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Single SADC visa will stimulate southern African economies

Essentially this visa would facilitate ease of access and travel for passport holders visiting participating countries and could contribute to as much as a 5% increase in tourism figures for the region.

Single SADC Visa Will Stimulate Southern African Economies

"It would also allow business travel to occur more easily, boosting intra-regional trade," the institute says in a research report, which notes that Africa has the lowest level of intra-regional trade, at 12% of total trade, compared with 40% in North America and 70% in Europe, highlighting the limitations a cumbersome visa application process imposes on a the country’s economy.

This report carry’s on to say that, "The tourism industry is a very important growth sector in southern Africa, especially as it can create numerous direct and indirect jobs."

But also warns that South African safety and security concerns, which last year introduced new visa regulations requiring biometric data from applicants and full birth certificates for children, could still hamper the single visa process.

The government is also concerned about the influx of illegal immigrants and cross-border crime.

The SADC agreement regarding the development of tourism in all 15 participating countries was signed in 1998 and implemented in 2002, but little progress has been made despite calls for the univisa’s introduction and the efforts of a SADC working group for the project.

"Thus far, bureaucratic cooperation in SADC has been weak in the absence of political will to drive such co-operation," the report says.

But home affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said the project was certainly still on the table and would continue adding that the univisa would apply to incoming international tourists.

One of the main issues to be sorted out, though, was how to share the revenue derived from visas, which is an important source of income for some countries. There was a fear that most tourists would choose Johannesburg as their point of entry.

The SAIIA report refers to a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) study which found that southern Africa is lagging in terms of easing its visa regulations and scores only 29 out of 100 on the "openness to tourism" scale.

"None of the southern African states has implemented the e-visa and only a few southern African states offer visas upon arrival," the SAIIA says.

"This is in contrast to East Africa, which scores 49/100, offers visas upon arrival to most tourists, and launched a univisa for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda last year. Mozambique has also made great strides in opening up its visa process."

The SAIIA’s univisa was one aspect of a three-year research project that identified the top 10 barriers to doing business in southern African that would have to be removed if the region’s economy is to reach an overall growth rate of 5%, and for business to reap the benefits of regional integration.

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