Nigerians home and Abroad reacted widely with the recent news of United States President Donald John Trump reviewing a Homeland Security Department recommendation that at least some of the visa restrictions be expanded to include Tanzania, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria and Sudan, Bloomberg News reported.
In Nigeria media scene, Newspapers, Bloggers and prospective travelers were littered with the news Nigeria included in President Trump’s latest Ban, some even went ahead with the headline, Trump Bars Nigeria from entering United States of America. Some prominent online newspaper headlined, Tough times await B1/B2 Visa applicants as Nigeria moves to extend travel ban to Africa’s Largest economy Nigeria.
While somewhere in Ohio, the chair of Ohio’s New African Immigrants Commission says “it just doesn’t make a lot of sense” that President Trump could include Nigeria, the native country of a growing number of Columbus residents, in a planned expansion of his travel ban policy.
“Why? What’s the rationale for this?” asks Rosaire Ifedi, a Nigerian immigrant and an associate professor of education at Ashland University.
“Nigeria has been a friend with the United States, Nigeria is a partner with the United States in fighting terrorism and everything you can think of,” Ifedi says. “Nigerians who are in the United States are extremely useful and contributing members of society.”
Ifedi says she’s heard complaints from residents who see Nigeria being added to the list as a continued focus on African countries.
Among all African immigrants, the commission found “these immigrants are more likely to have undergraduate and graduate degrees than the general U.S. population. Among the most educated African immigrants in Ohio are Nigerians and Kenyans and many of them are well represented in the state’s education, medical, and other professional fields.”
Ifedi calls Columbus’ Nigerian community “very vibrant.”
Why Nigeria may be included.
According to a report on reuters, Nigeria with other countries like Kyrgyzstan and Sudan — have majority Muslim populations, which breeds terrorism insurgency in the Northern part of the country and subsequent governments has failed to quench this deadly Islamist insurgency.
According to a 2019 report from The World Factbook by CIA, about 51% of Nigeria’s population is Muslim, about 47% are Christians, about 0.9% adhere to local religions and 0.5% are unspecified.
Northern part of Nigeria breeds terrorism and recent killing of Christian leader in northern part of the country has proven that. Late last year, An affiliate of the Islamic State says it executed 11 Christians in Nigeria in retaliation for the killings of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his spokesman.
Ten years after billions of dollars has been spent by various democratic governments, including foreign donors from United States and other partners, Nigeria still unable to defeat Boko Haram Insurgency.
Statistics says that of 2.3 million Nigerians displaced by the conflict since May 2013, at least 250,000 residents have flee into Cameroon, Chad or Niger. while Boko Haram militants killed over 6,600 in 2014.
Also Nigerian insurgency became famous when on the night of 14–15 April 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. Responsibility for the kidnappings was claimed by Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria
Why Africa, why Nigeria?
The Department of State would not comment on a TechCrunch request to confirm an extension of the travel ban to Nigeria or other African countries.
According to TechCrunch in an open inquiry on the matter to the National Security Council’s senior director for African affairs, Elizabeth Erin Walsh.
The Trump administration issued its first travel ban in 2017, which was challenged, amended and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its current form, as Executive Order 13780, the ban places restrictions on entry for citizens of Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen — predominantly Muslim countries — naming “significant terrorist presence within their territory” and “deficient” immigration screening processes.
With no comment from the Trump administration, we don’t know the motivations — stated or veiled — for the possible addition of Nigeria and other African countries to the ban.
To previously named reasons countries were listed, there are issues with Nigerian visa overstays in the U.S. and Nigeria does have a terrorist problem in its northeast, with Boko Haram, though no incident related to the extremist group has ever hit U.S. soil.
Reading the tea leaves may reveal other motives for placing travel restrictions on Nigeria and additional African countries. In an article in The Atlantic Monday, writer Peter Beinart suggested African immigrants may be next in the Trump administration’s pattern of restricting U.S. entry from predominantly brown-skin countries.
“For several years now, Trump has trained his nativist ire on Muslims and Latinos. The travel ban suggests he’s adding a new target, just in time for the 2020 elections: Africans,” said Beinart.
He cited recent negative reference to Nigerians and Africans in conservative circles by pundits Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson and Trump’s now infamous reference to Nigeria as a “shithole” country, as reported in January 2018.
US Best Friend in Africa
Nigeria is the U.S.’s second largest African trading partner and the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, according to USTR and State Department briefs.
Increasingly, the nature of the business relationship between the two countries is shifting to tech.
That’s in tandem with Nigeria steadily becoming Africa’s unofficial capital for VC, startups, rising founders and the entry of Silicon Valley companies.
By 2018 numbers, depending on the study, the country ranked first or second for tech investment on the continent. And into 2019, more of that is coming from American sources.
Adding Nigeria to the U.S. travel ban would be a mistake for tech development of both countries, believes Bosun Tijani, CEO of Lagos-based CcHub, now Africa’s largest innovation incubator.
“Nigeria’s a strategic country for well-established companies, such as Google and Facebook. Twitter’s founder visited just a few months ago,” Tijani said, referring to Twitter/Square CEO Jack Dorsey.
Goldman Sachs is a major backer of Jumia, the Nigeria-headquartered e-commerce venture that became the first VC-funded tech company in Africa to IPO on a major exchange, the NYSE in 2019.
Goldman also led a $20 million round last year for Nigerian trucking logistics company Kobo360 .
The U.S. bank’s investment in tech companies operating in Nigeria runs parallel to those by Visa, Mastercard and SalesForce Ventures.
Nigerian tech is also home to a growing number of founders with ties to the U.S. and startups with operations in both countries. Nigerian fintech company Flutterwave, whose clients range from Uber to Cardi B, is headquartered in San Francisco, with operations in Lagos. The company maintains a developer team across both countries for its B2B payments platform that helps American companies operating in Africa get paid.
MallforAfrica — a Nigerian e-commerce company that enables partners such as Macy’s, Best Buy and Auto Parts Warehouse to sell in Africa — is led by Chris Folayan, a Nigerian who studied and worked in the U.S. The company now employs Nigerians in Lagos and Americans at its Portland processing plant.
Africa’s leading VOD startup, iROKOtv maintains a New York office that lends to production of the Nigerian (aka Nollywood) content it creates and streams globally.
Andela, a tech-talent accelerator with more than $180 million in VC, was co-founded by American Jeremy Johnson and Nigerian entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji. The company has offices in New York and Lagos and employs more than 1,000 engineers.
Over the last five years, Silicon Valley’s ties to Africa and Nigeria have grown. There are a number of Nigerians working in senior positions in the Bay Area, such as Ime Archibong at Facebook — the U.S. company that opened an innovation lab in Nigeria in 2018, called NG_Hub.