What the smart ID card looks like. Photo; Facebook
JOHANNESBURG -  Absa, First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank from inception in 2016 have issued 168 724 smart ID cards and 152 261 passports by August, according to the Department of Home Affairs.

This was during a pilot phase with 14 branches were involved. 

However, the Department of Home Affairs aims to add a further 20 branches at other major urban centres such as Durban, Pietermaritzburg, East London, Nelspruit and Polokwane. 

The Department of Home Affairs intends to finalise a public- private partnership with the banking sector and the Treasury to roll out its e-services across South Africa before the end of the current financial year.

“We intend finalising a public-private partnership with the banking sector and National Treasury to roll this out across the country before the end of this financial year,” Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said earlier this year. 

The minister also announced that the department had issued 10-million smart ID cards to South Africans over the past five years.

He said in the current financial year, the department would pilot e-permitting functionality, which would allow visitors to South Africa to apply for visas online, receive an electronic visa within hours or days and be able to proceed to the country.

“In the medium term, we will introduce trusted traveller e-gates at our airports to fast-track entry of South African citizens and other low-risk travellers,” Gigaba said.

The easing in visa requirements was re-iterated in September when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his economic recovery and stimulus package.

“Within the next few months, amendments will be made to regulations on the travel of minors, the list of countries requiring visas to enter South Africa will be reviewed, an e-visas pilot will be implemented, and the visa requirements for highly skilled foreigners will be revised.

"These measures have the potential to boost tourism and make business travel a lot more conducive. Tourism continues to be a great job creator and through these measures we are confident that many more tourists will visit South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.

At the World Travel Market in London this week, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom was at pains to stress that South Africa was open for business and ready and willing to welcome more overseas tourists to South Africa.

Hanekom predicted 2019 would be a stronger year for tourism following last year’s drought, which nearly led to Cape Town almost running out of water .

“We know we’ve been growing, but tourism is vulnerable to various types of shocks,” he said. 

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