The South African High Commission has urged the Nigerian government and the government of South Africa (SA) to consider reviewing their travel/visa policies, as it plans to relax the issuance of visas to Nigerian businessmen to enhance trade relations between both countries.
This is coming as the Federal Government of Nigeria, through Olusegun Ashiru, minister of foreign affairs, recently pledged to sanction any foreign embassy in Nigeria who refuse granting a long-term visa to genuine Nigerian businessmen.
Nicholas Coleman, commercial counsellor of the SA commission, told journalists at a breakfast meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce in Lagos.
Coleman said the commission had given the collection of visa applications and processing to a contractor to ensure a six-day turn-around process, noting this was one of the ways to fully explore the investment and trade opportunities in both countries.
“The visa issue is slowing down business travels and the fault is from both countries. I will like to see the coming of the two governments in tackling the issue,” Coleman stated.
He disclosed South Africa was looking forward to working with Nigerian investors to further open up trade and investment opportunities between the two countries, as “we are trying to respond to the imbalance business arrangement by taking advantage of these opportunities to create a better working condition for all parties.”
The SA commercial counsellor added that a business delegation from South Africa was in the country to seek partnerships in health, textile, ICT, chemicals, engineering, manufacturing and agro processing sectors of the Nigerian economy, as the commission was providing relevant information to potential investors wanting to explore the SA economy.
He, however, frowned at the repatriation deposit charge travellers were expected to deposit with the Embassy before a visa was granted, saying “it does not apply to everybody.”
According to him, it only applies to first time Nigerian travellers who are deemed possible to over stay their visa date, “indeed, the Nigerian government introduced a retaliatory policy. So, those coming to this country have to pay to the Nigerian High Commission over there.”
Often time, there have been complaints that it takes a very long time to get the money back if at all it would be refunded. “In my view, I would recommend collaboration between the two governments to agree on the best approach because this visa regime is not the best as it has slowed down the volume of trade and investment between the two countries,” Coleman lamented.
Talking about difficulties and humiliation encountered by Nigerians in the process of securing visa, he believes that the decision by the SA High Commission in Nigeria to engage an agency has made the process a lot easier.
Calling on Nigerian entrepreneurs to renew their interest in SA, he said business in that country is opened to all but that everybody has to comply with the business regulations as there are no discriminatory laws governing one set of people that does not apply to all.
On the five-member SA trade mission that visited Nigeria, the envoy said they were in the country to seek opportunities in the construction, rail transport, healthcare, ICT, among others.
The mission, initially intended to comprise 15 representatives, was reduced to five due to unforeseen circumstances. One of the companies like Aveng is one of the biggest construction companies in SA. They have just established a branch in Ghana and is in Nigeria to understand this market. There is also an Agro-Tractor company that manufactures agric equipment and looking for possible importers from Nigeria.
Similarly, Obi Emenike, head, small and medium scale banking, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria, said business travellers and companies wishing to transact international business can leverage on the widespread of the bank to facilitate their imports and exports, saying one of the bank’s products: International Trade Account, has a lot of benefits.
Describing SME banking as a banking service rendered to customers whose turnover ranges between $5 million and $25 million, the banker told participants at the Nigerian-South African breakfast forum that they will spend less using the bank’s platform. “You will spend less on bank transaction and spend more on your business. You will enjoy free transaction with a customer who banks with Standard Chartered Bank,” Emenike revealed.
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