By DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls

ZIMBABWE’S decision to exempt countries in
the region from visa requirements as a major step towards the promotion of travel and trade among African states.

Players in the tourism industry have welcomed this move that aligns with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a strategic framework
for delivering on the continent’s goal for inclusive and sustainable development.

Countries from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc, of which Zimbabwe is one of 16 members, are exempt from visas to the country.

Zimbabwean becomes the first nation in the bloc to waiver visa requirements and procedures.

Anald Musonza, the chairperson of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Matabeleland North region, hailed the move by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“With the emerging international travel restrictions, regional travel should be encouraged. This move by the Government should see more SADC tourism growth as more regional tourists can freely and easily access
the entire region,” he said.

Musonza said in the absence of international travel due to COVID-19 induced restrictions, the focus should be shifted to domestic and regional tourism.

The official noted the European Union (EU) grew by opening borders among member states.

African Union (AU) member states have ratified AfCFTA towards relaxing visa rules to boost trade and tourism.

Another example in that regard is the Kaza UniVisa which is available to 65 nations and allows visitors to Zimbabwe and Zambia unlimited access to the two neighbouring countries over a period of 30 days.

“This (visa waiver) helps develop the pilot Kaza-UniVisa project into a regional visa regime that ensures uniformity in immigration processes, thereby making the region a very appealing destination for international
tourists,” Musonza said.

“Just like the EU-Schengen visa, this will make multiple country visits seamless and also encourage tourists to come and spend more in a number of the SADC states,” Musonza explained.

Frederick Shava, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, at the announcement of the visa waiver, said other SADC Member States were undertaking internal processes to ensure that
citizens in the bloc could travel freely in the region.– CAJ News