2019 Findings: Countries moving up

Top 20 countries with improved visa openness scores

Countries moving up


  • Ethiopia joined the top 20 countries moving up 32 places
  • 2019 Index ranking: no.18 (up from no.50 in 2018, no.49 in 2017, and no.46 in 2016).
  • 2019 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 96% (up from 6% in 2018, 6% in 2017, and 6% in 2016).

Ethiopia moved into the top 20 countries, rising a record 32 places since the 2018 edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index, and multiplying its score by 14 with 96% liberal access.

The country, which is home to one of the continent’s political hubs, aims to further boost the regional integration agenda through the introduction of a visa- on-arrival policy for all African Union member states. This follows Ethiopia’s ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area in April 2019, and signing of the Single African Air Transport Market.

“Consistent with PM Abiy Ahmed’s vision of a closer and full regional integration in #Africa— where minds are open to ideas and markets are open to trade, Ethiopia will start on arrival visa to all Africans starting from November 9, 2018. #Ethiopia @AfricanUnion”

Fitsum Aregaa - Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Ethiopia

These moves come on the back of Prime Minister Ahmed’s widely welcomed decision in June 2018 to allow all global visitors to apply for visas to the country online through a modernized eVisa system.

The eVisa website is clearly signposted helping travellers to access information, and the government posts social media updates on its visa reforms. Ethiopia ranks in the top 20 least restrictive 28 destinations in Africa according to the UNWTO.

Another driver for the country’s policy to relax its visa regime has been to promote fresh economic opportunities linked to the travel and tourism industry, including in the hospitality and conference sectors. This is being supported by the high volumes of transit traffic passing through Bole International Airport on premier national carrier Ethiopian Airlines, which was identified as a leading Africa-to- Africa investment business champion by the AfDB.

“Ethiopia has officially launched Visa-On-Arrival service for tourists from all African Union member states. Nationals of Africa Union member states can pay the visa fee in cash at Bole International Airport to get tourist visa.”


As a result, in the last year, the country’s travel and tourism economy witnessed the largest growth of any country worldwide according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Growing by a record 48.6% in 2018, the sector makes up 9.4% of Ethiopia’s total economy.

The country’s dynamic economic growth has been mirrored in a rise in its score and rank in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Index, including through national reforms to make it easier to start a business, to deal with construction permits and to enforce contracts.


  • Senegal moved into the top 10 countries in the Index
  • 2019 Index ranking: no.3 (up from no.13 in 2018, no.15 in 2017, and no.24 in 2016).
  • 2019 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 100% (up from 81% in 2018, 78% in 2017, and 37% in 2016).

Senegal continued to move up the Africa Visa Openness Index, rising into the top 10 countries in 2019. The move has been a result of Senegal’s recent policy of introducing visas on arrival for a number of African countries and removing visas required before travel.

The relaxation of the visa regime is in line with the country’s priority to grow the tourism sector, bringing greater economic advantages and more jobs for people nationwide, following President Macky Sall’s 30-year Plan Sénégal Emergent introduced five years ago.

“In total, the tourism sectors supports 150,000 people in Senegal, and I hope that this figure can be multiplied four-fold. That represents 10% of GDP. We must aim to reach between 12 and 15% in five years’ time.”

Alioune Sarr - Minister for Tourism and Air Transport, Senegal

The travel and tourism sector rose by 2.7% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.33 Jobs supported by the industry increased, with visitor exports making up 9.6% of total exports. The number of international arrivals is expected to top 1.5 million in 2019. Moving ahead, the government is looking to attract investors across 10 key tourism sites, as well as running communication campaigns to showcase the tourism activities on offer.

Thanks to a more open visa policy in operation at global level, as well as at continental level, Senegal ranks in the top 20 least restrictive destinations in Africa, having improved visa procedures for 100 countries between 2008–2018, according to the UNWTO.


  • Ghana moved up the top 10 countries in the Index
  • 2019 Index ranking: no.5 (up from no.7 in 2018, no.6 in 2017, and no.22 in 2016).
  • 2019 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival to Africans): 98% (also 98% in 2018 and 2017, and 39% in 2016).

Ghana rose back into the top five countries in the Africa Visa Openness Index in 2019.

Following the government’s publicized commitment to allow Africans liberal access to the country in 2016, Ghana continues to champion regional integration efforts. In May 2018, the country ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), having also signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market and the Free Movement of Persons Protocol. Ghana was also selected to host the Secretariat for the African Continental Free Trade Area in 2019.

“We have, today, taken very important steps towards working with a common voice and a common purpose to exploit the abundant wealth and resources of our great continent for the benefit of all our peoples. Indeed, the ‘Africa We Want’ is achievable.”

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo - President of Ghana, 12th AU Extraordinary Summit

Together with its liberal visa policy, Ghana is taking steps to promote trade, investment and tourism, making improvements to visa procedures for 176 countries between 2008-2018, according to the UNWTO. At the same time, in line with the developments of the AfCFTA, the country’s World Bank Group’s Doing Business Index score rose in 2019, with reforms making it easier to trade across borders, as well as dealing with construction permits.


  • 2019 Index ranking: no.34 (no.42 in 2018, no.52 in 2017 and no.49 in 2016).

Angola moved up the Africa Visa Openness Index 15 places since 2016, multiplying its score by eight by offering greater liberal access to more Africans.
In 2018, the government announced a decision to allow 61 countries to be granted visas on arrival, including 13 African countries.

Alongside the introduction of eVisas, accessed at www.smevisa.gov.ao/, the visa process is being simplified with the removal of an invitation letter as part of the documents required. The move is part of wider government plans to boost economic development and drive the tourism sector, with the aim of creating one million jobs nationwide in the sector by 2020.


  • 2019 Index ranking: no.27 (no.24 in 2018, no.23 in 2017 and no.36 in 2016).

Tunisia increased its ranking by nine places on the Africa Visa Openness Index since 2016, thanks to the removal of visas for a number of African countries.

Following government efforts to revitalize the high- value tourism sector through a number of reforms, Tunisia is modernizing the visa process to improve access with a new eVisa platform at www.visatunisia.com/. The country is also ranked as one of the least restrictive destinations in Africa for international visitors, according to the UNWTO. At the same time, due to national efforts to boost economic growth and development, Tunisia moved up in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Index.

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