Nigeria is set to join a growing list of African countries granting visa-free travel to citizens of sister African countries. Nigeria Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama made the announcement in the nation’s capital, Abuja, earlier this week.
Onyeama said Nigeria’s decision to allow visa-free travel access to visiting African nationals was in line with the African Union’s (AU) launch of a common passport in July that is meant to grant all holders visa-free travel across the continent.
The AU passport, though, is not expected to go into full effect until 2020. Nigeria’s decision to grant other Africans visa-free travel, according to Onyeama, is meant to speed up the process of integration with the rest of the continent.
At the moment, Nigeria and 15 other ECOWAS member countries issue a common ECOWAS passport and citizens enjoy visa-free travel across all 16 member states, a move which has benefited the ECOWAS sub-region by increasing travel for business and leisure.
Onyeama said he believes that extending the visa-free policy to the rest of Africa will enlarge the volume of economic activity between Nigerians and the rest of the continent as only a meager 10 percent of the volume of Nigeria’s international trading is carried out between fellow African countries.
“We are firmly in support of the African single passport and the proposed Free Trade Area in the continent from next year, which will enable Nigerian manufacturers and entrepreneurs to have a larger market for their produce. Nigeria wants to extend the free movement of people across the continent beyond the ECOWAS as unrestricted movement of people will promote trade,” he said.
In July, Ghana commenced a visa on arrival plan for nationals of all African Union member countries. An official statement described the visa policy as a “pilot scheme” limited to only the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana for its first three months. The scheme is then expected to be extended to all other entry points (land, sea, and air) in Ghana.