1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Kenya and South Africa sign visa-free travel deal

Felix Maringa
November 10, 2022

Kenyans will be able to enter South Africa without a visa as of next year. This is just one of many agreements reached between the leaders of both nations. Trade deals and border security agreements were also signed.

Cyril Ramaphosa and William Ruto in Nairobi
The countries' presidents hope to strengthen African ties across the continentImage: Simon Maina/AFP

Kenyan president William Ruto and his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, held talks in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to explore areas of mutual interest and cooperation. The meeting came less than two months after Ruto was sworn in as president.

Ramaphosa promised to deepen the relationship between South Africa and Kenya. "We recognize that a wonderful foundation... exists between our two countries, (which) gives rise to enormous opportunities that our two countries should capitalize on," the South African President said.

President Ruto meanwhile stressed that the closed-door meetings at State House Nairobi resulted in various benefits for Kenya:

"They are three memoranda of understanding and one agreement on cooperation in the field of correctional services, cooperation in the field of housing and human settlement" and more, Ruto told reporters.

Cyril Ramaphosa and William Ruto in Nairobi
South Africa and Kenya are among Africa's strongest economiesImage: Simon Maina/AFP

Visa-free travel for Kenyans

While many of the minutiae of the agreements may not directly affect most citizens of either nation, one major change was especially welcomed by Kenyan leaders and citizens alike: As of the beginning of next year, Kenyan nationals will no longer have to apply for a visa to travel to South Africa on holiday:

"Kenyans holding ordinary passports will be allowed to enter South Africa on a visa-free regime for up to 90 days per calendar year," the Kenyan leader announced.

However, for those intending to abuse the arrangement, the two presidents also stressed that progress had been made on another set of measures.

The two countries have also "agreed on a return policy when immigration laws and regulations are breached to make sure that bad elements that try to infiltrate our borders are dealt with firmly and decisively," Ruto stressed during a press conference.

Ramaphosa meanwhile expressed optimism, saying that the new arrangement would bring economic benefits to and bolster relationships between people of both nations.

Boost for trade

President Ramaphosa further emphasized that both South Africa and Kenya were "leading economies in our regions."

"Kenya is the leading Economy in East Africa, and so is South Africa in Southern Africa. We have demonstrated a firm commitment to sustainably increase volumes of trade and foster greater investments in each other's economy," Ramaphosa said.

Ruto echoed similar sentiments, stressing that certain barriers of trade between the two countries had to be removed in order to upscale trade volumes between Kenya and South Africa: "President Ramaphosa and I have also agreed to develop a sustainable mechanism to identify, monitor and resolve non-tariff barriers that limit the trade potential between our two countries."

In 2021, Kenya's exports to South Africa were roughly worth $33 million, marking a solid 10% rise compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, imports from South Africa to Kenya totaled more than ten times the export rate in 2021, with $360 million worth of goods being shipped to Kenya, and roughly the same amount the previous year.

Lights, camera, action

The agreements also gave a boost to filmmakers in both countries, with one particular memorandum of understanding allowing for members of the creative film and TV industries to work together.

"Part of the agreement that we have signed today … is specifically to facilitate the art and creative industry to work together and to leverage on knowledge, to leverage on infrastructure, to leverage on all the facets of the creative industry,” President Ruto said.

With South Africa's film industry in particular attracting both domestic and foreign productions, major opportunities for creative minds in both countries could follow with the new deal.

Instability across Africa

Ramaphosa also stressed that the two countries still have major domestic problems to solve, including poverty, climate extremes and economic challenges. The South African President said that in order to solve these issues, African nations should do their best to assist each other.

"We have also agreed that we need to remain focused on the issues affecting our region and our continent, and not be distracted by other global matters that are not of our making. We advocate for African solutions for African problems," Ramaphosa told reporters.

President Ruto agreed with that assessment, highlighting that the current state of instability in various regions of Africa also needed to be tackled head-on. "We are concerned over the continuing threats to international peace and security, particularly in conflicts in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and the Sahel," the President said.

"These conflicts cause suffering, disorder, and lead to unsafe migration and weakening of states."

Edited by: Sertan Sanderson