South African and Ethiopian officials are to be permitted visa-free travel between the 2 countries in a major new mutual agreement. Holders of Diplomatic Official and Service passports from both nations can now enter each other’s country without the need to complete a visa application for permission to enter.
The announcement made jointly by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia in Pretoria is expected to greatly improve the ease of travel for officials and diplomats between states.
The agreement, which was signed during an official visit by the Ethiopian PM to South Africa, is also hoped to be the start of steadily strengthening relations and cooperation between the two African countries.
What Has Been Agreed Between South Africa and Ethiopia?
Under this new deal, diplomatic passport holders from both countries will be able to visit each other’s country visa-free. This will help speed up the time it takes for diplomats and officials to pass through national immigration and cut down on a great deal of paperwork before a visit to either Ethiopia or South Africa.
Prior to this, it was necessary for officials and holders of diplomatic passports to hold a valid visa for South Africa or Ethiopia respectively. Visas are currently a reality for many travelers visiting Southern Africa from the Eastern republic and these normally have to be acquired in advance of a trip.
In addition to improving the flow of officials at each other’s borders, both countries have also “affirmed their commitment to expanding cooperation in trade and investment” between companies in South Africa and Ethiopia, according to the official communiqué.
This comes as little surprise. The Ethiopian economy is currently growing in the double-digit percentiles and many business are eager to capitalize on its booming trade. This is likely to be mutually beneficial to companies based in the 2 countries as they continue building closer ties.
Furthermore, the 2 governments have signed a memorandum of understanding that seeks to enhance tourism provisions for citizens. The hope is that this will reciprocally increase employment opportunities and should improve the process of traveling between countries as it is further facilitated.
At present, holidaymakers from Ethiopia need a tourist visa in advance of visiting South Africa. However, the system of travel authorization could later be relaxed as further cooperation between the 2 nations is established.
The next meeting between the South African and Ethiopian governments is due to be later this year. It has been decided by the 2 heads of state that it will take place in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Who Needs to Apply For A South African Visa?
Diplomatic and Official/Service Passport holders from Ethiopia are now permitted to enter South Africa without the need for a pre-arranged visa or a visa on arrival. However, for many other travelers, one of the many types of South African visas is a necessity.
At present visitors from 80 countries can travel to South Africa visa-free for up to 90 days. For other nationalities such as Kenya, an eVisa is necessary, which can be obtained by applicants fitting the requirements.
The South African eVisa is obtainable online, via an electronic application form. It is yet to be fully launched. However, once implemented, it will make it possible for tourists from many non-visa waiver countries to apply for travel authorization without the need to visit an embassy or consulate.
At the moment, nationalities not yet covered by a visa-waiver agreement (including Ethiopia at present), must acquire a South African visitor visa. This is a necessity, however, it is a relatively simple form of travel authorization to register for, although it must be gained in advance of arrival in the country.
The visitor visa is usually granted for visits of up to 90 days. However, it can also only be used for tourist purposes or to visit family members residing in South Africa. Holders are not permitted to work or seek employment or study in the country with this form of travel permission.
Improving diplomatic ties between South Africa and Ethiopia could lead to many changes over the coming years. If both continue on the current course, it is likely there will be more announcements in the near future about more streamlined travel options for citizens of the 2 countries.