By Frank Meke
Protocol niceties and pretences were physically and spiritually thrown out of the window at the ongoing Nanta/TOUGHA tourism conference in Johannesburg by panelists and discussants on the theme, ” it is time for Africa* “.
From one discussant to another, the faculty of Hospitality, University of Johannesburg became a House of Tourism Parliament, where clinical analysis and no holds bared retorts were hauled against the 56 African countries under Africa Union for playing to the gallery on strict border restrictions, throwing tourism under the bus.
Nigeria and South Africa were made scapegoats as the two leading African economies factors strict visa regimes, oxymoron to their tongue in cheek invitation to visitors to their landscapes for tourism.
While South Africa is seen to be taking measured annoying steps on visa on the arrival ecosystem, it’s profiling of visitors, sometimes leading to visa denials, rankled participants. It is bile, bitter and sad, trade professionals angrily opined that such characteristics of South Africa visa intent does not take the Africa Continental Free Trade Regime into consideration, a position which rubbishes sentiments on Africa to Africa Travels .
Though South Africa is working on giving Ghana a visa free designation, the supposedly effort by South Africa Tourism Business Council, is taking ages to manifest, and leaving wesps of discrimination against other African countries in the air.
Nigeria got a pound to pound unrelenting bashing for being the most difficult African nation to access its visa ecosystem for tourism and business.
The mount camel lamentations about visa restrictions puts Nigeria on the wrong side of tourism trade professionals and became an acidic topic, observed as the bane of Nigeria’s poor tourism ranking in Africa.
Nigeria’s electronic visa, gleefully launched with fanfare not too recently, is seen as a caricature as its regime includes the obtaining of a letter of invitation from a Nigerian citizen or company, presentation of tax clearance certificate and a bank statement, certainly a lumbering stone against a tourists wishing to arrive Nigeria on e- visa casement.
Oh dear, the session was so humbling and devoid of usual Africans proverbial nationalistic retorts to poking fun at others while defending regional or state failings.
Indeed, the entire future of Intra African tourism opportunities is clearly in jeopardy, packaged for wholesale failings if border restrictions are not addressed and wholeheartedly eliminated.
A flash of the Ethiopian government refusing entry permits to Nigerian students fleeing war torn Sudan, came to mind and also Egyptian government insistence of strict profiling of innocent Nigerian distraught students before they could be allowed to run to safety through Egypt border, mocks the African to Africa Tourism agenda. The French and American army flew out their citizens easily through African airspace while fellow Africans were made to wait endlessly at the roadblocks to freedom.
The prospects of a single African Air Transport market got knocks too. Air Transport connections in Africa is not only erratic, it comes at huge cost and an inclusive offensive to tourism pricing.
In Nigeria,cancellations and disruption of scheduled flights has reduced the pecking order advantage of air trips, again buffeting the growth of domestic tourism and even regional trade markets.
Let me introduce Diainna Games, or rather refresh the minds of those who listened carefully to her presentations at this mind blowing event. Games is the CEO of South Africa Nigeria chamber of Commerce.
She indeed wondered at the inertia of the huge Nigeria business potentials and population of 200 million people, with diverse cultural tourism landscape and yet get bogged down by insipid policies which limits national and international shared prosperity.
Diainna Games business intelligence network surely adds to the Rethinking of Africa to Africa Tourism agenda, specks removed from the vision and sentiments measured by realities to its advocacy.
Democratic stability, and the future of crisis such as were experienced during covid pandemic, were sponge washed, and the was no denying that the process to a full Africa to Africa Tourism had began, slowly.
If you must ask me about the theme, ‘it’s time for Africa’, I will dance to its drumming and rhythm yet will go home to think hard on how to convince African political leaders, to prospect a chance and a change to harvest its tremendous value chain and opportunities for the people of Africa.
Did we discuss Telecommunications and its impacts, its cost to travel in Africa? And again,the May Day call on South Africa as it may sadly join Nigeria in power cuts trajectory, undeniably an irritating boil under tourism armpit.