Africans travelling to South Africa visa-free is now a possibility

According to Home Affairs, the average African needs a visa to travel to 55 percent of African countries. Only 25 percent of the rest allow for a visa upon arrival and 20 percent of countries allow Africans to travel visa free.

Six weeks ago, cabinet adopted a White Paper on International Migration that was outlined by the Department of Home Affairs. This document aims to scrap visas for other Africans travelling to South Africa.

News24 reported that the document, which has not been made public, states that “trusted travellers” like diplomats, officials, academics, business people and students will be the first to benefit from this change but there are still a number of issues that need to be taken into consideration.

Based on the principles embodied by the African Renaissance, former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma advocated for the scrapping of visa requirements for all African citizens travelling on the continent by 2018. According to the White Paper, South Africa “fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent”.

With this said the document also outlines that this transition would have to be handled with caution and take into consideration the risks involved.

Here are summarised key points in the proposed policy:

  • South Africa’s risk-based approach advocates gradually removing migration formalities for frequent and trusted travelers including diplomats, officials, academics, business persons, students, etc
  • African citizens can enter South Africa visa-free where there are reciprocal agreements.
  • Visas will only be needed when there are risks of foreign nationals overstaying, security risks like organised crime, terrorism and political instability, civil registration risks etc
  • Countries with a high number of nationals who abuse the asylum system will also require visas. Zimbabwe has been identified as one of those countries.
  • Key elements of the visa-free regime would be visa-free entry for visits of up to 90 days and anything else would have to be agreed upon with immigration and border management.
  • A list of countries whose visa systems are recognised in South Africa will be compiled. Technology will also be developed to establish trusted traveler schemes.

The additional motive behind this move isto  alleviate the brain drain in South Africa and attract skilled migrants to work in the country. Lower skilled migrants may also get an opportunity through a “quota based” system.

Home Affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize is expected to announce details on the new immigration policy at her budget speech on Wednesday, 16 May.

The policy is set to go into legislation next year.

Watch the parliamentary debate live below:

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