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UNIVISA system to boost tourism inflows

Mon, 1 December 2014 16:45
by Kudzai Chimhangwa
Business

The first phase of the SADC single visa
system, launched at Victoria Falls
border post last week Friday, will not
only benefit citizens but also boost
tourism and business travel prospects in the
region.
SADC wants to implement a Univisa to
allow easier movement and accessibility of
resort areas by tourists in the region and citizens
of the region, as well as to promote intraregional
trade.
The Univisa is the culmination of a lengthy
period of planning and organising ever since
being mooted by SADC head of states in 1998.
Environment and Tourism minister, Uahekua
Herunga, commended progress made to date
with regard to the inception of the Univisa in
SADC, in a bid to improve free movement of
people in the region.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are set to officially
launch the first phase of the new visa system
this month, which will allow tourists from more
than 35 countries across the world to obtain
a 30-day visa that will give them access to
Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The second phase will witness the extension
of the Univisa into three other Kavango
Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area
(KAZA TFCA) countries (Angola, Botswana
and Namibia).
Herunga said this project will be of immense
benefit not only to citizens of the SADC region
but in terms of boosting tourism arrivals into
Southern Africa.
“Most tourists find it difficult to cross
borders due the differences in visa requirements
across SADC member countries, but as SADC
we are opening up more road travel routes for
ease of accessibility by tourists,” he said.
He said SADC countries including Namibia
are trying to make visiting easier and this will
entail training staff manning the various entry
and exit points to be friendly and extra efficient
in handling visa applications.
Herunga said there will also be
harmonisation of systems pertaining to visa
issuance.
“This is all with the objective of easing
the red tape, which makes it difficult to the
extent that tourists give up. We want a situation
where a tourist in Europe, for example, can
apply for his or her visa online, get it processed
with records of details and easier travel to the
region,” he said.
The KAZA TFCA, is the world’s largest
conservation area, spanning five southern
African countries; Angola, Botswana, Namibia,
Zambia and Zimbabwe, situated within the
Kavango-Zambezi eco-regions.
The World Bank has already availed US$700
000 (N$ 7.7 million) towards harmonization
of visa requirements for KAZA countries, high
level consultation events, modernization and
IT support to immigration departments for visa
facilitation.
As part of this new system, visa application
forms as well as arrival and departure cards are
to be instituted, enabling better trade in services,
data availability and homogeneity.
This activity will also support the creation of
a revenue sharing system for the proceeds from
the UNIVISA.
The Bank is also providing support for the
progressive implementation of visa facilitation
activities for the TFCA and Regional Tourism
Organisation of Southern Africa (Retosa)
leading to the ultimate goal of implementing a
Sadc Univisa initiative
The approach towards removing barriers
for visa simplification and streamlining of
immigration processes included interventions in
harmonisation of visa requirements for Zambia,
Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.
The third stage of the project will
involve setting up a pilot project that covers
Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland as
pilot SADC countries before the final stage that
will implement a Univisa for all member states.
The envisaged benefits of a Univisa,
modelled more or less along the lines of
Europe’s Schengen visa system include
increased competitiveness of the SADC region,
an increase in the efficiency of immigration
procedures for tourism, added convenience for
tourists and visitors while cross border travel
will become easier and less time consuming.
The World Bank notes that this system
encourages multi-country visits and longer stays
leading to increased economic performance
with the emergence of more value-added jobs,
This will lead to more exports of the tourism
sector resulting in increased welfare through
higher wages and increased employment.
The current entry requirements of all 14
SADC member states are often complex, upto-
date information on entry requirements is
often difficult to find while requirements for a
specific nationality vary often from one country
to another.
Many SADC countries do not maintain
diplomatic representations in smaller countries
abroad, which pose an additional difficulty for
obtaining a visa.
“This Univisa system will address such
disparities which are usually strenuous to
travellers,” said Herunga.
The project entails reviewing the existing
visa situation among the partner countries,
identifying immigration and customs
regulations of the countries that would
require harmonisation in order to facilitate
implementation of the KAZA Univisa.