Kenya recently waived previous visa rules in favour of South Africans, allowing them a longer stay in the country without the requirement of a visa. South Africans can now visit and stay in Kenya without a visa for up to 90 days, up from the previous allowance of 30 days. While this was broadly seen as a sign of the thawing relationship between the two African countries, it may also be a part of the larger African plan to relax visa rules for citizens of the continent.
The Department of Home Affairs recently issued a white paper on International Migration which was adopted by the cabinet in April. While only some of the information is available, many of South Africa’s politicians have been vocal about its contents and their plans. Visa-free travel was the focus of former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, with the goal of scrapping visa requirements for citizens of the continent by 2018.
At the very least it seems unlikely for South Africa, long concerned by violence towards travellers from other African nations, to adopt this measure across the board any time soon. The white paper states that South Africa “advocates for an incremental removal of migration formalities for frequent and trusted travellers including diplomats, officials, academics, business persons, students, etc.” It also observed that, currently, “on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. They can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries. Finally, they do not need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent.”
By all accounts the South African government is more focused on attracting skilled immigrants to repair the damage done by the so called ‘brain drain’ and maintains some of the strictest immigrations laws on the continent – with little sign of relaxing those policies. With the impending implications of Brexit becoming a reality for those with dual citizenship, the new border control division, xenophobic attacks as recently as February, the repatriation of hundreds of illegal African migrants and even the permanent residence status of Ajay Gupta, there is a great deal of focus on South Africa’s immigration system and changes can be anticipated.