Kenya’s decision to waive stringent visa requirement for Africans visiting the country is progressive and strategic.
However, it is fraught with challenges, hence ought to be critically examined before roll-out.
In this scheme of things, nationals of other African countries visiting Kenya would no longer require to obtain visas upfront — they will instantly get them at the point of entry. For East Africans, the deal is even sweeter; they no longer require visas at all to enter Kenyan borders.
Free movement of people and goods is a business and political strategy well settled in Europe and North America.
The European Union, for example, allows members free movement and access to services across the continent.
In Africa, the establishment of regional blocs such as the East African Community, Economic Community of West African States and Southern African Development Community was motivated by the same principle and ethos.
The East African Community signed the Common Market Protocol which came into effect in 2010 and the essence was to allow the free movement of people, goods and services across the five member states.
Nevertheless, this has not come to pass due to suspicion and sheer lack of political goodwill. Strict restrictions persist for East Africans moving across the borders, undermining the goal of regional integration.
Across the continent, free movement is a pipe dream made worse by geo-political, logistical and linguistic inhibitions.
As we publish elsewhere in this edition, Kenya has set itself to an enormous challenge.
The reason for strict entry rules is to guarantee security and protect citizens from dangerous immigrants, insulate local markets against underhand traders across and secure national stability.
The converse is true.
Rolling out the directive has implications on the economy and security.
It requires large numbers of personnel at the entry points to vet the visitors, effective security system to weed out criminals and dubious immigrants and strong social safety networks and infrastructure. Kenya is not ready for that.
The directive must be thoroughly interrogated to avoid tragic slip-ups. Ideally, the directive should be implemented within existing protocols and the principle of reciprocity.