2018 Findings: Countries moving up
The top 20 improvers, based on progress made on visa openness scores between 2016-2018, cover Southern Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and North Africa. The top improvers all have policies allowing Africans greater visa- free or visa-on-arrival access.
Eight of the top 20 improvers feature in the top 20 countries in the Index in 2018. Four of the top 20 improvers moved into the top 20 countries between 2016-2018, showing how a decision to liberalise visa policies has had an immediate effect on scores and rank.
Countries moving up
- Benin joins Seychelles at the top of the index, offering visa-free access to all Africans.
- 2018 Index ranking: no. 1 (up from no.27 in 2017, and no.31 in 2016).
- 2018 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 100% (up from 33% in 2017, and 30% in 2016).
Benin was the highest performing country since the last edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index. The country increased its score by 200%, moving from 27th place in 2017 to join Seychelles at the top in 2018. Benin is only the second country on the continent to offer visa-free access to all African countries and the first Francophone country to do so.
“Inspired by Rwanda’s experience, I have come to the decision that Benin will no longer demand visas for Africans. This South-South cooperation can become a reality.”
Patrice Talon, President of Benin
President Talon’s landmark decision to open Benin’s borders for African visitors from January 2017 has been heralded by ECOWAS as promoting a people-centred approach to integration in the region. Benin’s open visa policy made headlines in African and global news.
“It’s a decision that gives weight to the objective of going from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of the people by 2020.”
Moustapha Cisse Lo, ECOWAS Parliament President
The move ties into the government’s tourism action programme launched in December 2016, which includes a priority development of seven tourism sites across the country. Total travel and tourism contributed 5.7% to Benin’s GDP in 2017 and is forecast to rise by 3.8% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact 2018 report.
“Removal of visa for all Africans entering Benin for less than 90 days. The Consulate General reminds all African nationals that they are exempt from a visa to enter Benin, for visits not exceeding 90 days.”
Consulate General of Benin
In 2018, Benin put in place new measures to improve overall entry access to the country. From March, non- Africans wishing to visit for less than a week, with a valid passport and yellow fever certificate, can apply for a special tourist visa on arrival for a set fee. From April, global visitors can obtain an eVisa for Benin from https://evisa.gouv.bj, as part of the country’s Smart Gouv programme to simplify entry and short stay visa processes.
Thanks to its decision to open up the country for African as well as global visitors, Benin scores highly in the global Welcoming Countries Rank 2018 of the Passport Index.22 In 2018, Benin ranked at number six, with a welcoming score of 191, up from 54 in 2017 – linked to the number of countries whose citizens can access Benin visa-free or with visa on arrival. Across Africa, Benin nationals can travel to 20 countries visa-free and to 12 countries with a visa on arrival, representing 60% liberal access on the continent.
- Rwanda moved up in the top 10 countries in the Index.
- 2018 Index ranking: no.3 (up from no.9 in 2017, and no.9 in 2016).
- 2018 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 100% (up from 98% in 2017, and 100% in 2016).
Rwanda continues to move up the Africa Visa Openness Index and ranks in third position in 2018, having improved access for nine countries on the continent. Africans enjoy liberal access to Rwanda, with no visa required for
15 countries and visa on arrival for 38 countries.
A top 10 performer on the Index since 2016, the country’s open visa policy has inspired countries Africa-wide, including Benin, and soon Ethiopia, to liberalise their visa regimes.
“Citizens of all countries will get a visa upon arrival without prior application, starting January 1, 2018.”
Yves Butera, Spokesperson, Directorate-Generalof Immigration and Emigration, Rwanda
Against this backdrop, between 2013-2016, the number of Africans receiving visas on arrival in Rwanda increased by more than 100%.24 The country attracted higher numbers of visitors, greater investment, and hosted more conferences due to the removal of travel restrictions. Total travel and tourism contributed 12.7% to Rwanda’s GDP in 2017 and is forecast to rise by 6.8% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact 2018 report.
Rwanda has also simplified travel document solutions by promoting passport-free travel with its neighbours. A unified national identity card and border pass is in place for citizens of Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda, whilst a single tourist visa for the three countries is available.
“The new visa regime opens Rwanda to the world and is good for business. Rwanda believes that the free movement of people fosters trade and tourism and is good for the continent’s integration policy. We are aware of the challenges of open borders, but as a country, we also believe that the benefits of our policy outweigh the potential setbacks.”
Louise Mushikiwabo, Foreign Minister, Rwanda
As of January 2018, Rwanda put in place a landmark new visa regime that allows all travellers worldwide to visit the country and obtain a 30-day visa on arrival. The policy marks an important step in terms of Rwanda opening up to other Africans as well as to all global visitors. Rwanda ranks at number one in the global Welcoming Countries Rank 2018 of the Passport Index, with a score of 198 – linked to the number of countries whose citizens can easily visit Rwanda.
- Kenya moved into the top 10 countries in the Index.
- 2018 Index ranking: no.9 (up from no.15 in 2017, and no.16 in 2016).
- 2018 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 96% (up from 89% in 2017, and 89% in 2016).
Kenya moved up six places into the top 10 countries in the Africa Visa Openness Index in 2018. The country’s improved score follows its new visa-on-arrival policy for all Africans, which was highlighted in President Kenyatta’s inauguration speech in November 2017.
“For my fellow Africans, the free movement of people on our continent has always been a cornerstone of Pan-African brotherhood and fraternity. Today, I am directing that any African wishing to visit Kenya will be eligible to receive a visa at the port of entry. To underscore Kenya’s commitment, this shall not be done on the basis of reciprocity. The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity, we will become.”
- Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya
The liberalised visa regime was set up to promote more open borders across the continent and to boost trade, security and Africa-wide integration. It has been widely publicised, with the African Union Commission voicing the need for countries to follow Kenya’s example.
“Delighted by Pres @UKenyatta’s announcement to issue visas at arrival for all Africans visiting Kenya. Congratulations on this historic decision! I urge all African states that have not yet done so, to take similar measures towards free movement for all Africans across Africa.”
Moussa Faki Mahamat, African Union Commission Chairperson
The move supports Kenya’s efforts to drive growth in travel by providing a straightforward process for short- term visas, offering eVisas for travellers at http://evisa. go.ke/evisa.html. Total travel and tourism contributed 9.7% to Kenya’s GDP in 2017 and is forecast to rise by 5.5% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact 2018 report.30
Kenya’s open visa policy will, in turn, support Kenya’s strong air transport sector. The sector facilitates over USD 10 billion in exports, around USD 4.4 billion in foreign direct investment, and around USD 800,000 in inbound leisure and business tourism for Kenya.
At the same time, Kenya is driving integration within the East African Community, with the announcement that citizens from Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda can move freely with their identity cards, work, do business and own property on an equal basis.
Kenyan nationals can travel to 18 African countries visa-free and to 15 African countries with a visa on arrival, which represents one of the highest mobility rates on the continent.
- Senegal moved up the top 20 countries in the Index.
- 2018 Index ranking: no.13 (up from no.15 in 2017, and no.24 in 2016).
- 2018 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 81% (up from 78% in 2017, and 37% in 2016).
Senegal rose steadily upwards in the top 20 countries in the Africa Visa Openness Index in 2018. The country built on progress made since 2016, with improved visa-free access for more countries. It is one of few countries in the top 20 that does not offer visas on arrival.
In a bid to boost the tourism sector and attract more visitors, Senegal decided to end paid visas from May 2015 for a number of nationalities, including those from ECOWAS member states. Total travel and tourism contributed 10.4% to Senegal’s GDP in 2017 and is forecast to rise by 4.0% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact 2018 report.
- Zimbabwe moved into the top 20 countries in the Index.
- 2018 Index ranking: no.20 (up from no.21 in 2017, and no.27 in 2016).
- 2018 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 51% (up from 46% in 2017, and 33% in 2016).
Zimbabwe continued to move up the Africa Visa Openness Index and entered the top 20 countries in 2018. The country has made steady progress since 2016, improving its liberal access.
The government is introducing a visa-on-arrival policy for 28 countries worldwide, as well as for SADC members, to build the tourism sector and promote greater investment. Total travel and tourism contributed 7.1% to Zimbabwe’s GDP in 2017 and is forecast to rise by 2.1% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact 2018 report.
The plans are being matched by an e-government programme to improve the visa process, with eVisas issued at https://www.evisa.gov.zw, alongside increased promotion of the national airline.