In an effort to bolster its digital and online services, Botswana is set to implement a new eVisa service that will allow visitors to apply for and obtain a visa online before arrival. The goal is to create a more seamless immigration experience at all of the country's land and air entry points—and cut government cost, time, and labor currently being devoted to in-person, on-arrival visa processing.
Chris Mears, CEO of the African Travel and Tourism Association, advocates that "eVisas are a fantastic step forward in removing barriers for tourists to enter a country" and can help make destinations more attractive to prospective travelers. "Applying for a visa in advance often involves taking time off and sending documentation away—all adding to the cost of travel. By removing this hurdle, the country automatically becomes a more attractive proposition."
Tourism is a vital part of Botswana's livelihood, and the destination has grown in popularity over the years, particularly for travelers interested in the country's world-class safari and lodge experiences. According to a 2020 World Travel and Tourism Council report, nearly 11 percent of all jobs in Botswana are related to tourism. Last year, visitor spending toppled over $1.1 billion, and travel and tourism accounted for 12.6 percent of Botswana's total economy. For comparison, travel and tourism contributed to only 8.6 percent of the whole economy in the U.S. and just 7 percent of the overall economy in South Africa.
Botswana has chosen Pangea's eVisa solution to help them process eVisa, which will also help to modernize the country's digital immigration and citizenship system. So when can we expect the new service to go into effect? "We are in the process of integrating our eVisa solution and expect to have it operational till the end of the year," says Uzy Rosenthal, Pangea EVP, general manager government division.
Botswana is just one of a handful of African countries that offer eVisa options. Rwanda launched its eVisa program in January 2018, allowing visitors from all countries to obtain 30-day tourist visas online before arrival. Back in November 2019, South Africa launched an eVisa test program for Kenyans entering through Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International and Lanseria International airports. In February of this year, the republic announced the pilot program's success and further plans to expand the program to include visitors from Nigeria, India, and China. (However, the current coronavirus outbreak has put these plans on hold.)
Other African countries that have already implemented the use of eVisas include Kenya, Tanzania, and Egypt.