CAPAGO inauguration ceremony
Friday, 03 december 2010, CAPAGO had their inauguration ceremony and the Ambassador, Mr. Lapouge, gave the following speech :
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this inauguration ceremony.
I could have started with telling you wonder about outsourcing, which I am going to do in a few minutes. But I’d rather start by stressing a couple of things, equally important from my point of view.
For a foreigner visiting the Schengen countries in general, and France in particular, getting a visa is in most cases the first and often only occasion to have a contact with the bureaucracy of the countries he or she is heading to. This puts on visa issuing countries an obligation to look carefully at the twin issues of quality of service and image.
This is particularly true for us, since France is, in South Africa, the main port of call for South African travelling to the Schengen area. We are aware of the fact that applying for a visa is not a particularly exciting thing to do, that in an ideal world, “free movement of people” should be the rule. But since this is not yet the case, we permanently try to improve the quality of the service that you expect from France.
And this is why we have decided to outsource to CAPAGO the issuing of visas in the consular area of Johannesburg, which covers nine provinces : the Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North-West and Lesotho.
The other provinces, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape, depend on the French Consulate of Cape Town. It will, for the time being and considering the number of applications, keep its operations in-house with a consular staff committed to delivering a professional and smooth service to all visa applicants.
Visa demand for France has increased by about 40 % since 2004, with a peak of 48 700 visas in 2007 for the Rugby World Cup. I want to stress that at the same time, the refusal rate has remained at the very low level of less than 0, 5 % which is most probably the lowest in the world, and can be explained by the fact that South Africans are not considered in France as an immigration risk. At the moment, we issue around 25 000 visas a year in Johannesburg : an illustration of the vitality of the commercial and above all the tourism relation between South Africa and France.
In fact, from April to September 2010, 1.3 million South Africans have travelled overseas by plane, of which about a third to Europe. This is an increase of 10% compared to the same period last year. The recession has hit South Africa but the tourism industry is very resilient and the tour operators have all been very active and creative by putting together attractive packages. France is one of the favoured destinations in Europe for South Africans, they like our way of living, our gastronomy and our culture, skiing, shopping and museums. And we expect even more visas applications for 2011.
Let’s come now to outsourcing. And let me stress first that this is not a specifically french process, there are provisions about it in the EU visa code, which is in force since the 5th of April 2009, with the ultimate goal of reaching a common European visa policy. In fact, the United Kingdom and many other Schengen partners also use private services.
So, since 2008, the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has decided to progressively outsource, through tenders, the issuing of visas to carefully selected private companies. And after only two years, it appears that this new process is really appreciated by visas applicants who are welcomed in pleasant premises, get their appointment much faster and do not have to stay in line for hours.
Today 14 French Consulates throughout the world have experienced outsourcing. More significantly, whereas, in 2009, the French Consulates have received around two million visa applications - out of which 1 850 000 visas have been delivered - 46% of these visas have been processed through the outsourcing system.
But of course, outsourcing remains under a constant Consular authority, with a system of evaluation and check up. It is the Consulate of France that keeps the core competence to study the applicant’s files and decides to issue or refuse the visa, our private partner being “only” in charge of the contact with the public, of verifying the files, receiving the applicants and returning them the passport.
In conclusion, I want to say that we are glad, at the Embassy and at the Consulate that this responsibility has been entrusted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to CAPAGO, which is affiliated to the UPSALE group an innovative and award winning French company, with all the necessary credentials from the CNIL, the official French Data Protection Commission.
So, I will now cut the ribbon and declare officially open the CAPAGO offices in Johannesburg."
Photo : Capago