Financial constraints impede UNIVISA
Harare – Lack of funding has stalled implementation of the SADC UNIVISA pilot programme, Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha said last week.
SADC has identified the introduction of a common visa to be used for all 15 countries in the regional bloc as a way to boost tourism, but the programme has suffered because of the financial challenges currently facing its member states.
“SADC resolved to conduct a pilot programme, which Zimbabwe is part of. We identified two embassies which were going to be part of the pilot programme but progress has been slowed because of funding,” Ambassador Bimha said.
He could, however, not add further details on how things would proceed. However, under consideration is the need to implement security systems to fight against cross border crime, illegal migration and terrorism.
At the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s General Assembly co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe earlier this year, the issue of travelling restrictions was identified as one the factors impinging the growth of tourism in SADC and Africa at large.
The global tourism industry generates approximately US$1.3 trillion annually. But Africa contributes a mere four percent of this revenue.
At the opening of the UNWTO, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe called on Africa to work urgently towards creation of a uni-visa.
“The current situation where Africa only has a four percent share of global tourism revenue in spite of its massive natural and cultural tourism resources is a matter of great concern to us,” he said.
“There is no way Africa can increase its portion of the global tourism cake without first promoting intra-African travel. Indeed, connectivity of African cities, regions and attractions augurs well for growing Africa’s share as it serves ultimately to integrate the African tourism product and its marketing and promotion, which in turn makes it more attractive to the long haul traveler than is the case now.
“It is very critical for Africa to evolve strategies that effectively lure tourists to the continent. The type of seamless border between Livingstone town and Victoria Falls town that has been put in place for purposes of this conference should become the rule rather than the exception for all adjacent touristic border communities throughout SADC and ultimately throughout Africa. “Africa can only benefit from increasingly behaving like a single common market.”