A Forward Look
So, what’s next for visa openness in Africa? The upward trend of African countries starting to liberalise their visa policies for other Africans seems set to continue, as momentum gathers across regional blocs and the continent as a whole, in line with the Free Movement Protocol.
2018 was a landmark chapter in Africa’s integration story. With the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market, closer cooperation and shared investment in Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development was again reinforced. Together with progress on the continent’s infrastructure needs and business reforms, visa openness represents a valuable win-win policy tool that will help to bolster integration.
Popular options for countries opening up their visa regimes since 2016 included offering more visas on arrival, being part of visa-free regional blocs, and promoting positive reciprocity. A combination of visa openness and travel document solutions are working for the Index top performers to attract more arrivals, increase investment levels, and boost tourism. More countries can start to take steps to enjoy the benefits of open visa policies.
The questions will be: how are people moving once they enjoy greater access across Africa? Do more open-visa policies translate into practical easier access options for African travellers when it comes to the time, cost and procedures that are involved? What is the time lag between a country announcing a decision to open up its borders and it coming into force? Is information on visas readily available, online, in different languages, and regularly updated?
Economic integration thus responds not only to aspirations born out of Pan-Africanism, but also to a practical imperative linked to the economic viability of the continent... Our peoples, our business community and our youth, in particular, cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent.”
- Visa on arrival for Africans
- Visa-free regional blocs
- Regional bloc visas
- Multi-year visas after assessing applicant
- Promoting positive reciprocity (for citizens of countries that relaxed visa requirements to benefit from similar requirements when visiting other African countries)
- Opening up on visas unilaterally
- Simplifying the visa process: documents required, fees, processing time, online applications (introducing eVisas can help to facilitate visitor access)
- Improving access to information: online and in different languages
Travel Document Solutions
- Regional travel using regional passports or national identity cards
- African passport for business people (issued by competent authority to strict criteria)
- African passport for all African citizens (issued by national authorities to follow the African Union passport rolled out in 2016)
Africa Visa Openness Index fourth edition
African citizens need to be aware of the different opportunities open visa policies offer them, which countries are the most open on the continent and what access they allow. The online www.visaopenness.org platform, which went live in May 2017, aims to promote greater research, advocacy and policy dialogue on visa openness solutions across Africa. Updated on a yearly basis, over 16,250 unique visitors have already visited the platform.
The fourth edition of the Index will track how people are able to travel once they have liberal visa access, based on cost, time and processes involved, to flesh out the story behind the African traveller’s experience. Sharing information on visa realities across Africa can inspire further reforms. Case stories will capture how countries are using smart systems and digital technology to reform their visa regimes. And they will set out the visa openness trajectory, that starts with a country’s decision to open up on visas, and ends at the border.