Africa’s Border Liberalization Pre COVID-19

While prevailing developments in global migration are dominated by restrictive measures employed by countries aiming to stem the contagion of the coronavirus, the period leading up to the outbreak saw African states continuing to liberalize their borders. This, in line with the African Union’s (AU’s) Vision 2063 agenda, which is premised on creating a socially and economically interconnected continent. Leading the charge in achieving the AU’s key objective is Rwanda. Already implementing one of the most open visa policies on the continent, the government of Paul Kagame announced on 7 March that it will be scrapping visa fees for all African citizens, in addition to those of member states of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie.

Although not as broad-based, Nigeria has also made progress in rendering the country more accessible to foreign visitors by easing its visa procedures. In February 2020, the country announced the launch of the Nigeria Visa Policy 2020, which – among other things – has expanded visa classes, introduced an electronic visa, and extended existing visa waiver arrangements. However, while Nigeria has sought to render itself more accessible to recreational and business travel, the country is one of several African states subjected to a visa ban by the US government. Nigeria – along with Eritrea, Sudan, and Tanzania – was accused by the administration of President Donald Trump of not adequately sharing public safety-related information with US authorities, which may place the US homeland at risk. Details pertaining to the duration of the travel ban were not disclosed; however, Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama noted that he had a productive meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his February visit to Washington for the 2020 US-Nigeria Binational Commission summit.

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