South Africa has granted visa-free status to nationals from four new countries in a bid to boost tourism, amid a falling number of visitors. The disclosure was made by the Department of Home Affairs through its Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi.
Travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit South Africa for holidays, conferencing and business meeting visiting purposes.
The decision comes after official tourism figures were released in May. The overall number of visitors to South Africa from Europe and the Middle East in the first financial quarter of the year had decreased at a time most popular for visits. Tourism has always been a major contributor to job creation and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the country.
On the other hand, the department is also planning to check undocumented migrants and tighten up immigration laws to help protect its borders. However, the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA) has warned that becoming too strict on immigration could have negative consequences on the already struggling economy.
Out of 193 member countries of the United Nations, South Africa has waived visa requirements for 82 countries. All Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries along with 18 other African nations enjoy this visa-free status, except for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Countries enjoying the visa-free status are among nations which account for the majority of international tourists in Africa, Europe and the Americas. However, in cases of business activities and other productive work, visitors are expected to take the necessary work authorization.
Motsoaledi further revealed that Qatar has also waived visa requirements for South Africans, which will make it easier for citizens to travel to watch the 2022 Fifa World Cup scheduled to hold in Qatar.
Meanwhile, the department is in the process of completing negotiations with Ghana, Cuba, and Sao Tome & Principe, after which they would also be granted a no-visa entry into South Africa. Negotiations are expected to conclude by the end of August and implementation would follow thereafter.
By Tobiloba Ishola.