Sunday, May 29, 2022

Botswana is still mulling UNIVISA – Skelemani

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phandu Skelemani, says Botswana is still negotiating with other Southern Africa countries on the use of the UNIVISA following the country’s decision to dig its heels in on endorsing the single visa last year.

Botswana’s unwillingness to endorse the UNIVISA is believed to be against the Protocol on Development of Tourism signed by Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in 1998.
Speaking in parliament, Skelemani said consultations, currently drawn-out, on the UNIVISA, a key vehicle for the SADC agreements in attempts to promote tourism.

He was responding to Palapye MP, Master Goya, who quizzed him on whether the government would consider expediting endorsement of the SADC bloc’s single entry visa system.

The country’s reluctance to approve the UNIVISA, put forward during the Regional Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) board meeting held in Botswana last year, was premised on security concerns.

The single tourist visa was expected to ease the flow of tourists across the SADC bloc’s borders.

In its Economic Case study for the UNIVISA, SADC reported that the process of establishing the system had taken a long time. It has been suggested that this could be because the process is managed by players from outside the tourism sector who may not fully appreciate the positive impact the UNIVISA would have on regional tourism development as well as on the region’s economies.

Professor Joseph Mbaiwa of the Okavango Research Institute had earlier castigated Botswana’s move to drag its feet in endorsing a SADC single visa known system, saying the reluctance was a drawback, considering the revenue that could be brought by tourists.

“I don’t understand why the country is not endorsing the UNIVISA and joining other countries. They are talking about security but it is not clear what kind of the security,” said Mbaiwa.

He explained that the refusal was not a good idea because most of Southern African countries had established Trans-frontier Parks (Peace Parks) to enable long-haul tourists to move in and out the region’s tourism draw cards.

Mbaiwa expressed fear that refusal to endorse the UNIVISA could result in loss of revenue for Botswana, as it would restrict the number of tourists streaming in.

“We are not aware why the security issue is raised here but maybe they are afraid that the number of tourists arrivals in the country could decline by joining other countries in endorsing the UNIVISA,” he added.

Mbaiwa likened the issue of refusal to endorse the UNIVISA to the issue of Britain’s refusal to use the single currency, the Euro.

“They continue using the British Pounds despite huge advantage of using the Euro. We have our own belief related to security but the country stands to lose because tourists will choose to go to other SADC countries.”

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