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AfCFTA Viability Questioned As Dangote Reveals He Needs 35 Visas to Travel Across Africa

AfCFTA Viability Questioned As Dangote Reveals He Needs 35 Visas to Travel Across Africa

At the Africa CEO Forum Annual Summit, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, laid bare the significant travel challenges he faces with his Nigerian passport, revealing that he needs up to 35 visas to travel across the continent.

His revelation, which does not come as a surprise to many, underscores the formidable barriers to achieving the ambitious goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Speaking directly to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Dangote vented his frustrations about the cumbersome visa processes required for travel across the continent. 

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“I still complained to President Kagame. I told him that as an investor, I have to now apply for 35 different visas on my passport, and I told Mr. President, I really don’t have the time to go and be dropping my passports in embassies to get a visa,” Dangote said.

He highlighted the stark contrast between the ease of movement for Europeans and the restrictive conditions for Africans. Using Patrick Pouyanne, chairman of Total Energies, as an example, Dangote noted, “You don’t need 35 visas on your French passport. This means you have a freer movement than myself in Africa.” 

Dangote emphasized the urgent need to make regional markets functional as a foundation for the AfCFTA’s success. 

“Our main job is to make sure the regional markets all work. Once they work, then we can now go to Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). But then, for AfCFTA also, we need to make sure that it works,” he explained.

Launched five years ago, the AfCFTA aims to create a single continental market, covering a population of 1.4 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately US$ 3.4 trillion. The agreement is a landmark initiative designed to foster economic integration, reduce trade barriers, and increase intra-African trade, which currently stands at less than 16 percent.

However, as Dangote’s experiences reveal, significant hurdles remain. The restrictive visa regimes across African nations are at odds with the AfCFTA’s goals of free movement of people and goods. 

“We cannot have a very promising continent and our intra-trade rate is less than 16 percent. Okay, so we Africans will have to do it. If we are waiting for foreigners to come and do it, both the development of Africa, it’s not going to happen,” Dangote said, stressing the need for African leaders to take the initiative in driving economic integration and development.

Trading under the AfCFTA commenced on January 1, 2021, after a six-month delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The agreement’s implementation is crucial for unlocking Africa’s economic potential, but visa restrictions remain a major impediment. These bureaucratic barriers hinder the free movement that is essential for increased trade and economic cooperation across the continent.

Economists and business leaders note that for the AfCFTA to achieve its full potential, African nations must work collectively to remove these barriers and facilitate easier movement across borders. This, in turn, will pave the way for greater intra-continental trade and economic growth, fulfilling the promise of a truly integrated African market.

“So it can only happen to us Africans. We must risk our sources and make sure that we lead, then we will have people who actually trust and believe in Africa like Patrick to come and help us to push to the next level,” Dangote stated, calling for a unified effort to drive the continent’s economic integration and development forward. 

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