In a bid to improve trade and free movement of people across borders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zimbabwe and Zambia are pushing for the adoption of the Uni-visa among member countries.
Efforts to promote the concept include a regional roadshow, but this can only happen if other member countries of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) – Angola, Botswana and Namibia – accept the initiative.
Already in use by Harare and Lusaka since its launch in 2014, both nations are convinced of the success of the KAZA visa pilot phase, thereby urging other member countries to join in the rollout phase.
According to the Environment, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, the Uni-visa concept is borrowed from the European Union free trade area and Zimbabwe and Zambia are ready to roll out the facility but stand guided by the three partners once they are ready.
“Roadshows by Zimbabwe and Zambia were meant to be in May because the pilot is complete. We should put this high on agenda, let’s give it seriousness because it’s a priority in tourism,” Minister Mupfumira said, adding that once the Kaza Uni-visa is successful, it would trigger a SADC visa.
The KAZA Uni-visa costs $50 and it’s valid for 30 days as long as the holder does not leave both countries. Basically, it allows tourists to obtain one visa to visit both countries multiple times within a month. Also, the holder is afforded access to visit Botswana for day-trips through a specified border.
Initially, the plan was to spread the Uni-visa to the other three countries in the conservation area and later across the SADC. Albeit, the facility has remained between the two countries, with other KAZA TFCA member states failing to adopt it ever since.
The proposed visa for the SADC is very similar to the planned single African Union passport that would allow for relatively easy movement across countries in the continent. But like every other effort to integrate the continent, there is little optimism the initiative will materialise owing to the unwillingness of some African countries to fully cooperate. That has been the story of Africa, where regional integration is still a dream.
On the bright side, however, two of KAZA TFCA member countries have promised to adopt the facility. Botswana has tasked its immigration department to assess how beneficial the facility could be ahead of implementation, according to the country’s Minister of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, Onkokame Kitso Mokaila.
Meanwhile, Angolan Tourism Minister expressed confidence in the implementation of the facility since it has been tried and tested in Zambia, Zimbabwe and into Botswana.
The Uni-visa is currently accessible to travellers from 65 countries of the world. It is available at Harare and Victoria Falls International Airports as well as the Victoria Falls border. In Zambia, the facility is available at the Kenneth Kaunda International airport, Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International airports and the Kazungula border which is shared by the two countries.
By Ajifowoke Michael