An Open letter to African Embassies in London and beyond!.
People that need Visa to go into some African countries will welcome this article. For the last couple of years I have been witnessing an increasingly bad customer services in some African Embassies specially the one in London and Paris.
I am being demanded to speak more in some African countries therefore seeing myself needing a visa to go in these countries, and I am getting so frustrated I cannot begin to explain it.
In my view the need for change in Africa begin in Embassies. If you require a Visa for these countries you will notice that not only the staff in these embassies take a full liberty and long time to issue you a VISA, but also have no customer service skills. Sometimes lets face it they are incompetent.
An embassy or consulate, whatever you want to call it is the portal of a country, when you come to an embassy you want to see a welcoming officer that will facilitate all the process for you, so when you leave you have a good memory of the service and you will be excited to travel.
I went to the Ivory Coast embassy for a 5 days Visa today. To obtain a visa for the day you have to pay 65 pounds and 30 pounds. The process starts from 10-12. You have to come back in the afternoon to get the Visa, time- 2-3pm. They called it Express.
So in the morning I brought all the papers they asked for, left the embassy confident. The total wait was 2h in the morning.
After I paid for my express VISA, the secretary asked me to come back in the afternoon at 2pm. As someone whom paid for express I thought that at 2pm my passport would be handed to me. When I was waiting impatiently, I saw a group of people entering the Secretary office, 6 of them, they started talking loud and chatting with out consideration of the outside, just like an African market, then a gentleman with a folder came out from another door and handed it to the VISA lady in the office.
I was still waiting my name to be called, but after 30 minutes she did not. I decided to ask her if my Visa was out, she talked loudly and asked me to wait.
Finally on her own time she came out and said: “express please come and take your passport.”
Looking into Passports dispatched on the table, she told me that my visa was not signed because I did not gave them the details of where I was staying. Last week Monday when I called they only needed 4 items: my passport, the invitation letter, a passport photograph and the flight ticket. I asked her if she knew this at 10 am when I started to fill an out date legal form that showed the year 19…. on the signature section, she then blamed her colleague saying that she could have told me.
Anyway, I remained very calm asked what to do next and the time was around 2.58pm from my Iphone. I called my team in France and asked them to fax my hotel reservation, a fax usually take 2 minutes to arrived from France, this one took 40 minutes, therefore I was the last person to wait for her Visa in the waiting room. What was I waiting for:? – I was waiting for the fax to be received and for the 1st secretary to come back as he was away.
She later told me that the fax did not have any ink.
Whilst waiting for someone to take actions, the lady holding my passport was eating her big green apple and corn flakes. I was shocked, people where coming in an out with shopping Channel bags, Boss bags. After her apple she was pampering herself a mirror in hand.
In total, one Visa to Ivory Coast has cost me £95 and 5hours wait before she asked me to go in the 1st secretary office at the 3rd floor with all my papers.
When I knocked the door, the gentleman was there and signed the Visa straight away with out asking me any questions.
SO: How can Africa develop if every single consulate operates like this?
These individuals cost minimum 20K to their countries, that is 2millions CFA every month in Ivory Coast for one person. No to count the flats, their petrol, the cost of the embassy to the UK tax payers, in the Centre of London, Upper Belgrave Street etc… So they are millionaires and their people are starving in Africa. They take the piss while being here in the UK. More than 10 peoples in one consulate, they could have done a job of 4 and be effective. Who is paying this money? I personally believe that customer services in diplomatic institutions need to be reinvented, as they are the portals of their countries. They need to understand the needs of giving good customer services to the people that are coming for enquires in Embassies. They need to have competencies training in these embassies from the Ambassador to the Officers. The Africa we want to see starts in Embassies. People I spoke to today feel that the attitude of these people that represents us is disgraceful for Africa. We African cannot call for a change of our continent, if we don’t change our behaviours. Nobody will take us seriously if we do not take ourselves seriously. Charity begins at home and our embassies are our Homes.