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Visa fees hurt trade

Esther Muwombi
Uganda and South Sudan have close cultural and economic ties but rising visa costs have hampered business and impeded travel between the neighbouring countries.
27.10.2015  |  Kampala, Uganda
Goods from Uganda offloaded in Juba, May 18, 2010. (photo: The Niles | Esther Muwombi)
Goods from Uganda offloaded in Juba, May 18, 2010. (photo: The Niles | Esther Muwombi)

Both Uganda and South Sudan said they would reduce the Ugandan visa fee but both countries are still charging US$ 100 and travellers have seen no sign of a change.

South Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told the press last month that the two countries had agreed to revise the visa charges after a 50 percent increase since July.

His counterpart, Foreign Minister for Uganda, Kutessa Kahamba Sam, agreed that it was a mistake to increase the charges and that the fees will go back to US$ 50 with immediate effect.

But since then, travellers between the two countries say they are still paying US$ 100 on both sides.

Okurut Muhamed, a bus driver for Friendship Coaches Kampala, who drives the Kampala-Juba route, says the visa fees are the same. “I drive to Juba everyday, even yesterday, my passengers paid US$ 100 to enter Nimule. The visa rise announcements are still pinned at the boarders notice boards.”

Most Ugandan travellers to South Sudan are traders, while South Sudanese travellers to Uganda are mostly visitors.

Bridget Kansiime who travelled to Juba two weeks ago also confirmed that the visa fee hadn’t changed. “I paid SSP 1,200 on entering Nimule,” she says.

No authority, in both Uganda and South Sudan, wanted to comment on the delay in the visa price change except a worker at the boarder office in Nimule who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Our authorities have not reduced the visa fee simply because the Ugandan side has not reduced theirs. They raised the fee first and they promised to reduce the fee but still haven’t,” the source says.

Ann Mbabazi a Rwandese national that travelled from Kigali to Juba last weekend said it was US$ 50 for Rwandese nationals. “It seems other African countries are paying US$ 50 except Ugandans because me, I paid US$ 50,” she says.

Uganda has four types of visas: the tourist single, tourist multiple, business single and business multiple visa. But South Sudanese use the business single to enter Uganda which originally costed US$ 50.

South Sudan has one type of visa. The South Sudan Embassy website indicates that African and Asian nationals traveling to South Sudan pay US$ 50 while Americans pay US$ 160 and Europeans US$ 100.

“You cant pay US$ 100 for just one day in Nimule and say you are doing business. This is too much,” says Mulondo Abedi, a rice trader.

Tourism operators in Uganda also called for the government to reduce the fee for all claiming that the rise would affect tourism business as well.

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