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Passport to Prosperity: Dangote touts visa-on-arrival regime to boost AfCFTA

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NIGERIAN business magnate Aliko Dangote is touting seamless mobility for Africans as a panacea for the sluggish adoption of the fledging African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Dangote made the proposal during a panel discussion at the ongoing 30th Afreximbank Annual Meetings in Accra, Ghana.

“I think what, maybe, African countries need to do is that, why don’t you give Africans visas on arrival that will facilitate trade?” Dangote suggested, throwing light on the current cumbersome visa processes that often hinder intra-African business endeavours.

His sentiments come as African states, especially the smallest ones, are liberalising travel requirements, indicating a positive trend towards more open travel policies on the continent.

Sharing a real-life scenario, Dangote recalled an instance where he faced more red tape than a British companion while trying to enter an African country.

“We go with a British guy or maybe a Nigerian holding a British passport (and) he is allowed in… We were arguing, debating about my visa and I am the one with the money. If you are making life difficult for me, there is no way I will go and invest,” he candidly shared.

This anecdote powerfully highlights the paradox many African businesspeople face – encountering bureaucratic barriers within the continent, despite being poised to invest and spur economic growth.

To Dangote, a visa-on-arrival regime is not the finish line; it’s the starting gun as an initial step towards a broad, inclusive, and collaborative African economy.

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The Nigerian business mogul, known for his successful conglomerate, the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities in Nigeria and other African countries worth tens of billions of dollars, argued that the continent’s economic emancipation hinges on the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The West will not come to develop our economy so we have to do it…We must make sure that AfCFTA works,” Dangote added.

According to the latest edition of the African Visa Openness Index (AVOI), the continent is slowly moving toward greater integration as more states make progress in their freedom of travel policies. Moreover, some African passports have recently improved their rankings on the Henley Passport Index, with Seychelles, Mauritius and South Africa having the strongest passports.

A revived push for a single African air transport market, with an initial pilot involving seventeen African states to facilitate air mobility on the continent, is also poised to improve business mobility on the continent.

In a boost for African economies, African Visa Openness Index figures show travel within the continent has become more open in 2022.

By SETH ONYANGO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

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