By MATHIAS RINGA
Tanzanian Natural Resources and Tourism minister Lazaro Nyalandu attributed his country’s delay in agreeing to the visa pact to issues related to lack of identity cards by Tanzanian citizens.
He denied accusations that Tanzania was a stumbling block to the single-entry tourist visa launched last year.
“Tanzania was unable to implement the single tourist visa since our citizens didn’t have IDs, whereas Kenyans have for a long time been having the IDs,” he said.
“We are almost concluding the issuance of IDs to all Tanzanians and we will soon join other East African member states in implementing the single tourist visa initiative,” he added.
On the other hand, Mr Nyalandu said Tanzania had joined forces with Kenya on the war against poaching within the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem to contain the killing of elephants by poachers.
He noted that the joint anti-poaching efforts between the two countries had helped protect the elephant population in the Serengeti national park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya.
“We are happy to report that the number of elephants within the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem has increased from 3,000 in 2006 to 7,000 this year due to anti-poaching efforts,” he said.
He revealed that poaching of elephants in Tanzania had dropped by 75 per cent, adding that plans were under way to eliminate the menace.
Mr Nyalandu said Tanzania will, from Friday to Sunday, host an Eastern Africa summit to discuss strategies to contain ivory trade in the region.
The countries expected at the summit include Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi.
“The aim of the summit is for the member states to sign a memorandum of understanding on the sharing of intelligence and joint patrols to stem elephant poaching across the region,” he explained.
Earlier, Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda had successfully implemented the single tourist visa.
She said since it was launched last year, international holidaymakers have been able to visit the three countries after paying the $120 visa fee.
International tourists apply for the single tourist visa online for all international airports in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
“We are now celebrating (the) one-year anniversary since our three countries agreed to roll out the single tourist visa initiative,” she said.
“We are appealing to our neighbouring Tanzania to join us so that we can achieve the resolution of marketing East Africa as a single destination in effort to boost our tourism sector,” she added.