By Adedapo Adesanya
South Africa on Thursday, August 15, 2019, announced visa waivers for four countries in a bid to boost tourism amid an economic crisis and falling visitor numbers.
This time around, South Africa snubbed Nigeria, which solidly stood by and even got punished for its support for the former apartheid country.
In the new announcement, visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit South Africa for holiday, conferencing and business purposes, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said.
The decision came following the release of official tourism figures in May which reflected a dip in the overall number of visitors to South Africa from Europe and the Middle East in the first financial quarter of the year, normally one of the most popular times to visit.
The data revealed that foreign traveller arrivals decreased by more than 10 percent between April and May 2019 alone.
Mr Motsoaledi said the South African government was engaging with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand about a similar relaxation of entry requirements for SA citizens.
He argued that the move by his department would boost tourism “and by extension growing the economy and creating jobs”.
South Africa’s economy has hit turbulence, with the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2019 and unemployment at a record high of 29 percent.
The government has since estimated that there is potential to create 2.1 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2028.
South Africa is in talks to extend the visa waiver to Ghana, Cuba and Principe and Sao Tome.
The country has already waived the visa requirement for 82 of the 193 countries who are UN members.
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