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African passports need a plan B to access major business hubs

Micha Emmett
By Micha Emmett

CEO of CS Global Partners, a legal government advisory and marketing firm based in London.

Posted on Wednesday, 2 December 2020 10:31

A Ghanian with her family's passports and US visa in Accra, Ghana February 1, 2019. Reuters/Francis Kokoroko

Dual citizenship by investment, which greatly expands travel options, is a key to African economic empowerment.

The reality is that African passports do not allow easy access to key business hubs such as Zurich, Singapore and Hong Kong. Africans need a Plan B. Businessmen and women willing to commit at least $100,000 can diversify their options allowing them to conduct business more easily in countries across the world.

The benefits of international travel have been for the moment partially obscured by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are nevertheless real.

An all-party UK parliamentary report in 2019 highlighted the horrendous hurdles faced by African business visitors. Home Office data on visa refusals shows that African applicants are over twice as likely to be refused a UK visa than applicants from any other part of the world. Refusals for applicants from Africa in 2018 were running at more than double the global average. Dual citizenship provides accessibility, keeping African businessmen and women competitive on a global scale.

For several African countries, visa applications can only be done in a neighbouring country. The written submission to the committee from the government of Mauritania highlighted the fact that all UK visa applications originating there, including those with diplomatic passports, require travel to an application centre in Rabat, Morocco. This can mean a round-journey of over 4,000 kilometres. The bureaucracy involved is Kafkaesque: to start an application for a UK visa, Mauritanian citizens first have to obtain a Moroccan visa.

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Even a large host company hosting a business visit to the UK is no guarantee of success. The UK currency provider De La Rue reported problems and delays caused by visa refusals, including a whole delegation from Somalia which the company had invited to the UK having their visa applications rejected.

Such rejections, which give no right of appeal, sometimes appeared to apply different standards to women and men. Some applicants perceived racial discrimination, the parliamentary report found.

Due Diligence

There is no need for African business leaders to be hamstrung in this way.

Objectively established, legal dual citizenship avoids such issues, and suspicions that special connections are the way to open doors. The Commonwealth of Dominica is an example of citizenship by investment programme. A businessman from Nigeria, for example, can become a global citizen.

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There is no language requirement and the strict due diligence process means that only legitimate candidates are accepted. An investment of $100,000 is treated as a contribution to the country’s Economic Diversification Fund, which helps pay for hospitals, roads and schools. The money was invaluable in the territory’s rebuilding process after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Paying $200,000 opens up possible real-estate hotel investment.

Family members can be added to the application with a small increment to the main amount and can pass this citizenship down through future generations.

The Caribbean has always been a popular destination for dual citizenship. Together with Dominica, the St. Kitts and Nevis programme is the oldest and most established, having run successfully since 1984. African business leaders should take a fresh look at such schemes.

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