The Changing Nature of Dual Citizenship in Africa

While the concept of a second citizenship is one that has become increasingly normalised over the last couple of decades, in many parts of the world, the idea is still considered controversial.

Africa, the world’s second-largest continent, is still coming to terms with the rise of dual nationality. Following years of colonisation, much of the region agreed to implement a ban on holding second citizenship as they began to claim sovereignty.

Today, dual citizenship is still prohibited in parts of Africa. Many have linked multiple nationalities with dangerous foreign ideas and a lack of loyalty, thus banning the concept altogether while others permit it only under strict guidelines. Others allow dual citizenship but prohibit those who have it from running in local politics. For example, in Egypt, one can only hold second citizenship once having received permission from the government. Furthermore, dual citizens are excluded from the police and cannot become a part of the Egyptian Parliament.

However, as globalisation continues, we become more connected, and our identities begin to shift. In light of this, several African countries have started to see the benefits of allowing dual citizenship, particularly from an economic perspective.

The African diaspora is recognised as one of the world’s largest, with many having emigrated to nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Money sent back from these countries is an integral part of many nations’ economic makeup.

Remittances can make up a large part of revenue for a nation and even surpass foreign aid received. Engaging the diaspora is vital in encouraging economic growth and development on the continent, and amending citizenship laws to make it easier for dual citizens ensures African nations can access the talent and wealth accumulated overseas. For example, Ethiopia passed a law in 2018 to allow its diaspora to invest in the country, buy shares, and set up businesses.

Interestingly, several African nations have also appealed to another demographic of diaspora known as the “involuntary diaspora,” which speaks to African descendants taken during the transatlantic slave trade. Ghana is one of the first nations to provide those who qualify a “right to return” status, allowing them to return to live and invest in the country.

Undeniably, the continent is slowly warming up to integration with other cultures and places. The much-anticipated African Union passport, a passport that will enable Africans to move visa-free across the continent, has been on the cards for several years and was initially intended to be rolled out in 2020. However, it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once implemented, the passport will further inter-continental travel and encourage economic growth.

Routes to Second Citizenship

There are various routes one can take when acquiring second citizenship. Naturalisation, marriage, descent, and birthright are the most common instances where the granting of citizenship takes place. However, there is another route that is becoming popular amongst Africa’s wealthy.

Citizenship by investment refers to the process in which a reputable applicant invests in a nation in exchange for citizenship (and the benefits and duties that come with it). This usually includes increased travel freedom to key business hubs, the right to live, work and study in the country, and the option to pass citizenship down for generations to come.

As much of the continent tackles the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic along with political instability, many wealthy Africans are taking the opportunity to seek out alternative routes to physical and financial security. Owning a second passport can open the door to a successful business, a higher quality of life, and access to global markets. This doesn’t necessarily mean that high net-worth Africans want to reside elsewhere as much of the time they choose to stay in their home countries. Nevertheless, having that additional status guarantees a ‘Plan B’ for when one is needed.

St Kitts and Nevis

The dual-island nation of St Kitts and Nevis was the first to pioneer a citizenship by investment programme. Introduced in 1984, one year after the country gained its independence from the United Kingdom, the St Kitts and Nevis Programme is considered the industry’s ‘Platinum Standard’ for its longevity and experience, inspiring countries across the globe to implement their own version of an economic citizenship programme.

St Kitts and Nevis has also been working hard to bridge the gap between Africa and the Caribbean due to its shared history by signing visa-free agreements and establishing diplomatic relations across the continent.

Learn More: St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment