Nigeria has announced a new visa policy that its government says is intended to attract innovation and investment in areas in which the country is lacking.
President Muhammadu Buhari first announced the new visa plans in December at the Aswan Forum in Egypt.
President Buhari called the new policy a “strategic decision to bring down barriers that have hindered the free movement of our people within the continent”.
Under the new laws, a visa will be granted on arrival for short-stay visitors from African Union (AU) states.
The government will also put in place a biometric database to identify visa applicants as well as help with identifying criminals wanted by Interpol.
In all, there are close to 80 new measures that the government says will make sure Nigerian “visas are more efficiently matched to the purpose of travel, thus helping improve the efficiency of processing and response.”
President Buhari, in announcing the policy, said he hoped the international community and business entities will understand Nigeria is “open for business.”
The new policy may be seen in the same vein as the January 31 reversal of last year’s protectionist policy that Nigeria’s government said was meant to protect local businesses.
In August 2019, Nigeria slapped a ban on the movement of all goods from countries with which it shares a land border: Benin, Niger and Cameroon, effectively banning all trade – import and export – with its neighbors.
The motivation for the move, Nigerian officials said, was to curb the smuggling of goods such as rice, tomatoes and poultry so as to bolster Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
The move was condemned by some members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU as well as political and economic think tanks, some of whom described the ban as antithetical to Pan-Africanism.