Africa’s Richest Man Needs 35 Visas to Travel Across the Continent

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 23, 2024 18:30 PMNews
The African continent on the globe
The African continent on the globe. Source: James Wiseman, Unsplash

Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, faces significant travel hurdles within his own continent. Despite his extensive business activities across Africa, the Nigerian billionaire finds it more challenging to travel within Africa than visitors with European passports.

Speaking at the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, Dangote revealed, "As an investor wanting to make Africa great, I have to apply for 35 different visas." This comment highlighted the frustrations many Africans face when traveling within the continent.

Dangote’s comments underscored the irony that European passports often have more visa-free access within Africa than many African passports. He noted, "I can assure you that Patrick Pouyanné (CEO of Total Energies) doesn’t need 35 visas on a French passport."

Rwanda has made strides by eliminating visas for all African nationals in 2023, joining Benin, The Gambia, and Seychelles in offering visa-free access to all Africans. However, many African countries still impose visa requirements on fellow Africans, leading to discrimination, hostility, and high fees.

Nigerian travel filmmaker Tayo Aina shared a harrowing experience of being forced to provide a stool sample to Ethiopian immigration officers in 2021. "It was my most humiliating experience traveling within Africa," he recounted. He has also faced detention in Kenya and South Africa due to his Nigerian passport. To facilitate easier travel, Aina purchased a St Kitts and Nevis passport for $150,000.

The tree on sunrise in Africa
The tree on sunrise in Africa. Source: Unsplash

The African Union aims to remove travel restrictions within the continent, promoting visa-free travel, but implementation has been slow. Free movement is crucial for the African Continental Free Trade Area, but progress has been limited. Alan Hirsch, a migration researcher, explains that fear of permanent migration is a significant barrier, with wealthier African nations fearing an influx from poorer countries.

While regional travel within blocks like the East African Community is relatively easier, traveling across regions remains challenging. For instance, a Nigerian visa on arrival for Kenyans used to cost $25 but now requires a $215 e-visa applied for in advance.

Kenyan President William Ruto’s promise to eliminate visas was replaced with an Electronic Travel Authorization, costing $30 and requiring a similar application process to a visa. Many applications are rejected for incomplete documentation or unclear reasons, further complicating travel.

As a result, many Africans seek alternative passports, like Aina’s St Kitts passport, to enjoy greater mobility within Africa.

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