Slowing African Progress

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I shudder at the thought of just how many thousands or, possibly, even millions of dollars, naira or rands are being squandered every year as a result of African bureaucracy or inefficiency. You may recall me ranting a few months ago about the visa process I had to endure, just to get on a business class flight to Zurich. This time it concerns a group trip to Nigeria and arguably the most unbelievable reason for not being able to acquire a visa to travel to the West African country – no stickers.

Yes, that’s correct. After six weeks of calling, faxing, e-mailing, filling out forms, passing on credit card details and eventually enlisting the help of a visa company, just to get us to the front of the queue, that was the reason we were given for not being able to travel to Nigeria when we wanted to. Hell, I even had the yellow fever injection, which was a fairly painless procedure. Not a Nigerian visa, though. Further to that, it took a whole two weeks before those stickers arrived and we were able to have our visas processed. Yes, some regular travellers may already have long-standing visas or passports that allow them to enter Nigeria easily, but if this is the kind of idiocy that goes at the South African office of one of Africa’s ‘heavyweights’, I just shudder to think how much business is being passed up, thanks to some official not spotting that the sticker pile is getting a little low, before eventually sending for supplies in Botswana.

And that’s just our experience. What about all the times before, when potential deals were scuppered, thanks to a business traveller not being able to travel to Nigeria at short notice. I’m sure the Nigerian embassy will argue that this goes on at other African embassies, and the Nigerians I’ve consulted say that it’s just as difficult to get a visa to travel to South Africa. But, that just strengthens my argument and leaves me wondering just how Africa can be taken seriously as a business destination, if this is the kind of incompetence being practised. Most of the time, those of us who live on the continent will just shrug our shoulders and say, ‘well, that’s just Africa’.

But I’m sorry, that’s just not good enough, even though we all accept that making a success of Africa requires the ability to adapt to its unique conditions. I know I’m pipe-dreaming, but the governments of the continent need to come together, to make travel a more seamless process and allow the business entities within the various countries to assist each other in prospering.

Ironically, despite all that I’ve said, Nigeria is still prospering and is the focus of our Country Feature this month. But, the West African super-power needs to look out, as the likes of Angola, Ethiopia, Chad and Mozambique are starting to catch the eye of even more international investors. Also catching the eye for some time now have been Wings Travel Management, who pride themselves on their own developed technological advances, which make the travel experience that much convenient and painless – something we explore in feature form this month. Now, if they could just solve this pesky visa issue…

Once, of course, you have that visa in hand, the world, or specific country, rather, awaits, and you now have the choice of where to stay. But, gone are the days where the business traveller would head straight for the first big hotel brand that could accommodate him or her. The boutique hotel is now offering a different option, and that’s another issue we explore, along with our regulars.

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