Analysts have warned that the East African Single Tourist Visa is likely to fail as EAC partner states still hesitate on harmonizing policies and laws. The original plan was to have the regional common Tourist Visa in place in November 2006, but five years later, the document is still non-existent.
A task force appointed to study EAC’s preparedness for a single tourist visa discovered that EAC member states still lack basic infrastructure to facilitate EAC-bound tourists utilize the regional tourist visa system.
All partner states immigration departments need to have sophisticated ICT equipments that will not only allow them to exchange security data, but also detect and weed out fake visas. Rwanda for instance has the requisite ICT equipment but is waiting for the other EAC member countries to acquire them as well. Rwanda’s Minister of East African Community Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza says that much as Rwanda is ready to implement the EAC single tourist visa, it cannot go it alone.
In May 2011, the EAC announced that a single tourist visa that allows for travel to Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda would be operational in July 1, 2012, but according to Minister Mukaruliza in charge of EAC Affairs, beating the July 1 deadline is impossible.
The move to have the single EAC visa followed an appeal by tourism boards of partner states requesting for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination. Under the proposal, the visa would be issued by any partner state’s embassy abroad.It is expected that the single visa will save potential tourists time and the anguish of having to hop from one embassy to another to apply for different visas to travel across the East African region.
Analysts say that although the EAC leaders have always expressed their enthusiasm to have the joint travel permit in place to facilitate free movement of visitors, very little has been done on the ground. The single EAC visa system, if enacted, is expected to allow visitors to use one visa to enter any of the countries in the EAC.