2019 Findings: Visa Openness

Progress made on visa openness between 2016-2019

African countries are becoming increasingly open to visitors from across the continent, as the majority of countries and regions make steady progress on all visa openness indicators. On average since 2016, African travellers can get visas on arrival in more African countries, and they can travel visa-free to a quarter of the continent.

For the first time, Africans have liberal access to 51% of the continent and need visas to travel to less than half of other African countries.

Moving forward, championing greater visa openness across Africa will help to capitalize on the gains to be realized from the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Single African Air Transport Market and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons.

Average Visa openess 2019
Average scores
Changes in VO
  • Africans do not need a visa to travel to 25% of other African countries (also 25% in 2018, and up from 22% in 2017 and 20% in 2016).
  • Africans can get visas on arrival in 26% of other African countries (up from 24% in 2018 and 2017 and 25% in 2016).
  • Africans need visas to travel to 49% of other African countries (down from 51% in 2018 and 54% in 2017, and 55% in 2016).

Access overview

The average visa openness score for all countries continued to rise in 2019, even though the number of countries offering liberal access to all Africans stayed the same or decreased slightly.

  • Average score for all countries is 0.459 (up from 0.443 in 2018, 0.420 in 2017, and 0.425 in 2016).
  • Two African countries, Seychelles and Benin, offer visa-free access to all Africans (also two in 2018, one in 2017 and 2016).
  • 10 African countries offer liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival) to all Africans (down from 11 in 2018, 10 in 2017 and 13 in 2016).
  • Three African countries offer visa on arrival to all Africans (four in 2018 and 2017, and three in 2016).
Improvement in score

87% of African countries either improved or maintained their score.


The number of countries offering eVisas increased by 31% in 2019, with 21 countries now hosting an online platform. Two-thirds of countries that offer eVisas also made the most progress on visa openness since 2016, with the majority having recently introduced the system.

  • 21 African countries out of 54 (39%) offer eVisas (up from 16 in 2018, 13 in 2017, and 9 in 2016).
  • Nine out of the top 20 countries offer eVisas.
  • Two-thirds of the countries that offer eVisas improved their visa openness scores the most since 2016 or remained in the top 20.
  • 64% of countries that improved their visa openness scores the most since 2016 or remained in the top 20 introduced eVisas in the last three years.

Regional overview

In 2019, open reciprocity scores across the continent continued to rise, and the top performing RECs maintained or improved their open reciprocity scores. All regions, apart from Central Africa, continue to feature in the top 20 most visa-open countries in the Index.

  • 9 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in East Africa. (Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda)
  • 7 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in West Africa. (Benin, Cabo Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal Togo)
  • 3 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in Southern Africa. (Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique)
  • 1 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.
  • Open reciprocity (measuring no visa policies) Africa-wide was 20% (up from 19% in 2018 and 17% in 2017). Closed reciprocity Africa-wide was 30% (down from 33% in 2018 and 36% in 2017).
  • Top performing Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on open reciprocity include: ECOWAS (100%), EAC (60%), UMA (60%) and SADC (59%).

“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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