How to kill a day with bureaucracy – between Sth Africa and Nigeria

One of the ‘fun’ aspects of being in a different country is having the experience of dealing with bureaucratic systems and processes as a part of the day to day doings. One such day occurred this week, and certainly came with all the usual and not so usual events to make what you would think would be a simple task, into a time consuming and comedic one….

Two things happened…I had to go to collect an outcome on a visa extension…of which I won’t talk about the outcome, as this is too traumatic still, and I had to attend an agency to complete biometric scanning for a Nigerian BVN (Bank Verification Number) as a part of our companies expansion there next year.

Firstly, the visa…a simple process, go to the Visa Centre, ironically located at 2 Long Street, Cape Town (or too long)…a massive line up to register at reception to gain access to the lifts, go upstairs to only wait again for entry, then to be told that I needed a receipt, which was held with an agency in another part of town, so I had to leave. A brief walk to the agency to collect, then they nicely offered to take my passport to collect, which I was about to hand over, but then realised I needed this to take for the BVN…so the walk proved to only be good for the exercise…

To the agency for the BVN….we arrived at 1pm as instructed, to be told they were at lunch until 1.30, we retuned at 1.30….after explaining why a Non Nigerian wanted a BVN, we got through security and where seated, as the only ones in the building…awesome…should be super fast…nope… sit and wait, wait and sit, watch people ‘busy’ doing not much, ask when we get served...”Soon, they are coming” was always the reply….so wait some more…

Finally it was my turn…great…

“Have you got the forms?” I was asked

“Yep, here they are”

“How are you paying?

“Ummm, didn’t know I had to” and my wallet was in the office…luckily my colleague had a card…

“Where’s your passport photos?”

“What passport photos?” was my reply…again no idea these were needed, so this meant out of the building, led astray around the city to find somewhere to get these…which took about an hour…back to the agency, back to reception to explain, back through security….“Take a seat, someone will come soon”...tick, tock…

Finally I was greeted by another friendly staff member….“Have you got your forms? Have you got your passport photos? How are you paying?  Nailed all these questions...”Oh..ok, someone will be with you soon…”

As we watched others get processed, surely we must be next….then the screech of an is normal practice no one flinched…but then all action stations erupted as we got evacuated down the fire escape…5 floors down…the stairwells where packed with the buildings occupants descending to be met at the bottom by the fire exit being locked…Great…hope there isn’t a real fire or we are screwed! Eventually some brute force opened to door…naturally it was blocked by a pile of bricks on the outside… Onto the street we went, to then be told it was a drill, so we can go back in…Back to reception, up the lifts, through security, and told to wait for someone who is coming soon.

More waiting, more asking, more waiting and pacing….finally I got in…

“Where’s your form?” I was asked….

“Someone else has it…” I replied…


“I don’t know, we gave it several hours ago….”

More waiting, but hey, I was in ‘the room’…

It was found and the processing started…scan my fingers one by one but my RH little finger decided to be stubborn and wouldn’t scan. We scanned, lifted, res-scanned, re-lifted (many times), machine was re-set, still no go. I told them it was my finger and not stolen, but they didn’t laugh (I did). Sanitiser was issued to clean my hands…machine was cleaned, hands cleaned again and finally it played nice and went green.

I was done….My BVN would be issued the next day…

“You can go now”

Half a day of activity for a set of fingerprints and no visa….#killingit



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