By: Nicholas Pescod – AfricanBrains
The South African government announced on July 8, that they would begin offering electronic visas in an effort to increase tourism and relations with other African nations such as Nigeria.
allAfrica.com reports that Tourism Minister, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk spoke at the opening of the 2012 Routes Africa Conference in Seychelles. Van Schalkwyk said the creation of E-Visas would allow international visitors and intra-African travellers to move more efficiently.
“The bureaucracy and costs involved in applying for and issuing visas are a major impediment to foreigners wishing to visit our shores, and to our own people who travel on our continent,” Van Schalkwyk said.
E-Visas are becoming an attractive option for countries because it does not require travellers to visit a country’s consulate in person. Currently the only three countries that offer E-Visas are Australia, Sri Lanka and the United States.
Van Schalkwyk said that that continent still has a significant amount of work ahead of itself in order to capitalize on its unique attractions and culture.
According to multiple sources, Van Schalkywk believes that the continent of Africa is expected to experience a massive tourism boom over the coming decades.
“In a mere three years from now, there will be just over 50 African cities with populations exceeding three million,” Van Schalkwyk said.
Van Schalkywk added that old airline connectivity models are a current problem in Africa and need to be improved.
“They inhibit growth and only serve to keep our destinations dependent on air arrivals from economically hard-pressed traditional source markets,” he said. “We need a long-term plan to create an intra-continental air transport architecture that facilitates intra-African travel and trade, including tourism.”
According to Leader.ng Deputy South African President, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe said Nigeria is an important strategic partner for South Africa and that both nations have been short changing themselves.
Van Schalkywk said that the E-Visa would also improve and create new job opportunities.
The importance of South Africa offering E-Visa’s should not be underestimated. When only three other countries currently offer this service, South Africa will now join this small group. Not only will this improve cross border efficiency but it should also significantly improve trade within South Africa and the continent of Africa.