The Nigerian Government recently announced a visa-on-arrival policy for Africans visiting the West African country. The purposes of the policy, according to the government, are to encourage cross-border movements and further open up the economy. Although the policy is laudable, there is still work to be done towards creating an enabling environment to attract potential visitors and investors. Nigeria must prioritize the building of trust within its business environment, especially by working on ensuring the safety of lives, properties, and other fundamental freedoms.
Unfortunately, though, present Nigeria is not close to this status. But things have to improve for the visa-on-arrival policy to yield the desired outcomes. The country’s abysmal record on the Global Peace Index—often ranking below 130th since 2010—is a testament to the amount of work that needs to go into creating a peaceful society that foreigners would pay to experience.
Nigeria is currently the 5th least peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody would want to spend a vacation in a country where police round up innocent civilians without regard for due process or get kidnapped for ransom with no one doing anything. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK, for instance, had warned its citizens against traveling to 21 of 36 states in Nigeria due to growing insecurity just a few months ago. This, of course, is a red flag to potential investors from the UK—one of Nigeria’s most important trading partners. Other countries would not hesitate to follow suit if the status quo remains the same.
Democracy and the rule of law are two of the many pillars that guarantee the survival of an economy. It is no coincidence that the justest societies are often the most economically prosperous. A Lead City University study showed that democracy strongly contributes to the flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nigeria. It revealed Nigeria recorded a poor contribution of FDI to GDP under military regimes. The study concluded that the impact of FDI on the economy and democracy tend to follow hand-in-hand. For instance, the contribution of FDI to the economy between 1999 and 2011—when the country went back to civilian rule, was one of the best it has recorded since independence.
Whereas, a just society must prove to potential foreign investors that their personal liberties and enterprise would be protected. Nigeria has a long way to go in this regard.
The 2018 Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Nigeria 108 out of 167 countries surveyed. The report categorized Nigeria’s democracy as ‘hybrid,’ i.e., that “corruption tends to be [widespread in the country] and the rule of law is weak.” This is no surprise considering the anti-dissident and anti-media actions of the current administration.
Visa-on-arrival is remarkable, but this policy would be almost useless in isolation. Other countries that have prospered after implementing the same policy have almost always worked on areas that might limit the policy’s potentials. The Nigerian government must learn from them.
Abdullah Tijani is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty and Local Coordinator at Students For Liberty. He is a law student at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria, and on Twitter @AbdullahAtijani.