Nigeria eyes increased trade and tourism with new visa policy

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria has eased its visa rules in an effort to boost trade and tourism as an African trade agreement promoting freer movement of goods and services comes into effect, interior minister Rauf Aregbesola said on Tuesday.

“The objective of the reforms … is to strengthen Nigeria’s position as a key economy in Africa by attracting more foreign direct investment … and lifting Nigeria’s teeming population out of poverty,” Aregbesola said.

The new visa policy is expected to boost tourism, aviation, entertainment, commerce and other areas where Nigeria has comparative advantage over other African countries, Aregbesola said, adding that African nationals will be able to get a visa on arrival in Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari said the new policy would improve the business environment, attract foreign investment and boost tourism without compromising national security.

Nigeria has grappled with low growth since recovering from a recession four years ago. Buhari has pledged to revive the economy, but investors have been waiting for policy signals that could lift growth.[nL8N29T42S]

In July, Buhari signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which aims to unite 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc that could usher in a new era of development. [nL8N2480L5][nL8N24422K]

Nigeria, like most African countries, has a limited manufacturing base and relies on imports mostly from China to meet the bulk of its needs. Intra-African trade is low, hampered by weak infrastructure and visa restrictions.

Some fear the new trade deal could turn Africa into a dumping ground for countries on the continent with better manufacturing capacity.

Last week the United States issued a travel ban targeting prospective immigrants from Nigeria and five other countries, a move that could affect thousands of people and harm business sentiment. [nL1N2A020Z]

Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Giles Elgood

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