The Government of South Africa has commenced the issuance of E-visas as a way to boost the economy ties of the country with some African countries especially Nigeria, its major partner under the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission.
According to Tourism Minister, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk at the begining of the week, the introduction of e-visas will serve not only to grow tourism volumes but will also create new job opportunities.
"There are opportunities to accelerate the creation of regional visa schemes. This would allow our international visitors and intra-African travellers to move more freely and efficiently, to the benefit of our continent," said the minister, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Routes Africa Conference in the Seychelles.
He said the continent has a long way to go to capitalise on its unique attractions and cultural diversity but that visa barriers still needed to be overcome. "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," he said.
Another barrier he said was old air connectivity models. "They inhibit growth and only serve to keep our destinations dependent on air arrivals from economically hard-pressed traditional source markets. We need a long-term plan to create an intra-continental air transport architecture that facilitates intra-African travel and trade, including tourism." He said new-model lower cost airlines that could cater for market segments that are currently underserved are needed on the continent. The minister said he believed that the African continent was on the verge of an unprecedented tourism boom over the next two decades. "In a mere three years from now, there will be just over 50 African cities with populations exceeding three million," he said.
Just recently, the Deputy President of the country, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, described Nigeria as South Africa's strategic partner on the African continent, stressing that both countries decided to take their relationship to a higher level because of the interest of their people.
The Deputy President who was then addressing a Nigerian delegation at a Bi-National meeting in Johannesburg, said that he was of the view that both of both nations have until now been short-changing themselves to the extent that the current state of their relations is not a true reflection of the historical relationship.
He added that the failure to live up to the true potential of the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa has been robbing both countries of the maximum benefits they could have reaped from their optimal relations.