For quite some time now, obtaining a South African visa has become increasingly difficult for Nigerians and the processes involved could be metaphorically likened to a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
Worried by the incessant complaints by many Nigerians who have their passports kept with the South Africa High Commission in Nigeria for months for the simple reason that applicants’ applications are still undergoing review, the Commission has promised to resolve the lingering problem.
Consulate General of the Republic of South Africa, Lagos, Dr. Bobby Moroe at the South Africa/Aviators Africa Aviation Stakeholders’
Engagement held in Lagos on Saturday said the government had relaxed its visa policy to Nigerian businessmen and frequent travelers to South Africa by granting them ten years of visa validity; a situation he said eliminates frequent visits for visa renewal.
He lauded the Chief Executive Officer of Aviators Africa, Mr. Toni Ukachukwu for the platform which is the vehicle for fostering businesses in the continent.
He further stated that it is not good to issue six months visa for intending travelers who he said to visit his country for business. The purpose of the meeting was to update stakeholders on the efforts made by the South African government to improve immigration services to better explore opportunities between Nigeria and South Africa with a particular focus on the aviation sector.
Moroe disclosed that both South Africa had signed over 32 agreements cutting across various sectors but lamented the lack of implementation of the agreements which he said was not good enough.
His words, ”We have always placed aviation in a box. Many people see aviation as just traveling from one point to another. We have never thought of leveraging the great opportunities that the aviation sector can help in national development. The aviation sector has been neglected for many years”.
“I used to think that people who travel by air or who have business in aviation are from wealthy homes”.
The diplomat further disclosed that aviation contributes 4.5 percent to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), adding that it is a very huge sector that had been undermined over the years.
To him, aviation provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, which makes it essential for global business.
According to recent estimates by the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), the total economic impact (direct, indirect, induced, and tourism-connected) of the global aviation industry reached $2.7 trillion, some 3.5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018.
He said, “We need to be intentional about what we want to do with aviation. There are over 500 Nigerian professionals that are doing extremely well for themselves in South Africa in the tech space”.
Head, of Trade and Investment, South African High Commission, Greg Munyai put the trade volume between his country and Nigeria at $3 billion, stressing that South Africa ranks sixth amongst the top trade partners of Nigeria.
Beyond crude oil, South Africa imports an additional $ 9 million from Nigeria which includes fertilisers, rubber products, coffee & tea as well as aluminum products. South Africa’s fast-growing (high-value) exports to Nigeria include edible fruits Ships & boats, as well as plastic products.
Nigeria accounts for 64 percent of South Africa’s trade in West Africa and is one of South Africa’s top three sources of crude oil.
Greg said, “We buy crude oil from Nigeria. We are working to increase trade between the two countries. We have a trade deficit with Nigeria. The biggest contributor to our GDP is the services sector. Services rank high in both South Africa and Nigeria. The aviation sector is of priority to the two nations”.
He recalled that South Africa submitted an application to the Nigerian authorities to grant another airline from South Africa flight right to Nigeria, adding that they were still waiting for the approval to be granted.
Vice-Consul, Political of the Consulate General of the Republic of South Africa in Lagos, Busisiwe Dlamini stated that her country was looking at visa processing that would make visa application less cumbersome for applicants seeking to travel to South Africa.
“As our colleague said, there is a trade deficit between South Africa and Nigeria. This forum is not just to address visa issues but to address other issues. We thought that if we take an umbrella approach, it won’t work. We want to diversify on trade and investment with Nigeria.”
Speaking on the forthcoming 29th-year celebration of relations between both nations, Dlamini said, “We will be having South African week starting from April 26th to April 28th. This is to commemorate our freedom day and our democratic relations with Nigeria. It is not just to mark our 29 freedom day but to mark our relationship with Nigeria”.
Nigeria and South Africa are big hegemons in Africa. There is more that brings the two countries together than separates them.
Nigeria’s anti-apartheid policy only lasted as long as the apartheid regime in South Africa. Upon the abandonment of the racist regime in
South Africa, Nigeria was more than willing to pursue warm relations with the South African government.
Nigeria, like other countries, then began a policy of political and economic engagements with South Africa from 1994 onwards.