As the world continues its globalization drive, what we used to know as truth is changing. One of these truths is the changing attitude of individuals and nations towards the concept of citizenship. For many individuals, being born in a country does not define permanent allegiance to such a country.
The concept of dual citizenship is on the rise. For countries accepting dual citizenship, it increases their human capital and positions them for success in the 21st century. As Liberia joins the growing list of countries by approving dual citizenship, we take a look at the concept and its implications for Africa.
What Is Dual Citizenship?
Dual citizenship or multiple citizenship is when an individual is legally recognized as a citizen of two or more countries. Usually, when a person arrives into—and lives in a country—for a specified period, they are eligible for citizenship in their country of residence.
If they take up this citizenship, their country of birth or descent may become their second nation. This is the case for many children born in Africa or whose parents are Africans but weren’t born in Africa.
The impact of outlawing dual citizenships has affected Africa as a continent the most, with the continent losing a lot of valuable human capital to other continents. For example, Ansumanne Fati, a footballer of Guinea Bissau descent, had to renounce his Guinea Bissau passport to take up Spanish citizenship.
Another key example is Sir Mo Farah who renounced his Ethiopian citizenship to take up British identity. In both cases, Africa lost key sportsmen of great value. Speaking on the disadvantage of outlawing dual citizenship, Ahmed Rajab of the Pan African Institute of Strategic Studies said,
“It’s all a mystery because the benefits outweigh the so-called disadvantages. The main benefits are to the economies of these countries. Maybe these countries are so proud of their nationality that they oppose their citizens acquiring another citizenship. Legalization has been proven in the case of Ghana and Kenya, that the country benefits from the inflow of funds from the countries of the citizens who have dual nationality.”
Benefits of Dual Citizenship?
There are numerous benefits to having dual citizenship, from the quality of living to global mobility. Some of them are:
Security: An alternative passport from a stable country can be life-saving in the event of any kind of political, profitable, or social instability in one’s home country.
Global Mobility: Every passport has a number of countries they can visit without a visa. Getting a second passport can significantly expand the number of countries you can visit visa-free. Thus, this increases your mobility.
Business: New business opportunities open up to binary citizens as they can now do business in the host country as well as travel abroad more freely.
Tax Optimization: Dual citizenship may prove profitable for tax optimization purposes. For instance, some countries only tax income earned from that country and don’t subject capital earnings to taxes. This allows investors to manage their wealth more efficiently and effectively.
Quality of Life: Furthermore, a second citizenship can offer access to world-class healthcare, education, and a better life.
How Does It Work?
Different nations have different requirements and regulations regarding the acquisition and maintenance of multiple citizenships. The Democratic Republic of the Congo allows children born abroad to keep their citizenship until they are 21.
Ethiopia forbids the concept entirely. Like Ethiopia, some African nations do not allow their citizens to be holders of dual citizenship. Some allow under certain conditions, while others allow it unconditionally.
Which African Nations Allow Dual Citizenship?
Here are some African nations and the legal status of dual citizenship in these countries.
Countries that Allow Dual Citizenship
|Côte d’Ivoire||2013 Nationality Code amendment|
|Senegal||2013 Nationality Code amendment|
|Central African Republic (CAR)*|
|Congo, Democratic Republic|
|Mali*||2011 Family Code Amendment|
|Mauritania*||2010 Authorized Dual Citizenship Amendment|
|Niger*||2014 Citizenship by marriage amendment|
|Sao Tome and Principe|
|Zimbabwe||2010 Marriage Amendment|
* Only allowed by marriage or birth in these countries.
Countries that Do Not Allow Dual Citizenship
Six African countries do not allow their citizens to hold dual citizenship. They are;
- Equatorial Guinea
*Cameroon is in discussions to repeal its 1968 Nationality Laws.
Learning From The Liberian Playbook
Up until the 15th of November, 2021, the Liberian constitution required Liberians to renounce their Liberian citizenship when they acquire another country’s citizenship through naturalization. However, in 2008, four Liberian senators proposed a bill that would allow Liberians to hold dual citizenship.
This widely contested bill remained debated until 2018. Finally, on November 15, 2021, the Liberian legislature passed into law Mr. Acarous Moses Gray’s Dual citizenship bill. Mr. Gray’s bill, which was co-sponsored by 30 others, was intended to amend and or repeal some parts of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia.
According to a statement from the legislative body, “the bill sought to repeal Part III, Chapter 20, Section 20.1; Chapter 21, Sections 21.30, 21.31, 21.51 & 21.52 and Chapter 22, Sections 22.1, 22.1 & 22.4 of the Aliens and Nationality Law of the Liberian Code of Law Revised, Vol. II.”
What are the implications of this bill?
Economically, experts argue that this bill will bring a lot of positives for Liberia. In addition to diaspora remittances, it is an opportunity for Liberians in the diaspora to invest in the nation’s development. On the socio-political landscape, however, the future looks gloomy.
Within Liberia, there remain socio-political distinctions between citizens—specifically, the distinction between those Liberians who stayed during its brutal civil war from 1989 to 2003, whom a political analyst, Robtel Pailey refers to as “homelanders”, and those who left to return later, whom Pailey identifies as “returnees”. According to her, homelanders view believes dual citizenship would exacerbate inequalities within Liberia, rather than alleviate them.
These worries are not entirely unfounded. Pailey identifies Liberia as an “exemplary of the dichotomy of diasporic developmentalism because transnationals have simultaneously advanced and undermined postwar recovery efforts.”
For example, according to the former foreign affairs minister, Augustine Ngafuan, public officials from the diaspora have disproportionately engaged in fraud. Such controversies lead homeland Liberians to identify returnees with corruption and fraudulence. According to many, it does not speak well of such a politically unstable nation.
As the world tends towards globalization, it is a welcome development that Liberia now recognizes dual citizenship. We can only hope other African nations follow suit. Ultimately, only its offspring can lift Africa to the pinnacle of its potentials. To do that, it needs all hands—diasporan or not—to be on deck.