AFRICANS were able to travel more freely across the continent in 2016, as visa openness levels improved from 2015, says the Africa Visa Openness Index. The Index, compiled by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the World Economic Forum, measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other African countries when they travel.
It aims to show at a glance which countries are facilitating travel for citizens of other 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 whether visitors need to obtain a visa before travel.
However, many challenges remained. The second Africa Visa Openness Index highlights pervasive regional differences in visa openness performance. For example, 75 percent of countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in either East or West Africa, while 20 percent are in Southern Africa. Only one country in the top 20 most open to visas is in North Africa (Mauritania), while no countries in Central Africa rank in the top 20. ‘I need 38 visas to move around Africa,’ says Aliko Dangote, President and CEO of Dangote Group.
Although challenges remain, much progress was also achieved in 2016. Continent-wide, Ghana has made the most progress in 2016 in opening up its borders to African travellers, moving into sixth place in the Index, up 16 places from 2015. Senegal also moved into the top 20 most visa-open countries, up nine places from 2015, and Tunisia moved up 13 places from 2015. Seychelles continues to lead the Index and remains the only African country on the continent to offer visa-free access for all Africans.
‘Our leaders have to bring down the walls that separate us, from East Africa to Central Africa to North Africa to West Africa. We need a wider open market,’ says AfDB President Akinwumi A. Adesina, who received an African passport in 2016.
Going forward, the priority now is to continue this positive trend and deliver on the AU’s decision for African countries to issue visas on arrival to all Africans. Greater visa openness in Africa could help create a people-centered African integration that offers much-needed travel, trade, leisure, study and job opportunities for all Africans.