Government this week convened a consultative workshop to discuss ways to make it easier for highly skilled professionals and foreign investors to acquire visas and residence permits in Namibia, in an effort to boost economic growth.
Namibia is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1990 with the Bank of Namibia (BoN) announcing Tuesday that it expects the domestic economy to fall into a deeper contraction of 1.7 percent this year.
Home Affairs and Immigration Minister Frans Kapofi told attendees at the workshop that Cabinet has already recommended that business people with established enterprises in Namibia will be given multiple-entry visas valid for five years.
The ministry was also directed to make provision of easy access for work visas for highly-skilled professionals and potential investors and for the introduction of e-visa or visa at entry points at a low nominal fee (to be determined).
“The world today is experiencing a significant paradigm shift in the area of migration. Traditionally, migration has been seen as a security issue that was left to those concerned with it. Increasingly, this held view is changing and migration policies and practices are now used to aid and support the economies of many countries,” Kapofi said.
“This platform, therefore, provides us an opportunity to reflect on our migration rules and regulations and see migration as a development and economic growth enabler if managed properly.”
The Wednesday meeting identified scarce and high skilled professionals fields needed to develop the local economy further and to agree on a threshold for pensioners who would qualify for residence permits in Namibia.
In addition, the workshop was further expected to agree on the threshold for residence permits on the back of capital invested, among other recommendations.
“Let us all use laws at our disposal as enablers to grow our economy in order for us to develop the country and henceforth lift the remaining citizens from below the poverty line.
“The time has come for us to discard our previously held silo mentality and think about the nation as a whole if we are to succeed as a nation,” Kapofi said in his keynote address.
Countries whose citizens will be issued visas upon arrival in Namibia include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, Western Sahara Republic and Uganda.
Countries outside Africa whose citizens can also receive visas on arrival include Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Venezuela, Vietnam, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Ukraine.
The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) had previously raised concerns about the government’s decision to compel South African citizens to acquire business visas at the Namibian High Commission in Pretoria prior to travelling to Namibia for business activities.
Former NCCI Chief Executive Officer, Tarah Shaanika, said requirement for South Africans to obtain a business visa, which came into force in March 2016, had proven to have a significant negative impact on cross-border business activities between Namibia and its largest trading partner.
Shaanika said so many businesses in Namibia, which play a pivotal role in this economy, are subsidiaries of or have strong commercial relationships with South African companies that require representation of such companies on the boards of some Namibian companies.
“For someone to be required to apply for and acquire a visa in advance for a board meeting in Namibia that lasts for two hours is incomprehensible, especially when Namibians are not treated the same by the South African Government,” decried Shaanika.
Multiple entry visas will allow business visitors to come to Namibia for extended periods of time before having to be renewed.