(eTN) – Complaints received while on a recent visit to Kenya about the often slow and cumbersome processing of tourists, prompted the no-nonsense and hands-on Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Amb. Khamis Kagesheki earlier this week to make a surprise visit to the border post in Namanga, to see for himself what prompted those complaints. According to stakeholder reports from Arusha, the minister clearly did not like what he saw and took aim at absentee immigration and customs staff, causing queues and delays for tourists and business people wanting to cross into Tanzania.
Namanga is a key border crossing for tourists on road safaris visiting both Kenya and Tanzania, as present regulations by Tanzania require tourists to switch to Tanzania registered vehicles, either at the border directly but at the latest when reaching Arusha, as the key Bologonja border post between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara remains closed at the behest of Tanzania’s tourism industry seeking protection against competition from Kenya.
As a result, tourists are compelled to drive from the Masai Mara all the way via Nairobi to Namanga and then reach the Serengeti via Arusha, Mto Wa Mbu/Manyara and Ngorongoro, before backtracking once again for their departure back home.
Namanga is, therefore, a crucial link between the two countries but has been hampered by poor services and facilities, which in particular during rains makes the border crossing a logistical nightmare for tourists in the absence of sufficient shelter from the weather.
The crossing is further made difficult in the absence of a common East African tourist visa, which has been proposed for over 10 years but is still stuck in consultative stages over revenue allocation should a tourist then visit two or more countries in the region and proposals driven by the greed of immigration departments to double the fee has met with stiff resistance by the private sectors in the member countries of the EAC, already citing visa cost as one of the reasons why holiday packages to beaches and the safari parks are so high.
It is understood that Kagesheki has taken up his findings with his respective colleagues in the cabinet to prompt some immediate action and make this crucial land-border crossing more efficient and user-friendly, similar to the handling at airports where thankfully now immigration counters are staffed fully during periods of multiple arrivals and departures at the same time.