A few weeks ago, the Kenyan government announced that South Africans who travel to Kenya or transit through Nairobi would have to apply for and obtain travel visas from the facility in Pretoria, South Africa, and they would no longer be issued these on arrival in Kenya.
A few days later, this was apparently postponed, but the latest communication this is that it will indeed take effect from September 1, 2014.
The move by Kenya comes about six months after the South African High Commission shifted processing of visas for Kenyans in Nairobi to a third-party company. The move also meant that Kenyans would have to pay visa fees of about Sh10,000 ($120). Previously, visas used to be free for Kenyans visiting South Africa for short business trips like conferences.
The South Africans have since tried to clarify that there’s still no charge for the visa obtained in Nairobi, but that the fee is for the company they tasked with processing applications. This is not much comfort as going to an embassy is already an expensive process.
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In addition to taking expensive pictures and paying for taxis to a secure, remote, posh part of Nairobi where Africans are not allowed to use cell phones, some countries also insist on reviewing only original documents — not printouts — and lengthy financial statements that some banks provide at a cost of Sh1000 per page.
INDIGNITIES OF TRAVEL
The move by Kenya got various reactions. Some South African columnists complained about the retaliatory move by Kenya. Some Kenyans and South Africans lamented that the “anti-business” move by Kenya would see fewer visitors from South Africa and less intra-Africa tourism, trade and investment for Kenya from South Africa, at a time when better regional relations are a core part of the Africa Rising narrative .
Yet some Kenyans cheered it as a tit-for-tat response to South Africans who also make transit passengers flying through Johannesburg and on to other parts of southern Africa go through similarly burdensome processes.
Kenya does allow nationals of about 20 other African countries to travel to Nairobi and obtain visas on arrival, so it does seem retaliatory; but I’m one of the Kenyans who are happy with the move. I’m happy that our diplomats have shown some brass marbles in reaction to some outright unbalanced and unnecessary hostility.
It’s been a tough few years for Kenyans, from having to face up to stiffer travel challenges to India’s recent requirement that visitors from Kenya obtain polio vaccines and travel with proof of being polio-free. Yet yellow fever and polio are things that most adult Kenyans have rarely had to think about until they perused an embassy website.
For the most part, we’ve accepted the increased indignities of travel and borne them, but it’s also important to become like Nigerians and show some brass.
Nigeria has had a peculiar diplomatic tiff with South Africa. While the genesis of this may have to do with the race to be Africa’ largest economy, it continues to simmer. When South Africa deports Nigerians, Nigeria refuses entry to South Africans who have visas.
MEASURE OF PRIDE
Also, it’s been said that South African passports are processed rather slowly before their holders are granted passage to Nigeria, and at a much slower rate than the passports of other African.
Reported by: Bankelele
Nigeria is like that, not just with South Africa, but also with other countries. When Britain sounds a travel alert against Nigeria, Nigerians talk back about doing the same to Britons.
When Kenya deported some Nigerians last year, the Kenyan plane and crew were held for a lengthy period of time before top diplomats intervened to get them back.
While Nigerians are perceived to suffer for carrying their green passports through airports that may flag them as potential drug traffickers or con artists, there’s also a measure of pride that comes with knowing that your country has your back.
On a trip to Europe a few years ago, I happened to be next to a young Nigerian man in the queue at the Amsterdam airport passport control.
We both got called up at about the same time to different passport booths, and as I nervously shuffled through my papers in anticipation of being asked for my conference invite, hotel reservation, proof of insurance, visa, and return ticket, my Nigerian brother slapped his passport down on the desk and loudly said, “I’m going to Greece for business.” He got in.
That’s Nigerian Brass for you, and Kenya needs more of that.