Cape Town – The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has agreed to speed up the process of establishing a single visa (a Univisa) for tourists visiting southern Africa.
The decision was taken at a ministerial conference held in Luanda last week, and was announced by Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the deputy tourism minister on Tuesday.
The conference also encouraged removal of obstacles to the movement of SADC citizens within the region through bilateral agreements, which included waiver of visas.
The nine member states, which had signed the protocol on the free movement of citizens were Botswana, the DRC, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
‘We are expecting positive outcome’
Mabudafhasi, who represented South Africa at the Luanda conference, said: “Statistics of foreign arrivals gathered in the past few years provide clear evidence that the SADC region is amongst the top preferred destinations by tourists in the world.”
Noting this encouraging development, the Inter-Ministerial Committee representing SADC member states was exploring further avenues such as the Univisa to optimise tourism income.
Mabudafhasi said: “Although the expected benefits of these plans are focused on medium to long term, we are expecting positive outcome during the 2010 soccer World Cup.”
The Univisa was expected to operate similarly to the European Schengen visa system, which is by far considered the best model. Member states still had to resolve outstanding issues such as costs, policy agreements, procedures and requirements for issuing of the Univisa.