By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency
Close to half of all countries in Africa have activated online processing of visas, with some countries opening access to more than 180 nationalities to lure more tourists from within and outside Africa. South Africa, the latest to offer digital travel documents, is also keen on attracting skilled migrants after tightening its immigration rules.
More African countries are turning to electronic visas (e-visas) to ease travel for business and pleasure as the continent works to shore up arrival numbers battered by the twin impacts of Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
South Africa has become the 25th African country to modernise its visa application process, allowing visitors from 14 countries on the continent and overseas to apply for their visas online.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the country’s state of the nation address earlier in February, affirmed the introduction of e-visas as part of the country’s commitment to attracting and easing travel for skilled immigrants.
“The world over, the ability to attract skilled immigrants is the hallmark of a modern, thriving economy. We are therefore streamlining and modernising the visa application process to make it easier to travel to South Africa for tourism, business and work,” said Ramaphosa during the state of the nation address.
Outside of Africa, South Africa has listed China and India among countries that can apply for travel visas over the internet – signalling an intent to attract more international arrivals.
In March, Egypt expanded its scope of electronic visa access to 180 countries – more than doubling the number of countries that can process visas online, from 74 nationalities in July 2021.
The North African country is keen to boost international arrivals from the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Schengen, and Japan in an effort to save its tourism market from the impact of the war in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine had been key sources of tourists for Egypt.
Egypt’s search for foreign tourists ticked a notch higher last month when it rolled out a social media campaign dubbed ‘Follow the Sun’, to market itself as a tourism destination for the coming summer season.
Russia and Ukraine account for approximately 40% of beach holidaymakers travelling to Egypt, according to government statistics.
According to the African Development Bank’s Africa visa openness report 2021, 24 African countries offered an e-visa to other Africans by December 2020. Compared to 2016, when only nine African countries offered electronic visas, the percentage of countries that turned to e-visas had grown from 17% to 44% in 2021.
The significant growth, the report, said made it easier for people to practice social distancing at the height of the pandemic.
“E-visas also streamline the visa application process, open doors for travelers unable to visit a visa bureau in person, and save time for people who prefer to apply from home,” according to the report.
Over 80% of countries offering an e-visa are in East, West, and Southern Africa with the report pointing to improved visa openness scores for a large number of the top-performing countries over the last five years.
Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal were the top five countries with the largest improvement in visa openness scores. Egypt – the standout country in North Africa – and South Africa were also listed among the top 20 most improved countries.
/bird story agency