Sunday, 14 May 2017

AFRICA: Dificulty Traveling In Africa, Visa Acquisition A Nightmare

Africans traveling within the continent are required to fill multiple cross-border documents with visa issuance becoming a nuisance and hindrance to business development, tourism, and investments between the African people.

Aliko Dangote, the Nigerian tycoon and the richest man on this continent, is among key personalities facing traveling hiccups when moving from one country to another in search of investment opportunities.

In his recent discussions with Nigerian media, Dangote has advised African leaders to give incentives to investors and make intra-Africa travel easy.

He told the Nigeria media outlets that despite the size of his group and investments on the continent, he needs 38 visas to travel across Africa.

“You have to know somebody who is big in that country to call somebody. They are giving you visas as if it is a favor,” Dangote said.

“Somebody like me, despite the size of our group, I need 38 visas to move around Africa. Yes, I have heard that they are going to do the (African) passport, but you can see that there is still a little bit of resistance from other African leaders,” he noted.

Dangote uses many public platforms to urge African leaders to make it easier for Africans to travel around their own continent. He said he needed 38 visas to travel across Africa, and it was not always straightforward to get them.

“You go to a country that is looking for investment; that particular country will give you a runaround just to get a visa,” he said.

During their fourth annual Africa Hotel Expansion Summit and Hospitality Round Table in the Tanzanian commercial city of Dar es Salaam last month, hotel and hospitality industry executives noted that Africa needs to establish intra-Africa travel packages to attract tourists within the continent.

“Africa needs to encourage intra-Africa travel programs that would attract more people to travel from one country to another country within the continent,” said Amaechi Ndili, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lionstone Group and Golden Tulip West Africa Hospitality Group in Nigeria.

“We need to stimulate intra-Africa tourism and business travel while governments across the continent take serious steps and policies to create more open skies for Africans,” Ndili noted.

South Africans often complain about the hoops they have to jump through to get visas for other African states, but in fact, their country is part of the problem. According to the African Development Bank, 75 percent of the most visa-friendly countries in Africa are in East Africa.

In Southern Africa, the visa-friendly nations are Mauritius, Madagascar, Zambia, and Mozambique. West Africa fares better with six countries regarded as visa-friendly. Nigeria is not among them.

Facing development set-backs, high unemployment rates, and poor security, Africa remains low in terms of global tourism index.

In the context of tourism competitiveness in Africa, most countries in the continent are still lacking competitive tools to support growth and competition in tourism at global market levels, despite the continent’s rich and untapped natural resources.

The hotel executives further noted that more than 80 percent of Africans don’t know tourist attractive sites available in their own countries compared to Europe, America, and other continents where the citizens outnumber foreign tourists.

Nigeria is the leading country in Africa to generate outbound tourists to other countries within the continent, mostly to other West African states, as well as East and Southern Africa.

Dangote’s comments were made at the right time when tourism and travel executives are set to meet in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali next month to discuss the future of African tourism and the way forward.

Bearing a theme of “Destination Africa: The Future of African Tourism,” the the African Travel Association’s 41st congress will be held in Kigali from November 14 to 18, bringing together delegates from Africa, the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world.

To be taking place in East Africa for three consecutive years, the ATA’s 41st Congress is set to focus the East African region as the single tourist destination in Africa and best for combined African safaris.

Rwanda has been honored to host the ATA 41st Congress this year as the first event organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) and ATA.