Our unidentified president and SA visa blues
That was the lesson President Cyril Ramaphosa learnt last week when a White House correspondent saw him as just another head of state: President Unknown, among G7 presidents in a bear hug in France.
It is easy to criticise Associated Press’s Darlene Superville for her flagrant ignorance; who does not know Cyril Ramaphosa? Who is Ramaphosa to warrant universal recognition? Since its inception in 1973, the G7 has always been an alliance of industrialised nations. The countries could not be expected to prioritise the “dark continent” - unless Africans prioritise themselves.
At a conference at the Durban International Convention Centre when the story broke, it was weird that while South African tweeps were palpitating over this ignoramus Superville, several delegates did not turn up because they failed to get a visa to visit South Africa.
The African Tourism Leadership Forum sought to forge public-private partnerships under which to accelerate intra-Africa trade and investment, the conference was aligned with the AU’s priority to fast-track tourism across Africa.
How ironic that, when Africans come together to talk about intensifying trade among themselves, several delegates could be left stranded because the continent has yet to figure out ways to make one African visa a reality.
The AU endorsed the creation of a single visa for all Africans long ago. Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda have implemented a single visa for tourists visiting any of the four countries.
The Economic Community of West African States adopted a common currency in July, named the eco, to facilitate trade and investment among its 15 member states. Still, South Africa insists on a visa rather than strengthening internal safety and security to protect tourists allowed with relative ease into the country.
While Ramaphosa would be justified in feeling aggrieved that media practitioners for a major international newswire did not know who he was, he has bigger things to worry about, such as state-owned enterprises, unemployment and pedestrian economic growth.
If South Africa has a default attitude of excluding tourists from other African countries, perhaps it deserves to have its president pass by unidentified at a meeting of G7 countries.
What was he doing out there, instead of persuading his fellow African heads of state to address poverty, corruption, gender inequity or persistent income inequality and do so in a country where lots of media people would know who he is?
Why do African leaders respond so vigorously to invitations to attend international conferences hosted by Japan, China, US or the EU, but react slowly when fellow Africans call on them to deal with African issues?
Until we view fellow Africans as being more important than cracking the invite to meetings of the self-serving G7, we remain an also-ran, an unidentified continent with unidentified presidents.
It is up to us to change the course of our slide down the slippery slope.
* Kgomoeswana is the author of Africa is Open for Business, a media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.