Nigeria Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, says the country has concluded plans to sign visa-free pacts with eight African countries to promote economic partnership on the continent.
Onyeama made the remarks at a news conference in Abuja as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration marks a year in office.
“Africa is the center-piece of our foreign policy but it is a paradox that as a Nigerian, you cannot go to an African country without a visa, unlike what is obtainable in Western Europe,” he said.
Though the names of the countries involved are not yet public, he noted that trade among African countries had been very low. The pact, he said, is expected to cause an upsurge in economic activities.
“To address this as a leader in the continent, the country is at a point of introducing an initiative to promote African trade as part of the country’s foreign policy of Africa as the centrepiece.”
Onyeama said Nigeria was trying to come up with an initiative where one could enter any sister country without a visa.
“We want to start with about eight countries or see if they come up as a group of eight countries. At the presidential level, they agreed to that, and signed up to free movement.
“If we can achieve that within a year, then other countries may want to join and we believe this is a better way to go than institutional ECOWAS etc, as countries take so long to ratify agreements.
“We believe we can just start off, eight countries and they agree among themselves, then others will come in.”
Buhari made a maiden visit to Kenya in January 2016 in which the two leaders pledged to strengthen trade ties with East Africa’s economic giant. The two signed various Trade Memorandums of understanding.
Credit: News Week