It’s about to become much easier for Africans to travel to the continent’s most populous country.
In a major change to its current visa policy, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari announced the country will begin issuing visas on arrival for all African nationals. Buhari announced the plan while attending a peace and development summit in Egypt.
If it comes into effect it would be a major boon for the continent-wide push ensure freer movement of Africans. But, as there are no concrete details beyond Buhari’s statement in Egypt, exact details of the new policy remain unclear. Quartz Africa had not received a response to email enquiries sent to the presidency’s communications team as of press time.
The seeming abruptness and lack of a detailed, official announcement from the government suggests the policy might remain a work in progress but a tweet from the Somali foreign affairs minister suggests it is slated to kick-start in Jan. 2020.
The change in visa policy by Nigeria comes on back of the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a treaty seeking to establish a continent-wide marketplace with increased trade and freer movement among its major pillars. When the new policy is implemented, Nigeria will also join Kenya as well as Ethiopia as countries which have recently established visa on arrival policies for all African nationals.
With the African Union strongly pushing for more integration on the continent, it will likely be banking on the effect of reciprocity to see even more African countries adopt visa-free or visa on arrival policies for African passport holders. Should that happen, current realities which see Americans and Europeans travel more easily across the continent than Africans may yet be reversed.
While easing visa rules is one thing, smoother air travel for travelers across the continent is quite another. Yet, the African Union has also recorded strong progress in this regard with the launch of the Single Air Transport Market initiative to ensure cheaper and more regular direct flights between African countries.
For its part however, Nigeria’s relaxed visa rules come with a tinge of irony at this time as while Africa’s largest economy is looking to open its skies to all Africans, its land borders remain controversially remain closed—a move the government claims is targeted at stopping the influx of smuggled goods.
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