By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Keen to turn over a new leaf, the Botswana government has taken its first step towards rebranding the diamond-rich country as an investor-friendly destination, with changes to its immigration policy.
The Botswana government announced this week that it has eased VISA restrictions, which had affected the country's ease of doing business.
In the last ''Ease of Doing Business” report by the World Bank, Botswana’s rankings had declined from position 21 to 81 out of 190 countries, which new President, Mokgweetsi Masisi said was of great concern and needed to be addressed. "We need to redouble our efforts to attract investors and make it easier for companies to set up in Botswana," Masisi said during a media address recently.
The responsible Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Dorcus Makgato said the government has decided to decentralise the issuance of VISAs.
Visitors to Botswana were expected to apply for a VISA while in their country of origin, directly to the ministry.
However, Makgato this week said, nationals who require a VISA to enter Botswana, may apply at respective Botswana embassies in their countries.
"We have identified impediments to delays in the issuance of VISAs as well as work and residence permits, hence the decision to let embassies deal directly with VISAs," Makgato said. The Botswana government is also considering issuing VISA at points of entry "to facilitate the free movement of people across borders to promote trade, tourism and relations with other countries."
Under the President Ian Khama administration, Botswana was increasingly viewed as hostile to investors and foreign visitors, with arbitrary deportations, and rejection of VISAs, work and residence permits.
However, Masisi's government has made several commitments to reverse the situation, with the easing of VISA restrictions the first, bold practical step.