Since South Africa opened its borders on 1 October, there has been a lot of talk about ‘the list’ of high-risk countries and travelers originating from such countries being denied entry into South Africa in case the visit would be for tourism purposes. The initial list consisted of around 60 countries, of which mostly European. The list has now been brought down to only 22 countries, of which 8 countries unfortunately feature in South Africa’s top 10 of overseas leisure visitors and contribute 65.9% of all foreign visits.
Furthermore, Home Affairs has informed us that business travelers, investors, people on international mission in sports, arts, culture, and science as well as holders of long-term visas are exempted from this list and welcome to travel to South Africa irrespective of whether they reside in a high-risk country or not.
However, foreigners from high-risk countries falling in these categories would have to first obtain a special clearance by emailing their motivation and supporting documentation to a dedicated email address at Home Affairs namely email@example.com.
Over the past few weeks, I have assisted several fellow Dutchmen, from investors and business travellers to a property owner with submission requests for clearance through the above email address. Even though they were sent during 1-5 October, none have received any response back from Home Affairs.
As a result, one person had to cancel his travel plans and meetings in South Africa. The investor decided to look at alternative routes and stayed in Namibia for a period of 10 days. He could then travel from this ‘low risk’ country into South Africa. This strategy proved successful as he was granted entry.
The feedback I received from him after travelling to Namibia, I found quite uplifting. Namibia recognises the importance of conserving its tourism industry during the global pandemic.
Tourists from any country on the globe can travel to Namibia on the condition that they present a negative Covid-19 certificate that is not older than 72 hours upon arrival. On the 5th day of their stay in the country, the government will send a nurse to their hotel where a second Covid-19 test is conducted. This test is fully paid for by the state. The only inconvenience to the tourist is that they must be available, on day 5, at a hotel in the city.
In my opinion, this is progressive and forward–thinking policy looking at preserving the tourism industry. Given the state must bear the cost of a Covid-19 test but the benefits of employment and increased revenue that tourism industry provides, far outweigh the costs. Money spent in Namibia, supports Namibian businesses, conserve local jobs and generate tax revenue for the country.
Should we apply this to South Africa? It could save the country billions in lost tourism revenue, tens of thousands of jobs could be saved, while the increased risk in my opinion appears to be minimal.
Implementing something of this nature would require commitment by all government departments involved and if the response to the special clearance emails is any indication of the level of responsibility, then it will not work. Could Outsourcing something of this nature to the private sector perhaps be the solution???