Trade, tourism and travel between Kenya and South Africa is set to get a lot easier, after the two countries struck an agreement securing visa-free entry for Kenyan passport holders visiting South Africa for up to 90 days a year. The new rules will take effect on January 1st, 2023.
As part of the agreement, Kenya and South Africa also sealed a return policy laying out the procedure for when immigration laws are breached. The deal was announced following a meeting of President William Ruto and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa at State House, Nairobi on November 9, 2022.
The hectic visa application process Kenyans faced by Kenyans travelling to South Africa has long been cited as a hindrance to enhanced trade and cultural ties between the two countries, and the deal will be seen as a win for the Kenya Kwanza administration.
“Kenya and South Africa are strategic allies with shared interests to build stronger socio-economic ties,” Ruto stated.
While South African passport holders visiting Kenya do not need a visa, Kenyans visiting South Africa for a temporary stay are required to apply for a South African visa which costs Ksh5,350. The visa application process for Kenyans visiting South Africa also includes requirements on proof of sufficient funds and return flight air tickets.
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Former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2016 initiated a push to have the skewed visa requirements reviewed. This was firmed up when he held talks with Ramaphosa last year, with South Africa pushing Kenya to make commitments on taking back its citizens accessing the country unlawfully.
Other issues that were expected to feature prominently during the meeting between Ruto and Ramaphosa included the planned creation of a pan-African airline by Kenya Airways and South African Airways.