Tanzania’s reluctance to adopt a joint tourism visa arrangement with its East African neighbors offers an opportunity for the scheme’s proponents to rethink underlying challenges of security and illegal immigrants.
Since 2014, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have implemented a joint $100 tourist visa. Tanzania, though, instead demands its own $150 visa fee for visitors entering its borders.
Having a joint visa arrangement is a no-brainer for the East African Community (EAC) bloc that is trying to increase earnings from visitor bookings and attract foreign investment into its budding tourism industry. A seamless visa boosts the attractiveness of a bloc because visitors are spared the hustle of having to make multiple arrangements to enter each of the partner states.
Dar es Salaam however maintains that there are always two sides of a coin and will not jump onto the bandwagon until it conclusively assesses the impact of the scheme.
Because of this, there is bad blood between the EAC partners and Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s neighbors see it as standing in the way of a potential game-changing concept.
Kenya’s Tourism minister Najib Balala recently kicked up a fresh storm when he claimed that Tanzania had pulled out of the joint EAC single tourist visa pact because it was dissatisfied with the manner in which it was ratified. Tanzania denies this and maintains it has never been part of the deal and would only join if there was deeper consensus on security and revenue sharing formulas.
Dar es Salaam’s concerns, especially that of security, must be taken seriously by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, rather than just focusing on tourism and investment.
It’s not new for some members of economic blocs to reject seamless travel arrangements with other partners. The UK and the Republic of Ireland opted out of the EU’s Schengen visa scheme over concerns on the security risks of seamless travel by visitors to member states. The UK opted to maintain its own borders, and Ireland preserved its free movement arrangement with the UK rather than join Schengen.
This issue has recently featured in key debates in the wake of terror attacks in France and Belgium, with some analysts linking the attacks to the lax border scrutiny that comes with the seamless border arrangement.
Similar challenges are present in East Africa where Islamist militants continue to pose a threat from their hideouts in the lawless parts of Somalia. Kenya and Uganda have borne the brunt of the militant groups, such as al-Shabaab, and the question of border security and immigration should be an obvious concern.
Kenya has also become a major transit route for illegal immigrants heading south in search of jobs, thanks to a raft of poorly implemented regional agreements that allow for the free movement of people.
For example, although Ethiopia isn’t a member of the EAC, its citizens are allowed visa-free travel to neighboring Kenya. This scenario has inadvertently seen Kenya become a transit route for illegal immigrants from Ethiopia looking for jobs as far as South Africa. Hundreds of Ethiopians and Eritreans have been arrested on Kenyan soil for being in the country illegally as they try finding their way to southern Africa.
This poses a serious security risk because militants can sneak into Kenya and onward to other countries in the region. The illegal immigrations also pose a challenge to the targeted countries because of the disruptions caused to their economies, exacerbating the scramble for jobs and housing and other basic amenities.
Countries targeted by the illegal immigrants that pass through Kenya, such as South Africa and Zambia, have witnessed xenophobic attacks due to pressure caused on resources by the uninvited guests.
The EAC partners need to then find workable solutions to keep out any cross-border security threats and illegal immigrants, even as they pursue a dream of a common tourism industry which has its obvious benefits.
On a visit to Kenya in mid-October, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma raised this issue with immigration controls in Kenya and said they posed challenges.
“We have to ensure that there are no loopholes for criminals to take advantage of,” he said in response to a request by his host President Uhuru Kenyatta to review visa conditions for Kenyans.
Cryptocurrency for Africans
George Gordon is on a quest to revolutionize the financial system. The director of Africa Master Blockchain Company talks digital currencies, blind risks and board games.
What is this new African cryptocurrency you are offering?
Where the majority of current digital currencies are based on speculative models, AfriUnion Coin (AUC) and the AfriNational Tokens (ANT)are designed for a transactional purpose allowing international payments, remittances, foreign direct investment as well as day-to-day transactions at local retail stores and other outlets. While the option for speculative trade is available with AUC, the focus is not around that.
Each African country will have a specially-designed ANT which will allow users to pay for goods and services and bills easily through completely digital means without requiring any bank account. AUC and ANT will be fully interchangeable to one another and there will be no fees for the user.
It’s the natural next step for digital finance from mobile banking which most Africans are accustomed to. The ability to freely have the power to send and receive money locally and internationally will allow the freedom of choice and spending power many Africans don’t have currently.
What is your own investment philosophy?
I am a gambler! I believe in taking risks and putting things on the line. That being said, blind risk or whimsical guesses don’t get you very far. Always acquire enough information to understand to a reasonable level what the thing you are planning on investing is or how it works and then trust your instinct and gut feel.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs wanting to invest in blockchain?
First, do some research in terms of what the blockchain technology is being applied for or created in terms of its application to an industry or project. Thereafter, check the white paper for the design of the platform as well as its functionality and applicability to what it is trying to achieve. If it aligns with your personal investment rules, then go for it,however, remember that blockchain is continuously evolving and thus you need to explore outside the usual and standard.
First cash-less, now card-less. What is the future of online banking?
If we are looking into what is currently science fiction, I would say the future is digital contact lenses that will be able to connect you to all your social media accounts, internet, news as well as make payments by just looking at QR codes or specialized barcodes to approve and accept payments.
Now, realistically we are not far off from such innovation and technology, but for the time being, I think the next step is scanning of QR codes at retailers and having the transaction automated from your wallet to the retailers digitally.
What is your most prized investment and why?
My mind. I believe that the work I have put into developing my mind, and continue to do so every day, is the number one investment that I have ever done. It allows me to look at things in a unique perspective as well as provides me with the tools to push boundaries and create new opportunities.
Money, success, fame? Which is most important to you?
I would have to say success… because it is most likely going to bring the other two as well, right? But success in the form of starting something and letting it grow and succeed and knowing that something new exists because of your efforts.
What do you spend your money on mostly?
Board games. I love board games and believe it’s a fantastic way to expand your mind as well as have fun with friends.
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King Price Insurance’s CEO Gideon Galloway, who built an insurance company in South Africa worth over $226 million in six years, talks investments, industry trends and how self-driving cars will change the entire car insurance landscape.
Offering The American Dream
Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan of Atlantic American Partners were in South Africa recently looking for high-net-worth individuals wanting to invest in the US.
It’s a warm spring day in September, and Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan have just arrived in South Africa. It is Lippincott’s first time in the country, and he is jet-lagged.
A little over two months ago, he was booked to fly here from the United States (US) but was turned back at immigration.
“At Atlanta airport, the lady looked at Daniel’s visa and let him through and she looked at my visa and she said ‘I am afraid you can’t get on the plane because you have to have a blank page on your passport’. I said ‘I have three blank pages’ and she said ‘no, it’s supposed to be the one that says visa on it’. She said it’s the rules in South Africa so I had to sadly go back home… now when I was coming, I was told that’s not an issue anymore so I am happy they have made traveling into the country easier,” says Lippincott.
With a brand-new passport, he’s here with Ryan looking for people who want to invest in the US in exchange for a green card.
Lippincott, the Managing Partner of Atlantic American Partners, says he has always been keen on South Africa for its growth opportunities and prospects.
“From what I understand, the things that are causing short-term decline in the economy in South Africa are set up to provide long-term growth and hopefully people will understand this,” he says. Ryan, the company’s Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Africa, agrees: “I lived in Malawi for 12 years and South Africa is still considered the shining one throughout the continent. Even with all the problems, everyone still wants to come here because of the opportunities.”
According to an AfrAsia Bank report, South Africa comes second to Mauritius in boasting the highest number of high-net-worth individuals.
These are the kind of people Ryan and Lippincott target through their work at Atlantic American Partners. The company has real estate investors and professional private equity fund managers that manage money for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. In addition, they help people get US green cards and ultimately US citizenship through the US government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.
“Basically we look for people who want to move to the United States and we help them do so legally by investing and the nice thing is, with our program, they are also able to get a nice return on investment,” he says.
According to Lippincott, for a $500,000 investment that creates 10 jobs for American workers, you could get a green card in about two years and be a US citizen in about six or seven years. “Twenty seven countries have an investor visa program but with most of them, it’s essentially a fee you pay, or you need to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of a business. For example, you invest $1.5 million in Australia, but you need to hire employees and generate a certain amount of revenue. One of the biggest advantages with our program is you actually invest the $500,000 into a fund. We act as a trustee of that money and within five to seven years, they get that money back with a bit of return on investment and you are a permanent citizen in the US.”
Atlantic American Partners invests the money in real estate developments like hotels, apartments and student accommodation.
“What’s nice about the program is it doesn’t only cover the investor; it covers the spouse and children under 21. Our biggest family was a Hungarian family with seven children so they got nine green cards for $500,000,” says Lippincott.
The company says it has had positive response in South Africa. “Two months ago, we were here and we had scheduled six presentations for 100 people and we ended up speaking to 450 people. Most were business people, people worried about the economy, people worried about the political future of South Africa and people concerned about the education future of their children,” says Ryan.
According to Lippincott, despite the news of the clampdown on immigration, the US economy is booming and will perish without immigration. In the era of Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views, that’s heartening news indeed.
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