Africans travelling with fewer restrictions as visa policies in Africa improve

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  • Visa policies in Africa have improved, with Africans now being able to travel more easily across countries than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Three countries, namely, Benin, The Gambia and Seychelles, offer visa-free entry to Africans from all other countries this year. In 2016 and 2017, only one country did so
  • The vast majority of African countries – 48 out of 54 – now offer visa-free travel to the nationals of at least one other African country

A new report has shown that visa policies in Africa have improved, with Africans now being able to travel more easily across countries than it was before the COVId-19 pandemic.

The 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI) report noted that African countries have been making progress in their freedom of travel policies, most of which had been severely curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis.

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In fact, three countries, namely, Benin, The Gambia and Seychelles, offer visa-free entry to Africans from all other countries this year. In 2016 and 2017, only one country did so.

The report also revealed that 24 African countries currently offer an eVisa in 2022, 5 more than five years ago. 36 countries have improved or maintained their Visa Openness Index score since 2016.

Additionally, 50 countries have maintained or improved their Visa Openness Index score relative to 2021, usually after removing some of the visa policy restrictions implemented during the pandemic.

The vast majority of African countries – 48 out of 54 – now offer visa-free travel to the nationals of at least one other African country. 42 countries offer visa-free travel to the nationals of at least 5 other African countries.

Visa policies in Africa have improved, with Africans now travelling more easily across countries than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Unsplash

“10 countries have improved their visa openness score over the past year, and visa openness on the continent now exceeds that recorded during the year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and is in line with the peak score achieved in 2020,” the report noted.

“Nine top-20 performers are low-income countries; three of them are landlocked. Another nine top 20 performers are from lower-middle-income countries. Lower-income countries continue to make progress.”

In contrast, 32 countries still require nationals of at least half of the continent’s countries to get a visa before travelling.

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“Reducing this number and making it possible for more people to travel visa-free, with an e-visa, or with a visa on arrival, would make the continent significantly more open.”

Lower-income countries have better visa policies in Africa

Interestingly, lower-income countries account for a large share of the countries that make up the top-20 ranked countries in 2022 with liberal visa policies in Africa: 45% of countries in the top-20 on the index are classified as low-income countries, while a further 45% of countries are classified as lower middle-income.

West Africa counts the largest share of top-performing countries in 2022, being home to eight of the top 20 performers (9 in 2021), equivalent to 40% of all top performers. Of these eight countries, seven also feature among the top 10.

East Africa also has eight representatives in the top 20 (it had six in 2021), with one country in the top 10. Southern Africa is home to three top-20 countries (15%), down from four in 2021.

“North Africa has one country in the top 20 (5%), the same as in 2021. No Central African country ranks among the top 20 on this year’s 2022 AVOI or on the AVOI of last year.”

Commenting on the report, African Development Bank Group Acting Director in charge of the Regional Integration Coordination Office Jean-Guy Afrika, said: “The Africa Visa Openness Index has tracked the evolution of visa regimes on the African continent from before the pandemic to today. As the 2022 report shows, African countries are dismantling many of the measures imposed during the pandemic. Indeed, on the whole, the continent has returned to a level of visa openness last seen just before the pandemic began.”

The African Development Bank Group in collaboration with the African Union Commission prepared the 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI) report.

The report tracks visa policies adopted by African governments on three main criteria: whether entry to citizens from other African countries is visa-free, if a visa on arrival can be obtained, and whether travellers are required to obtain visas ahead of traveling to other African countries.

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Wanjiku Njuguna is a Kenyan-based business reporter with experience of more than eight years.

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