35 visas needed: Africa's richest man cannot travel freely across the continent (4 photos)

24 May 2024

Aliko Dangote, who is "worth" more than $17 billion, says he faces excessive bureaucracy when crossing African borders. And he doesn’t have time to go to embassies.

Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest man, has complained that it is difficult for him to travel within his own continent. The funny thing is that it’s much easier for Europeans or Americans to do this, a week for a native of Nigeria, who even managed to become fabulously rich.

Even though Nigerian-born Aliko Dangote does business in many countries, he complains that he faces many more obstacles crossing Africa than visitors with European passports ever faced.

“As an investor, as someone who wants to make Africa great, I have to apply for 35 different visas in my passport,” Dangote, 67, said at a recent Africa CEO Forum in Kigali.

“I really don’t have time to go to embassies with a passport to get a visa,” he complained to laughter from the audience.

Many Africans are annoyed by the fact that European passports from former colonialists have more visa-free access to Africa than many African passports. Dangote made this point forcefully in Kigali when he turned to the French executive next to him and declared: “I can assure you that Patrick (Pouyanné, CEO of Total Energies) does not need 35 visas in a French passport, which means that you freer movement than I had in Africa."

However, he praised Rwanda, which abolished visas for all African citizens in 2023. Benin, Gambia and Seychelles also offer visa-free access for all Africans.

But many African countries still require visas from other Africans, an experience fraught with discrimination, hostility and exorbitant fees.

Nigerian travel director Tayo Aina said that he even had to take tests to get to Ethiopia. He was also detained at airports in Kenya and South Africa because of his Nigerian passport. He ended up buying himself a passport from the Caribbean country of St. Kitts and Nevis for $150,000 so he could travel more freely.

"Sometimes you go to a country and there is no longer a visa on arrival. There are cases where people are deported when they land because they changed the policy while the person was in the sky," says 31-year-old Tayo.

The African Union has said one of its goals is to remove "restrictions on Africans' ability to travel, work and live on their continent by changing restrictive laws and promoting visa-free travel," but progress on that plan has been slow.

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