Methodology & Findings

How visas work

A visa is an endorsement, usually figuring as a certificate or a stamp in a visitor’s travel document, that shows that the visitor is allowed to enter the country of destination for a specific length of time and for specific activities.

Countries use visas for different purposes: as a security measure (to control the entry and length of stay of people entering the country), as a means of limiting visitors’ activities, as a source of revenue, or as a way of reciprocating the treatment their citizens receive from other countries.


Visa required before travel means that a visitor must obtain a visa from an embassy, an honorary consulate, or another official representative of the country of destination before the visitor travels to the country of destination.

Visa on arrival means that a visitor must obtain a visa upon the visitor’s arrival in the country of destination. The visa obtention process could include filling out visa forms, paying a visa fee, and receiving a stamp in the visitor’s travel document.

No visa means that a visitor needs no visa, either before departure or upon arrival, to enter the country of destination. The visitor does not need to be authorised to enter the country. Nonetheless, the visitor must still comply with entry procedures. These can include filling out entry forms and receiving an entry stamp.

eVisa refers to an electronic visa that can be obtained before the visitor’s departure from an official platform online.

Visa openness refers to the ease with which visitors are authorized to enter their country of destination.

A more visa-open country has a liberal or relaxed visa policy for visitors, meaning that visitors either do not need a visa to enter its territory or can obtain a visa upon arrival.

A more visa-restrictive country requires visitors to obtain a visa before they travel. Visitors might obtain the visa from an embassy, a consulate, or another source.

The visa openness rate refers to the percentage of other countries in Africa whose citizens are permitted to enter the country’s territory without having obtained a visa before arriving. Earlier editions of the AVOI referred to this as the “liberal access rate.”

Important: Visa policies change frequently. Before travelling, please check with the embassy or consulate of your country of destination

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How the AVOI Calculates Each Country’s Score

Scores and rankings. AVOI scores range from 0 to 1, where 0 designates countries with the most restrictive visa policies and 1 designates countries with the most welcome policies.

The higher a country’s index score, the more “visa-open” is the country and the higher it ranks.

Categories and weightings. To calculate each country’s score, the AVOI assesses the country’s visa policy vis-à-vis each of the other 53 countries in the continent and classifies each policy in one of three categories. The AVOI gives each category a weighting:

Category - Weighting 
Visa required before travel - 0
Visa on arrival - 0.8
No visa required - 1.0

Calculations. To compute the country’s score, the AVOI follows four steps:

  1. It counts the number of countries that fall in each visa category (visa required before travel, visa on arrival, no visa required).

  2. It converts that number into a percentage of all countries in Africa.

  3. It weighs each percentage according to the weighting given to each category.

  4. It adds the figures.

Formula: Visa openness score = [ (% of African countries whose nationals must obtain a visa before travelling x 0) + (% of African countries whose nationals may obtain a visa on arrival x 0.8) + (% of African countries whose nationals are not required to obtain a visa x 1)] / 100

An Example

Country X requires the nationals of 13 countries to obtain a visa before travel. It allows the nationals of 30 countries to obtain a visa on arrival, and it allows the nationals of 10 other countries to enter its territory visa-free. Country X’s score is calculated as follows:

Visa openness score for Country X = ((visa required before travel: 13/53 x 0) + (visa upon arrival: 30/53 x 0.8) + (no visa required: 10/53 x 1) / 100 = 0.642

The higher a country’s score in the Index, the more visa- open it is and the higher it ranks. Scores range from 0 – 1 (highest).


AfCFTA African Continental Free Trade Area
AfDB African Development Bank Group
AMU Arab Maghreb Union
AVOI Africa Visa Openness Index
AU African Union
CEN-SAD Community of Sahel-Saharan States
COMESA Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
COVID-19 Infectious disease caused by coronavirus
EAC East African Community
ECCAS Economic Community of Central African States
ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States
E-visa Electronic visa
GDP Gross domestic product
IATA International Air Transport Association
IGAD Inter-Governmental Authority on Development
PFMP Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons REC Regional economic community
SAATM Single African Air Transport Market
SADC Southern African Development Community USD United States dollars
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