SA reviews visa regulations to boost tourism

Friday, September 21, 2018

The review of South Africa’s visa regulations is one of the integral measures to be taken in an attempt to resuscitate the country’s stressed economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday. 

The decision is among a range of measures that Cabinet has agreed to implement to decisively and rapidly accelerate the implementation of key economic reforms that will unlock greater investment in important growth sectors, the President said.

President Ramaphosa unveiled the reforms at a media briefing detailing the Cabinet-approved Stimulus Package. The stimulus and recovery plan is set to, amongst others, ignite growth in the South African economy and boost much needed job creation and restore investor confidence. 

“Within the next few months, amendments will be made to regulations on the travel of minors, the list of countries requiring visas to enter South Africa will be reviewed, an e-visas pilot will be implemented and the visa requirements for highly skilled foreigners will be revised,” the President said. 

He said the measures have the potential to boost tourism and make business travel a lot more conducive. 

“Tourism continues to be a great job creator and through these measures, we are confident that many more tourists will visit South Africa.” 

President Ramaphosa said he had personally received complaints about the country’s stringent visa regulations from Chinese President Xi Jinping during his State visit to South Africa in July. 

“President Xi Jingping came here and he said many people from China want to travel the world and Africa is one of the places that they want to come to - but they were constrained in coming to South Africa because our visa regimen has been a bit prohibiting.

“We have lost a lot of money but I’m unable to quantify it. We can regain that if we change our visa architecture.”

 Mining Charter 

Turning his attention to the troubled mining sector, the President said it was imperative that the country restores investment and exploration levels in the mining sector, as mining and mineral beneficiation activities have significant potential to drive long-term growth, exports and job growth.

“Following extensive consultation that involved industry players, communities, labour and government, Cabinet approved the revised Mining Charter. 

“This will revitalise the mining industry and provide certainty to investors while charting a sustainable path towards a transformed and inclusive industry,” he said. 

Health and education 

In an effort to deal with challenges in education and health, government will re-direct resources. 

“Arising from the priorities identified at the meeting of the President’s Coordinating Council earlier this week, additional funds will be directed to addressing the dire state of sanitation facilities in many public schools, ensuring the completion of 1 100 sanitation projects in the current financial year,” President Ramaphosa said. 

In response to challenges in public health facilities, government is channelling funding for the purchasing of equipment and material such as beds and linen.

A further 2 200 critical medical posts, including nurses and interns, will urgently be filled.  The State has reprioritised expenditure and new project level funding of around R50 billion. 

Agriculture interventions 

With agriculture capable of creating jobs, President Ramaphosa said the stimulus package has reprioritised funding towards investments in the sector, with a large focus on townships and rural areas.   

Interventions will include packages of support measures for black commercial farmers to increase their entry into food value chains through access to infrastructure like abattoirs and feedlots. 

“Blended finance will be mobilised from the Land Bank, Industrial Development Corporation and commercial banks. The Land Bank is currently concluding transactions that will create employment opportunities in the agricultural sector over the next three to five years,” he said.

A significant portion of the funding, the President said, would go towards export-oriented crops that are highly labour intensive.

“Government will finalise the signing of 30-year leases to enable farmers to mobilise funding for agricultural development. As part of the work to develop agriculture and ensure effective land reform, I have appointed an advisory panel on land reform that will guide the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza.” 

A 10-person panel has been appointed to advise government on the implementation of a fair and equitable land reform process that redresses the injustices of the past, increases agricultural output, promotes economic growth and protects food security. 

Municipal infrastructure spend 

Fifty-seven municipalities have been identified to benefit from the unlocking of infrastructure spending in the short-term. 

This spending will cover, among other things, sewerage purification and reticulation, refuse sites, electricity reticulation and water reservoirs. 

Data costs

In response to the mass demand for affordable communications, the President said government would within the next few weeks initiate a process for the allocation of high-demand radio spectrum to enable licensing.

“This will unlock significant value in the telecommunications sector, increase competition, promote investment and reduce data costs,” he said. 

Lower data costs, President Ramaphosa said, would also provide relief for poor households and increase the overall competitiveness of the South African economy. -