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Russian Visas are unavailable for Africans



Russia is experiencing an increasing in-bound foreign tourist and large number of travellers, mainly from Asian countries, but Africans are noticeably absent in popular destinations in the Russian Federation. Despite the undisputable pleasing fact that Russia conducts its relationship with Africa at a strategic level, and with a great deal of respect, Africans still have to struggle for ordinary visas to visit cities in Russia.
Despite unprecedented promises and pledges from the authorities at meetings, summits and conferences over facilitating acquisition of travel visas offering a unique opportunity for a simple familiarization visit have, in practical terms, remained only as a ‘multipolar’ rhetoric. Africans have to realize the extent how vague many of those ambitious initiatives could be for Africa.
Russia’s visa-free policy appears to be increasingly failing in its aim of attracting more visitors and foreigners entering the country, particularly from Africa. June reports from the Ministry of Tourism indicated that in 2023, for instance, foreign tourists brought $3.5 billion to Russia and the flow of tourists grew by one million. Further to that, inbound tourism is expected to grow by 30% to 5 million people in 2024.
“The inflow of foreign tourists to our country grew by more than one million in 2023. They brought in approximately $3.5 billion. But we want much more,” Chernyshenko said at the government’s strategic meeting addressing national tourism and economic projects in late June.
The head of the Moscow Tourism Committee, Yevgeny Kozlov, and Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov, both said people from BRICS countries must be given the highest priority. With the tectonic talk of multipolar, and yet citizens from African countries cannot visit for up to 15 days for business, tourism, family visits. Africa’s middle class is estimated at 380 million, twice the total of Russia’s population. In African countries, (with the exception of Ethiopia, Egypt and South Africa), there are no potential tourists and travellers willing to familarize with Russian culture, traditions, and the beautiful landscape.
Association of Russian Tour Operators (ATOR) Vice President, Intourist Tour Operator General Director Alexander Musikhin also said in June that Chinese tourists account for over 40% of foreign tourist arrivals in Russia. “Chinese tourists are hungry for new impressions, tourists from China and other countries are interested in a broader geography of Russian tours,” Musikhin said at a plenary session of the Travel forum, which opened at Moscow’s VDNKh exhibition center in June.
Russia claims to be pursuing an integrative multipolar relations with friendly countries around the world, including those in Africa. But Russia is still not a popular holiday destination for Africa’s political elite, corporate business leaders and middle-class. The politicians and corporate business leaders highly prefer to spend their vacation in the United States and Europe, some Asian destinations are increasingly becoming their preferential choice. That trend is unlikely to change, it will remain as such for the next decades.
After the first symbolic Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea city of Sochi in October 2019, both Russia and Africa adopted a joint declaration – in fact a comprehensive document which outlines various parameters for uplifting cooperation into a new qualitative stage.
In order to boost effective economic interests and to foster cooperation, frequent interaction is therefore necessary. The frequency of interaction should not only be established during summits, but some basic strategic steps and measures are necessary to encourage simply holiday travels to both regions. These are significantly missing in the current relations between Russia and Africa. Critics often say Russia is contributing enormously to its own so-termed isolation, it closes its doors especially when there are huge opportunities to develop first-class tourism.
With current geopolitical situation, Africa’s middle-class estimated at 380 million still have other suitable alternative holiday destinations. Moscow and St. Petersburg are not their desire priority for spending vacations. Russian tour operators acknowledge that there is nothing such as African tourism to Russia. On the opposite side, Morocco, Egypt, Seychelles, South Africa and Zanzibar are the few African destinations popular among Russian vacationers.
The second summit declaration issued on 28 July 2023 in Saint Petersburg, points to building on the historical and time-tested friendly ties between the Russian Federation and African States. Here Russia officials only dream of official state visit by heads of African states and ministers as an essential pillar of their version of multipolar world.
Since the first symbolic Sochi summit held 2019, very little has happened on the tourism, social and cultural sides. Russia and Africa have been discussing how best to explore untapped resources, the possibilities of promoting cooperation in the field of tourism, dissemination of information on tourism opportunities of the Russian Federation and African States.
Russia and Africa agreed to promote exchanges of delegations, athletes, teams, coaches and other specialists in the field of sports training. And further down, take steps toward ensuring respect for the rights of journalists and promoting the development of media outlets. While reiterating professional training programmes, academic and student exchanges et cetera, all these have, in practical terms, remained largely as official documents stacked in computerized files and would later be pushed into electronic historical archives.
For the past few years since Sochi, the first declaration remains tacitly as a declaration. The basic question often asked is for what purposes are the summit declarations. Worse, series of speeches and juicy-coated remarks are seemingly for linguistic colouration. “Russia is ready to build multifaceted relations with Africa. If Russia Wins, Africa Wins!” remarked by Comoros President Azali Assoumani during the late July St. Petersburg summit.
After the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi (2019), and within the framework of the joint declaration that was adopted, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation created a Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. With hopes for a comprehensive and enduring collaboration on long-term programs, Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has since then been networking for potential Russian, African and international organisations with the aim of effectively promoting Russia’s economic interests in Africa and to foster mutually beneficial cooperation with African countries.
Early September 2023, local Russian media abuzzed with latest information emerging from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Russia plans ‘visa-free regime’ with all African countries, referring to the fact that it was within the framework of Russia and Africa’s action plan adopted at the second summit in St. Petersburg.
Our investigations and research indicate that Russia has visa-free agreements with six African countries. And visa-free regime only applied to African countries that signed agreements with Foreign Ministry. Within the agreements, only holders of diplomatic passports are permitted under this consular agreement. Moreover, the point on developing or facilitating work, easing contacts with African countries, between ordinary citizens of Russia and Africa still need visas to travel both ways.
According to sources monitored, agreements have to be signed after successful negotiation with Russian authorities. One source confirmed in an interview with me that Russia has an agreement on visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic service passports with 32 countries on the continent, and yet refused to make public and to the media the official list of approved African countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the African leaders adopted the final declaration of the second Russia-Africa summit. An action plan of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum for the period 2023-2026 and a number of other documents were also adopted.
In addition, a number of agreements, contracts and other documents related to various areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa were approved on the sidelines of the forum and the summit.
“We highly appreciate the results of our joint work at the summit. I am confident that the results achieved will form a good basis for further deepening the Russian-African partnership in the interests of prosperity and well-being of our peoples,” Putin said in a speech posted to official Kremlin website.
Putin was pleased with the results of the summit, which was held in a “constructive and very friendly atmosphere.” Russia and the Africa have confirmed their position on the formation of a multipolar world order.
According to the stipulated rules and regulations, the Russia-Africa summit will be held every three years. In the period between the Russia-Africa summits, the mechanism of dialogue partnership will operate, regular political consultations will continue through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia, African countries and the leadership of the African Union.


Source:| Kestér Kenn Klomegâh 

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