In 2015, Godswill Akpabio, an ex governor of oil-rich Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria, was flown to London for treatment after a car crash. But that was only 4 months before the USD 100 Mn-rich politician erected a USD 76 Mn hospital in Uyo, the state’s capital. With foreign citizenship, perhaps, more of Africa’s wealthiest individuals would seek medical care more abroad than at home.
The coronavirus pandemic revealed the fault lines in Africa’s healthcare systems, from low virus testing to swamped up hospital beds and the shortage of medical practitioners.
To make things worse, airplanes were grounded and borders were shut down, preventing those who could afford international healthcare to cope with the inadequacies that prevail in their home countries.
Matters were seemingly worse for some African leaders who are known to seek medical care abroad. For example, Musa Yar’adua, a former president of Nigeria, passed on in 2010 after several months intensive medical care in Saudi Arabia. To sum it, 6 of the 12 African leaders who died in office between 2008 and 2014 were on medical trips abroad.
This reality is not isolated. As African healthcare proven unfit to handle the mass coronavirus outbreak, the super-rich class on the continent have decided to buy foreign citizenship just in case something like this pandemic ever happens again.
According to Henley and Partners, a global advisory firm, African billionaires are purchasing additional passports and acquired permanent residency to access potential safe havens.
Before the Covid-19 era, pocketing foreign passports was done for business travel, elite education for children and having a second home for leisure purposes.
But things have very much changed, as Kenyans, Nigerians, South Africans and Ghanaians now have international interests that are ultimately growing the multibillion-dollar investment migration industry.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is home to over 700 people whose separate net worths surpass USD 30 Mn. That figure is projected to grow by 13 percent in the next 5 years.
Henley & Partners assists wealthy individuals acquire second passports. As a result of the recent surge in demand, the firm has opened new offices in Lagos, Nigeria, adding to its 2 offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. These 2 countries are responsible for some 85 percent of the 100-plus Africans who bought the Zurich-based firms services in 2019.
Interestingly, a good number of the Nigerians and Kenyans seeking the firm’s services make most or all of their money from their home countries and have no intentions whatsoever to relocate abroad. These affluent individuals want more reliable options for medical services, just in case another pandemic threatens to hit their home continent.
Nevertheless, Covid-19 isn’t the only reason this is now the busiest time ever for purchasing foreign citizenship. Geopolitical tensions and insecurity as regards the mobility to travel are among the factors contributing to the change.
For instance, an African can live, work and study in in New Zealand—a country that has effectively kicked out the coronavirus—for USD 2 Mn. Although, that cost is dependent on the type of investor via chosen. Likewise, USD 1.2 Mn, including a property buy, can get a married couple Maltese citizenship.
Migration from Africa to greener pastures is already a given. Perhaps, the coronavirus pandemic would birth an increase in that as well.
Featured Image: Anastase Maragos Via Unsplash.