Spot­light on e-visa ap­pli­ca­tion cost

. . . as Le­sotho launches M300m sys­tem

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

WITH Le­sotho launch­ing the M300 mil­lion elec­tronic visa (e-visa) sys­tem last Fri­day, the spot­light has shifted to the po­ten­tially neg­a­tive ef­fect of its rel­a­tive high cost to the tourism in­dus­try.

Le­sotho has be­come the ninth African coun­try to em­ploy an e-visa sys­tem af­ter mi­grat­ing from the con­ven­tional man­ual sys­tem with ef­fect from 1 May this year.

Launched by Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ad­vo­cate Lekhetho Rakuoane last Fri­day, the evisa sys­tem was de­vel­oped through a pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship with an Amer­i­can com­pany, Com­puter Fron­tiers, which in­vested over M300 mil­lion to set up the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture.

Through the sys­tem, cit­i­zens of coun­tries that are not ex­empted from visa ap­pli­ca­tions can ap­ply on the web­site www.evisale­sotho. com. Cit­i­zens of 49 coun­tries, mostly from the African con­ti­nent, are ex­empted from ap­ply­ing for visas to visit Le­sotho for up to 90 days, while cit­i­zens of 22 coun­tries are ex­empted for up to 14 days.

Adv Rakuoane said the e-visa sys­tem would shorten the turn­around time for visa ap­pli­ca­tion pro­cesses to a max­i­mum of 72 hours and also elim­i­nate the need for ap­pli­ca­tion of an exit visa from Le­sotho.

“It is ef­fi­cient and cost ef­fec­tive and will fa­cil­i­tate easy mi­gra­tion, di­as­pora en­gage­ment, remit­tances, and eco­nomic growth,” he said.

“It will also help in pre­vent­ing the hu­man traf­fick­ing and smug­gling of per­sons as we shall be able to vet ap­pli­cants be­fore they en­ter the coun­try.”

But at US$150 (about M2 025) for a sin­gle en­try ap­pli­ca­tion and US$250 (about M3 375) for mul­ti­ple-en­try, Le­sotho’s e-visa ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem is com­par­a­tively more ex­pen­sive than most African coun­tries and even be­yond. The steep cost could ul­ti­mately dis­cour­age po­ten­tial tourists from visit­ing the coun­try. Morocco, which is the most vis­ited coun­try on the con­ti­nent with over 10 mil­lion tourist ar­rivals as recorded in 2013, charges be­tween £22 (about M308) and £28 (M392) for sin­gle and mul­ti­ple en­try visas re­spec­tively.

South Africa, which is on sec­ond po­si­tion for most ar­rivals, charges $36 (about M486) and $127 (about M1715) for sin­gle en­try and mul­ti­ple en­try visas re­spec­tively.

Mozam­bique, which is ranked on po­si­tion five, charges £50 (about M850) and £120 (about M2 040) for sin­gle and mul­ti­ple en­try visas re­spec­tively. Uganda, at po­si­tion eight, charges US$100 (about M1 350).

More­over, some of these coun­tries charge lower visa ap­pli­ca­tion fees for peo­ple wish­ing to visit for tourism pur­poses, but the Le­sotho visa makes no such dis­tinc­tion.

In her re­marks dur­ing the launch of the sys­tem, Com­puter Fron­tiers Pres­i­dent Bar­bara Keat­ing in­di­cated that the com­pany would re­coup the costs it in­curred in the in­vest­ment through the e-visa ap­pli­ca­tion fees.

Le­sotho Tourism Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LTDC) Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Mpaiphele Maqutu told the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day that while the gov­ern­ment had done a re­mark­able job in launch­ing the e-visa, the ap­pli­ca­tion fee should be man­aged to ensure Le­sotho re­mained com­pet­i­tive as a tourism desti­na­tion.

“I be­lieve the ini­tia­tive is good for our coun­try as I am told it will re­duce the turn­around time of pro­cess­ing a visa to be­tween 24 to 72 hours,” he said.

“That be­ing said, since the sys­tem is set­tling in, I be­lieve there is still a chance to ensure that desti­na­tion Le­sotho is made com­pet­i­tive with other coun­tries through com­pet­i­tive visa fees.”

HOME Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ad­vo­cate Lekhetho Rakuoane

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