One of the key mechanisms of exclusion of those who are non-citizens is through restrictions on their access to the territory of the state. Although under international law states have very broad discretion to regulate access to their territory, discriminatory or protectionist measures can cause great hardship for individuals. While restrictions on travel to Europe and North America have received considerable attention, the impediments to travel within Africa are often overlooked.
At times, impediments to obtaining visas are rooted in the low level of capacity of African governments. Many African governments do not maintain a consular presence in many other African countries, making it difficult to obtain a visa. In other cases, discriminatory or onerous visa requirements fly in the face of professed regional solidarity. They also stand as an impediment to continental integration. This page seeks to provide information about the ways in which African governments have constructed such impediments.
South African Visas for Nigerians & Zimbabweans
One example of a problematic and discriminatory visa requirement within Africa is practiced by the South African government with respect to Nigerians. According to Bunmi Adedina from the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Nigerians are asked to deposit, about 110,000 Naira with the South African High Commission in order to obtain a visa.
The idea is that this deposit increases the incentive to return and will be refunded when the trip is over. However, it adds costs and stress to travel plans. Also, it can sometimes be a considerable hassle to obtain the refund, which can be delayed for months.
South Africa has until recently also required Zimbabweans, in Zimbabwe and other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to apply for a visa in order to enter. This process was a serious impediment to allowing Zimbabweans to participate in the integrating economy of Southern Africa. South Africa demanded that Zimbabwean travelers produce traveler’s checks of $300 when applying, placing an undue burden on poor Zimbabweans who wanted to cross the border to buy food or for petty trade.
Fortunately, on 3 April, 2009, the South African government dropped the visa requirement for Zimbabwean passport holders in order to help protect people fleeing the crisis in Zimbabwe. The visa exemption, which leaves Angola, DRC, and Tanzania as the only SADC countries whose nationals still need visas to travel to South Africa, grants Zimbabweans entry for 90 days. The government will also issue temporary work permits lasting six months to Zimbabweans. This will legalize the stay of well over a million Zimbabweans, giving them work rights and access to basic health care and education. These “special dispensation permits” will be issued to anyone who can prove their Zimbabwean nationality and may be extended beyond six months if conditions in Zimbabwe do not improve.
More information can be found here:
Kenya: Citizenship Laws under Review, Laban Wanambisi, Capital News, 11 January 2011.
The Nubian Predicament: A Story about Colonial Legacy, Discrimination, and Statelessness, Sebastian Köhn, 10 September 2010.
Kenya: Birth Registration Plan Best for Kenya, Adam Hussein Adam, The Star, 17 November 2009.
South Africa: Permits Will Make Zimbabweans Safer, Human Rights Watch, 3 April 2009.
South Africa: Zimbabweans Get Visa-Free Entry, Johwa, Wilson. allAfrica.com, 3 April 2009.
Zimbabwean Exiles to Receive Six Month SA Permits, Bell, Alex. SW Radio Africa, 3 April 2009.
Nigerians Wooed into South Africa, 5 February 2009.
Nigeria: Visa Applicants See Hell At South African Embassy in Lagos,
allAfrica.com, 15 May 2008.
South Africa Apologises as ex Nigerian first lady Falls Victim to Violent Xenophobia,
Afrik.com, 24 May 2008.
SA’s Visa Requirements Discriminate Against Zimbabweans! - A blog posted by Luke Zunga, Treasurer of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum.