During a discussion with my friend who is a tourist, I asked her why she has less travel experience within Africa while she has pretty much toured other continents and the reasons she gave me are not far fetched.
It is unbearably expensive to secure a visa to visit most African countries. South Africa for example, offers a holiday visa from Nigeria to South Africa at about N50,000 less than the amount it will cost a Nigerian to get a Dubai holiday visa. South Africa especially is notorious for its tight visa policies against Africans. It is safe to say that South Africa prefers foreigners to their fellow Africans in terms of Visa policies. Their doors are largely closed to fellow Africans but welcoming to the world across.
This is evident as only citizens of 15 African nations can travel to South Africa without a visa, yet citizens of 28 different European countries can enter the country freely. About 74% of Africans require a visa to visit South Africa while few Africans do not need Visa at all to visit. And even after all the stress.. chances are, you might not get the Visa. One thing is obtaining a visa and the other is having a memorable trip. It is really discouraging to go through the stress of acquiring a visa to visit a country with little tourist experience.
Visa policies aside, there are other inherent factors that discourage Africans from traveling within the continent. One of these factors is the fact that the demand for Africa by Africans is low. I went around my office asking my colleagues about the countries they would love to move to or visit outside Nigeria and just one person chose an African country. The reasons behind these choices are not far fetched, as it is overly expensive to fly from one country to another.
African countries are blessed with natural tourist sites but sadly very few of them are well maintained. Most tourist attractions in Africa are not well marketed and one who is looking to have a beautiful travel experience will not want to take a risk of traveling to a tourist site with little or no review. Suffice to say, tourists cannot be attracted if hotels are not well equipped and overpriced considering that people generally demand value for their money. Tourists will not be attracted if there are poor road networks within the country, they will not be attracted if there is no experience, they will not be attracted if there is no security, etc.
According to Kenyan blogger, Winnie Rioba, the cost of flight from Kenya to Namibia is the same as flying to Thailand. She also said that the cost of flight from Nairobi to Dubai is way cheaper than flying to Morocco from Nairobi. My tourist friend also complained of paying N240,000 return ticket fee from Nairobi to Nigeria. Traveling around Africa is quite a challenge which discourages Africans. Why will the cost of traveling within Africa be unreasonably high?
There are factors that affect intra-travel in Africa and chase tourists off to other continents. The intra-travel rigidity in Africa discourages African tourism and constitutes a great loss to the continent. It boils down to the fact that we are yet to benefit from the “Africa rising” rhetoric. There is a need to sanction visa on arrival for Africans. African countries can also simplify visa processes and improve online access to information. Africa needs to increase intra-African travel with aims to encourage unity, understanding, boost intra-trade and investment opportunities.
The AFDB report in 2017 stressed the importance of Africa leveraging on the collaboration and expertise of public and private sectors to foster a resilient travel and tourism sector. The report urged that Africans be allowed to move freely and also that Africa be made a more open, prosperous continent. Open borders will foster intra-Africa trade, boost economic growth and trade, and spur investment, bringing massive benefits for the travel and tourism industry.
Story by MarvisClara Kamalu