Artificial borders are what colonialism brought to Africa and one of the long-lasting effects of this menace is that traveling within African borders is not as easy as one may expect it to be.
Traveling to other African countries means one still has to contend with the lengthy visa processes. Free movement is the ultimate triumph that Africa can register for herself.
This month Nigeria made the promise that starting January 2020 the country will give visa on arrival to all Africans coming to Nigeria. It underpins the Muhamadu Buhari's commitment to achieving freedom of movement as regards the African border and it is a huge departure from the requirement that travelers apply for a visa in advance. Ease of movement to Nigeria will be facilitated for African passport holders.
Freedom of movement brings with it some significant benefits to Nigeria. It is a concept that many other African countries should warm up to and embrace.
When Buhari made the landmark announcement that has received warm reception across the continent, he was beaming with optimism. He said: "We in Nigeria have already taken the strategic decision to bring down barriers that have hindered the free movement of our people within the continent by introducing the issuance of visa at the point of entry into Nigeria to all persons holding passports of African countries with effect from January 2020. We should furthermore promote free trade within and amongst Africa and Africans especially now that we have launched the African Free Trade Area Agreement."
The fundamental principle of free trade is an important aspect of economic development for the whole of the continent. Free trade is achieved by aiding the free circulation of people to other countries. Free borders are what Africa needs, and to develop the idea to disregard the fictional borders created by European colonizers for their greedy, murderous and selfish colonial projects.
In Africa, five countries stand out when it comes to ease of movement through relaxed visa restrictions: Seychelles, Benin, Senegal, Rwanda and Ghana. They have the best "visa openness" policies. The worst are Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan.
African countries should strive towards ensuring that all Africans move easily within the continent visa-free. This opens more opportunities and when one looks at the case of Nigeria, an African superpower, it becomes imperative to relax visa restrictions.
Another factor to be considered as regards easing movement for Africans within Africa is resolving the almost incessant border conflicts among countries. Nigeria has been attacked for blocking land borders with its neighbours since August. Buhari is reluctant to lift the blockade, arguing that it was aimed at ending the smuggling of goods into Nigeria and to make the nation self-sufficient, especially in the production of food. Another border conflict is that between Rwanda and Uganda, stemming from the issue that Paul Kagame accused Yoweri Museveni of trying to destabilize his government.
After all, is said and done, what Africa needs are free borders for the ease of movement so as to create opportunities that improve the economic fortunes of the continent on the overall.
Header image credit - Quartz