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African countries are becoming more open to each other, 2018 Africa Visa Openness Report shows

African countries are becoming more open to each other, 2018 Africa Visa Openness Report shows
Photo credit: Government of Rwanda

28 Nov 2018

African countries on average are becoming more open to each other, with indications that travel within the continent is getting easier.

The year 2018 is a landmark chapter in Africa’s regional integration efforts. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market are major milestones in the creation of a regulatory environment that promotes air connectivity and makes it faster, easier and less expensive for Africans to travel within Africa.

Findings in the 3rd edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index Report 2018, published by the African Development Bank and the Africa Union Commission, show that on average African countries are becoming more open to each other. The top 10 and the top 20 most visa-open countries continue to improve their average score, reflecting countries’ more liberal visa policies. In addition, 43 countries improved or maintained their score.

Benin made the most progress in opening up its borders to African travellers, moving from 27th place in the 2017 edition of the report  to 1st place in the 2018 report. Zimbabwe also broke into the top 20 with the introduction of a visa-on-arrival policy for SADC members.

Overall, when compared to 2017, Africans do not need a visa to travel to 25% of other African countries (up from 22%); can get visas on arrival in 24% of other African countries (same as last year); and need visas to travel to 51% of other African countries (down from 54%).

“Regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank,” says Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

However, the fact that Africans still require visas to travel to just over half of other African countries shows that more progress is needed to realise free movement of people continent-wide. As infrastructure expands across Africa, and tangible trade and investment opportunities are put on the table, Africans will need to travel with greater ease. Solutions such as the African passport, visa-free regional blocs, multi-year visas, or visa-on-arrival schemes should continue to be promoted.

“Looking at the recent development this year, such as the announcement by Ethiopia, Africa’s diplomatic capital, on the establishment of a visa-on-arrival regime for all African passport holders, Africa is indeed on an upward trajectory towards seamless borders and the free movement of its people. Commendable work has also gone into the actual roll-out of the African passport to the citizenry,” says Amb. Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The Visa Openness Index assesses the progress African countries have made in relaxing their visa regimes. The Index analyses visa requirements set by each member state of the African Union for other member states seeking to enter their borders.

The report aims to show at a glance which countries are facilitating travel for citizens of other African countries and how; whether they allow people to travel to their country without a visa; if travellers can get a visa on arrival in the country; or if visitors need to get a visa before travel.

Visit the Visa Openness Index website to download the report.


2018 Findings: Visa Openness

Africa Visa Openness Index 2018

Progress made on visa openness between 2016-2018

Compared to 2017 and 2016, progress has been made in 2018 against visa openness indicators. Africans currently do not need a visa to travel to more countries than in previous years, and they need visas to travel to fewer countries.

However, the fact that Africans still require visas to travel in just over half of other African countries shows more progress is needed to realise free movement of people continent-wide.

  • Africans do not need a visa to travel to 25% of other African countries (up from 22% in 2017, and 20% in 2016).

  • Africans can get visas on arrival in 24% of other African countries (also 24% in 2017, and 25% in 2016).

  • Africans need visas to travel to 51% of other African countries (down from 54% in 2017, and 55% in 2016).

There is an upward trend for African countries to be more open to each other when it comes to their visa policies. Over three-quarters of countries Africa- wide scored the same or higher than before on the Index in 2018. And a quarter of countries moved up in rank from 2017.

  • 43 countries improved or maintained their score (47 countries in 2017)

  • 15 countries moved upwards in rank on the Index (12 in 2017)

Access overview

Facilitating visa access improved in 2018, with slightly more countries offering liberal access to all Africans, while the number of countries offering visas on arrival to all Africans stayed the same. More countries offered eVisas in 2018, an increase of seven countries from 2016.

  • 11 African countries offer liberal access(visa-free or visa on arrival) to all Africans (up from 10 in 2017, and 13 in 2016)

  • 4 African countries offer visa on arrival to all Africans (also 4 in 2017, and 3 in 2016)

  • 16 African countries offer eVisas (up from 13 in 2017, and 9 in 2016)

Regional overview

Free movement of people continues to vary region by region, in part reflecting regional policies. In 2018, the top 20 countries include the same number of countries in East Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa and North Africa as in 2017, and no countries in Central Africa.

  • 8 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in East Africa (Comoros, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania).

  • 7 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in West Africa (Benin, Cabo Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo).

  • 4 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in Southern Africa (Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zimbabwe).

  • Only one country in the top 20 most visa-open countries is in North Africa (Mauritania).

  • Of the top 20 most-visa open countries, none are in Central Africa.

  • Top performing RECs on open reciprocity: ECOWAS (100%), EAC (90%), UMA (60%) and SADC (56%).

  • Africa’s small, landlocked and island states are more open, promoting trade links with their neighbours.