ARUSHA, Tanzania (AA) – Tanzania is ready to eventually join a single visa scheme – currently operational in the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – amid efforts to promote the sub-region as a tourism destination.
“As a country, we are now doing our homework to look at some issues like security, once one tourism destination comes to operation,” Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Lazaro Nyalandu told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
He said Tanzania was now in discussions with other East African Community (EAC) member states, especially Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, regarding the single visa scheme’s modus operandi.
The EAC, a regional bloc that also includes Burundi, is seeking to promote the region’s tourism potential and market member states as a single tourist destination.
The campaign was showcased at the recently-concluded World Travel Market in London, the leading global event for the travel industry.
At the event, EAC Deputy Secretary-General Jesca Eriyo cited substantial progress achieved in the preparation and introduction of the single tourist visa for East Africa that would allow access to multiple destinations.
Nyalandu said his recent trip to London with his EAC counterparts was proof of the government’s commitment to the single visa scheme.
“As a giant nation with a lot of tourist attractions, Tanzania will gain more benefits by having more tourists coming through other EAC partner states,” he told AA.
“There isn’t much benefit from visa money, which is peanuts compared to other benefits coming from tourists entering from other EAC partner states,” noted the minister.
Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya have agreed to charge tourists $100 for a joint visa allowing them to visit tourist sites in the region instead of paying $150 for single-entry visas in each country.
Minister Nyalandu said that East African countries had agreed to join hands to combat poaching in the region.
“We have agreed to speak together to fight and combating poaching, especially elephant and rhino killings, regionally and internationally,” he told AA.
The minister said poachers were using the joint borders to carry out their trade.
“The criminals are not only crossing, they are also transporting these illegal materials across the boarders,” he asserted.
Nyalandu noted that EAC tourism ministers and representatives from international organizations, donors and developed countries had met recently in Tanzania and agreed on three major approaches to fighting poaching.
He said the new strategy was based on stopping the killing of elephants and rhinos; blocking the traffic of elephant tusks and rhino horns; and curbing the trade in wildlife trophies in destination countries.
“The message is going to be sent to China – and other countries where they think ivory is such a big deal – by telling them together as a region that ivory materials are bad news,” Nyalandu said.
The meeting was reportedly attended by representatives from various countries, including China, the U.S., the U.K., France and international agencies, like the World Bank, Interpol and the UN.
Nyalandu estimates that, in Africa, nearly 35,000 elephants – one every 15 minutes – and more than 1,000 rhinos – one every nine hours – are killed by poachers each year.
According to the minister, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and the Koreas represent the leading markets for ivory and rhino horns.
Minister Nyalandu has announced that Tanzania would establish an independent wildlife authority, tipped to become one of the biggest in Africa, mandated with waging the fight against poaching.
“The authority, which will manage an area of more than 165,000 square kilometers, will take over from the current wildlife division department within the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources,” he told AA.
“The new authority will become operational from July 1, with an enormous amount of land, equipment and personnel from the police force, national security department and military,” the minister added.
Tanzania has 16 national parks and several game reserves, conservation areas and community wildlife management areas.
It is estimated that wildlife, forest and marine reserves account for a full quarter of the country’s territory.
Nyalandu said the government was determined to create an agency that was not only strong in terms of its capacities, but also in terms of its ability to coordinate national anti-poaching efforts.
“This is good news for the country, good news for the region, and I hope it is good news for the world of conservation,” he told AA.
Tanzania is currently home to fewer than 70,000 jumbo elephants and has only 123 remaining rhinos, due largely to illegal poaching activity.
In 1980, Tanzania was home to 3,795 rhinos – nearly a quarter of Africa’s black rhinos at the time. Only one decade earlier, this number had stood at 65,000
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