The year 2020 will start on a high note for African travellers with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari announcing visas on arrival for all Africans coming to Nigeria.
Up to date, only holders of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) passport could come into Nigeria without the need for visas. Citizens of few other countries with which Nigeria had agreements with could come into the country and obtain a visa on arrival.
President Buhari made the announcement for visa on arrival for all Africans while attending the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa, taking place in Egypt. The finer details of the new policy are yet to be revealed. The announcement, though well received, raises questions about whether the president would follow through with immigration changing its policies.
President Buhari who ordered the closure of Nigeria’s borders with her neighbours, Benin Republic and Niger Republic has come under criticism for the border closure, which many view as retrogressive. The closure has also been criticised as a threat to the signed economic pact African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA). President Buhari’s order to close the Nigerian border in order to prevent smuggling of goods, and his announcement of visa arrival for all Africans on another hand is a contradiction that shows Nigeria’s policy inconsistencies.
The decision by Nigeria to offer visas on arrival for all Africans has been hailed across the continent considering it is often cumbersome for African nationals to obtain visas to visit other countries across the continent. Countries such as Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda are among the few which grant visa on arrival to all Africans.
Travelling within Africa still remains a huge challenge. Not just in regards to obtaining visas to other African countries but also in travel cost. Flying from the United Kingdom to Nigeria for example is cheaper than flying from Nigeria to Cameroon, a neighbouring country.
President Buhari spoke during the opening session of the ongoing Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa on Wednesday (Dec. 11) . He said, “As Africans it is important to focus on the issues of conflict prevention and resolution. Conflicts have devastating effects on our societies and they militate against our progress. In this regard, the need to silence the guns cannot be overemphasized.”