The Nigerian president, Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari announced on Twitter yesterday that Nigeria will issue visas on arrival for all African passport holders effective January 2020.
His tweet of the move this morning confirmed an earlier tweet on Wednesday by Somalia’s Foreign Affairs Minister.
Ambassador Ahmed Awad wrote: “I wish to profoundly commend President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria who just announced at the Aswan Forum complete visa exemption for all Africans.
“Starting January 2020 Africans will be able to arrive in Nigeria without visas. It’s such an exemplary decision. Thanks your Excellency.”
But it was not till Thursday morning that Buhari tweeted the decision. stressing that it was part of Nigeria’s commitment “to supporting the free movement of Africans within Africa.”
The regional bloc Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, of which Nigeria is part already guarantees free movement (visa-free entry) of citizens across the 16-member bloc.
Analysts say the current move means that visitors will not need to fill out paperwork before they arrive. They can make the journey and get visas upon arrival at any of Nigeria’s entry points.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous and has the continent’s biggest economy. It was one of the last countries to sign up to the African Union’s continental free trade area deal.
At the time, the president said it needed to consult with industry players before agreeing to the deal. From August this year, Nigeria unilaterally shut all its land borders creating a trade squeeze on its immediate neighbours.
Niger, Chad and Benin were the worse affected countries to the blockade which Buhari says will be in place till the reasons for imposing them are eliminated – primarily the incidence of smuggling in and out of the country.
Nigeria also boasts of Lagos, its commercial capital that is one of Africa’s biggest mega cities. Its bubbling tech and business landscape not forgetting its arts space has made it a key destination for investors and businesses.
It, however, continues to grapple with the issue of bad roads and other infrastructure plus a notorious traffic situation in many parts of the city.