuance of visas on arrival will save costs and time.

“This is a positive thing and is exactly what we have been asking for in order to enable Africa present itself to the world as one market,” she said.

The rise of economic emigrants, security and sovereignty are among the reasons countries introduced travel visas as it enables immigration authorities to vet applicants.

Director of Immigration, Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa said he could not give an authoritative analysis of the Executive directive at the moment.

“At the point of making this directive, a lot of thought had gone into it, but we need to look at it closely and come up with the modalities of how it shall work,” he said.

Kenya is currently grappling with drug trafficking and the terrorism menace, which some fear could escalate with the blanket opening up of the borders.

Mr Kihalangwa noted that incoming visitors will still be vetted to ensure only well-meaning people get into the country.

Currently, only 13 out of 55 countries in Africa have allowed liberal entry - described as vis- free or visa on arrival access - to other African countries, meaning Africans cannot freely access 76 per cent of their continent.

Countries that are currently visa-free for Africans include Rwanda, Benin and Mauritius.

From mid-last year, Ghana introduced a visa-on-arrival policy for citizens of African Union member states. Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) chairperson Flora Mutahi said opening up Kenya’s borders is a good step towards increasing Kenya’s attractiveness to investors.

“Incidentally the business case for opening up borders across the continent is strong and highlights a crucial ingredient in building and sustenance of formidable economies that will secure the future of Africa,” said Ms Mutahi.

During Tuesday’s announcement, Mr Kenyatta explained that the directive was in line with his Pan-Africanist vision and would be implemented without a demand for reciprocity from other countries.

Sceptics say opening up the borders may have good motives, but may produce devastating results going forward as is currently the case in the United States of America.

The US has the largest population than any other country and President Donald Trump was recently compelled to sign tough immigration orders including banning travellers from six Muslim majority countries.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) also threw its weight behind stakeholders that have applauded Mr Kenyatta’s directive, noting that it was a bold move that should be emulated by African states.

“The decision by the President will ease movement of persons on the continent and promote fast economic growth in the region and on the African continent,” said Mr Francis Atwoli, Cotu secretary- general, in a statement.