2018 Findings: Visa Openness

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.

Average visa openness, 2018

Average visa openness, 2018

Change in visa openness scores, 2016-2018 (%)

Change in visa openness scores, 2016-2018 (%)
  • 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, G Gambia,Ghana, G G Guinea Bissau, GG 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 tio 20 most-visa open countries, none are in Central Africa.

Reciprocity of visa policies by RECs, 2018 (%)

Open reciprocity (measuring 'no visa' policies) Africa-wide was 19% (up from 17% in 2017). Closed reciprocity Africa-wide was 33% (down from 36% in 2017).

Top performing RECs on open reciprocity include: 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.

“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.”

Amb. Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission

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