In January this year, during the UK-Africa Investment summit, President Kagame announced at King’s College in London that Rwanda would waive visa requirements for member countries of the AU, Commonwealth and all countries which use French as a customary language (Francophonie).
The policy was approved during a cabinet meeting which was held on March 6th, 2020, in a statement which read "Waiver of entry visa requirements to the citizens of member States of African Union, the Commonwealth and Francophonie countries to foster the implementation of Rwanda’s openness policy."
Formerly, tourist visa cost $30, an official diplomat visa $30 valid for 30 days while a business visa cost $50 and was valid for a year.
A communique released on November 17th, 2017, by the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration said citizens of all countries of the world could enjoy 30 days visa on arrival."
The visa regime allowed visa reciprocity for specific countries allowing citizens to get free visas with a 90 days validity. Those countries in question are Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Haiti, Senegal, Seychelles and Sao Tome and Principe.
Clare Akamanzi, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Chief Executive Officer explained that the revenues the country received from visa fees are nothing compared to the opportunities that will be opened with the visa-free regime.
“We only receive Rwf 4 billion per year from visa fees but with the visa-free regime, our revenues will be incomparable. If a citizen from the AU, Commonwealth or Francophonie pays say $50 to enter country and zero fees on visa, we anticipate that he will spend at least $300 inside the country and that is only a modest estimation.”
The Visa free regime is also in line with the highly anticipated 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will be held in Rwanda from June 22nd to June 27th, 2020.
In January this year, during the Annual Luncheon for Diplomatic Corps in Rwanda, President Kagame said that the visa free regime would touch many other countries besides member countries of the AU, Commonwealth and la Francophonie.
"We intend to waive visa requirements for all countries in the world as well as a way of reinforcing Rwanda’s openness policy."
News on the visa waiver were received cheerfully with diplomats saying other countries needed to learn from Rwanda.
Margret, a French citizen said "It is a great initiative and it will allow young people who had no means of travelling a chance of visiting Rwanda."
Ahmed from Egypt said "The visa free regime will open so many opportunities between Rwanda and African countries especially in trade and will allow all Africans to travel freely"
In 2018, Rwanda received more than 1.7 million visitors and 1.6 million in 2019.