Travel agents in Kenya are said to be perplexed about an emerging regulation for visa applications by Kenyans wishing to travel to South Africa.
The Nairobi based VFS Global – Information Desk South Africa Visa Application Centre in fact confirmed a few days ago that the required hotel bookings applicants must show to qualify for a visa, cannot be done through a travel agent or one of the common hotel booking platforms like jovago.com or bookings.com but must be done directly with the hotel.
The news, when broken, has gone viral in a matter of days, prompting a series of comments from both applicants as well as from known travel agents entirely unfit to be repeated hear, which speaks to the strength of sentiment Kenyans have developed against South Africa’s visa policy. “I know you have another opinion, but it is time to retaliate against such rubbish. If we want to travel to Namibia or another nearby country and have to travel through Johannesburg, we must apply for a transit visa. That is costly and time consuming. Applying for [a] business or tourist visa also cost[s] a lot of money for processing, so when they say the vsa is free, it is a big fat lie, because when you pay so much for processing, it is a scam. Please expose them on your blog,” said a regular Nairobi-based source clearly unhappy that travel between African states continue to face bigger and bigger hurdles and in some cases now is as difficult as traveling to Europe, the UK, or the United States.
“Some people who need to travel to South Africa, for instance to attend the graduation of their kids they sent to study there, are not computer literate. They rely on us agents to make bookings for them, for their tickets, for hotels, and even for transport arrangements. It is what we travel agents do. It is hard to understand why South Africa should insist for hotel bookings to be made directly by the client. Have they ganged up with hotels to deny us travel agents some little commission? It mind boggles and defies logic!” wrote a travel agent in Nairobi, insisting on anonymity and no wonder for that, considering that being “sanctioned” by the South African bureaucrazy – pun fully intended – vis-a-vis future business relations.
The African Union, COMESA, SADC, and other trade blocs in Africa have repeatedly called on member countries to make travel within Africa easier and remove such non-tariff barriers, but it is obvious now that some countries are stubbornly refusing to comply and instead are make obtaining a visa more difficult, while Africa’s people continue to suffer as they wait for visa-free travel across the continent to become a reality.