‘Univisa can improve trade’
Published On October 28, 2014 » 2519 Views» By Moses Kabaila Jr: Online Editor » Opinion
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CHIKOTI

CHIKOTI

THE call by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries must introduce two uniform visas to simplify travelling in the regional grouping is timely, if not belated.
While having some of the most porous borders, sub-Saharan Africa has chaotic transit requirements which sometimes just put off traders and could be the reason for the fewer numbers of tourist arrivals compared to other regions.
Mr Kaseke is spot-on when he counsels that the univisa is the panacea to ease transit formalities among sub-Saharan countries considering also that some nations within SADC are only accessible by crossing more than one national border.
For example, flying from Zambia to Angola, one needs to go through South Africa in the absence of a direct flight, but with visa requirements, one would have to get an Angolan visa and a transit visa for South Africa.
For Zambia, which is a landlocked country, such initiatives as introducing a univisa must be the topic of discussion when engaging her neighbours if trade to the country and out of it is to be improved.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are expected to launch a univisa pilot project next month at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London next month. The two countries have also introduced one-stop border in Chirundu and another at Victoria Falls is on the cards.
The call by ZTA comes barely a few weeks after Angolan External Relations Minister Georges Chikoti also called for the abolishment of visa requirement between Zambia and Angola to enhance the mutual relations between the two countries.
Apart from being cumbersome, the visa and other bureaucratic transit requirements have caused the long-winding queues of trucks at most borders while business executives also get caught up, forcing them to take longer transiting instead of doing their respective businesses.
Once the countries within the SADC bloc do away with visa requirements or go the way of introducing a univisa, regional trade will definitely improve and member states can start having the multiplier effects of the comparative advantage of one another.
We are also of the view that SADC countries must work together in packaging their tourism potential in such a way that tourists who visit the Victoria Falls in Zambia from Europe will want to go all the way to view some sites in South Africa and other countries in the region.
If SADC comes up with tourism products bottled in one package, even the need for intra-trade will be enhanced as countries will see the need, for example, to introduce flights that stop over in Livingstone just to get a share of the Victoria Falls, which is the region’s flagship site.
In all these overtures, Zambia stands to gain more by being home to the Victoria Falls and other tourism sites dotted around the country. Such partnerships will only work if Zambia nurtures her tourism sites so that they are appealing to the visitors.
Mr Kaseke also brought another point that tourism facilities must be developed at the same pace in all countries and marketed as a bloc.
Rwanda and Kenya have always packaged their tourism products as one which makes both countries benefit from each other’s endowments.
We are hopeful that such discussions will begin to take place at a higher level, including among policy makers so that nations within SADC and Africa as a whole can truly show the world that there is more to the sub-Saharan region than just the picture of a dark continent that some people still want to paint of it.

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