Nigeria has announced a visa on arrival for all African countries, starting in January 2020. The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari announced this while participating at the Peace and Development summit in Aswan, Egypt. “We in Nigeria have already taken the strategic decision to bring down barriers that have hindered the free movement of our people within the continent by introducing the issuance of a visa at the point of entry into Nigeria to all persons holding passports of African countries with effect from January 2020,” the President said in a statement.
In the past, African countries except for members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) required a visa to visit Nigeria. This new policy seeks to close that gap and make Nigeria more accessible to its African brothers, for business and pleasure. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, this new visa policy might make it even bigger, making it a destination for African summits, conferences and development programs.
In 2017 during an inspection exercise at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. The Government had been making moves towards the visa-free policy, In August 2016, the President inaugurated the Ease of Doing Business Reform Program through the Presidential business environment council, in 2017 the country moved up 24 places on the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings in 2017, and earning a place on the list of 10 most improved economies.
On the 11th of December 2019, during the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) in Abuja. A risk analysis centre was launched by Frontex(Frontex is an agency of the European Union that is tasked with border control of the European Schengen Area). The body also donated tools for border control and security In preparation for the new policy.
“But we cannot succeed without a tool like AFIC. This tool is keen if we want to implement an effective free movement across our border. The tool is actually coming at the right time. AFIC would help African countries especially Nigeria that want to open its borders for all Africans to enter at will And now that tool is available, it would make the work easier for us,” the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede said. He also added that the president will be announcing the visa-free policy shortly.
Earlier this year 54 African countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCfTA), to facilitate business amongst themselves, the deal will also cut tariffs and tax that comes with moving goods. To augment the trade deal, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopian announced visa on arrival programs, Nigeria has joined the bandwagon. If more African countries do the same, Nigeria is looking at a potential boost in various sectors, particularly tourism and business.
However, this development will also come with the burden of improving security and transportation. Currently, there’s a war against the radical terrorist group Boko haram. In the wake of this development, it is imperative that the government takes appropriate measures to ensure the safety of not just Nigerians, but also foreign visitors.
The Nigerian government has embarked on various transportation projects, according to the presidency. For instance, in 2014, the federal government invested about N14 billion in transportation. Even more recently, in October this year, the minister of transportation Rotimi Amechi announced the purchase of 20 more coaches to serve the Abuja-Kaduna and the Lagos-Ibadan rail.
It is hoped that all of these projects will grease the difficulty of movement in the country, as both the trade deal and visa-free arrival require this to thrive. The Nigerian government is showing its readiness in the task ahead.