2016 Findings: Countries moving up

"With effect from July this year, we will be allowing citizens of AU Member States to enter our country and obtain visas on arrival with the option to stay for up to thirty days and experience what our country has to offer. This measure, with time, should stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism.”

-  President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, State of the Nation address, 25 February 2016

Countries moving up


  • 2016: Ghana offers visas on arrival to most African countries
  • 2016 Index ranking: no. 6 (2015: no. 22)
  • 2016 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival) to Africans: 96% (2015: 39%)

Continent-wide, Ghana has made the most progress in 2016 in opening up its borders for other African travellers, moving into sixth place in the Index, up sixteen places from 2015. The country offers 96% liberal access to all Africans. This is the case either through offering visa-free access to almost a third of all countries (including for the other 14 ECOWAS member states) or visas on arrival to almost two thirds of countries in Africa (from less than 10% in 2015).

Ghana’s policy decision follows a resolution adopted in early 2016 at the AU’s Executive Council on issuing visas on arrival for member states, with the possibility of a 30-day stay. This ties in with Ghana’s pledge to support the continent’s wider integration efforts and Agenda 2063, including through forging stronger links with its Francophone neighbours.

Economic drivers play an important part in Ghana’s new open visa policy in encouraging African visitors to the country, particularly in promoting the country’s travel, tourism, trade and investment sectors. Total travel and tourism contributed 7.8% to Ghana’s GDP in 2015 and is forecast to rise by 2.4% in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Ghana's visa policy

African Union citizens are to be issued with visas on arrival, valid for 30 days, at Kotoka International Airport, with other ports of entry to follow. Visitors must have return air ticket/evidence of onward travel, evidence of sufficient funds, and proof of accommodation.

African citizens, affected by the policy, who arrive in the country must have a passport valid for at least three months from the date of entry. GIS has put in place measures to ensure the smooth implementation of the policy.

- Francis Palmdeti, Ghana Immigration Service (GIS)


  • 2016: Senegal offers visa-free access to 42 African countries (from 16 countries in 2015)
  • 2016 Index ranking: no. 15 (2015: no. 24)
  • 2016 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on  arrival) to Africans: 78% (2015: 37%)

Senegal has moved into the top 20 most visa open countries in Africa, up 9 places from 2015 by offering visa-free access to 42 African countries alongside other ECOWAS member states.  e country offers 78% liberal access to all Africans, more than double the figure from 2015. In order to match the ranking of Seychelles – the most visa-open country in the Index – Senegal would need to offer visa-free access to 12 more African countries.

Senegal’s visa policy decision to promote freedom of movement for Africans builds on the country’s efforts since 2015 to re-energize the tourism sector. This has included a set of measures to cut payments for visas to the country, and to lower prices by reducing informal taxes on air tickets by 50%, particularly passenger fees, insurance tax and stamp duty. In line with these initiatives, total travel and tourism contributed 12.4% to GDP in 2015 and was forecast to rise by 4.4% in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.


  • 2016: Tunisia lifts visas on arrival for 21 African countries (9 more countries than 2015)
  • 2016 Index ranking: no. 23 (2015: no. 36)
  • 2016 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival) to Africans: 39% (2015: 24%)

Tunisia has moved up 13 places from 2015. The country offers 39% liberal access to all Africans. In early 2016, visas on arrival for citizens of 21 African countries were lifted.  This follows a 2015 visa policy decision, which offered six African countries visa-free access to the country.

Tunisia’s visa policy decision to open up to citizens from across the continent supports the country’s efforts to revitalize the high-value tourism sector following security incidents in 2015. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, total travel and tourism contributed 12.6% to GDP in 2015 and was forecast to fall by 0.9% in 2016. The policy also ties in with national efforts to engage with the African market and boost economic growth.

After Ghana, I am convinced that many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

- Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Former Chairperson, AU Commission


  • 2016: Malawi does not require visas from 14 African countries as well as from SADC and COMESA member states (as long as they do not require visas from citizens of Malawi)
  • 2016 Index ranking: no. 19 (2015: no. 28)
  • 2016 Liberal access (visa-free or visa on arrival) to Africans: 50% (2015: 31%)

Malawi has moved into the top 20 most visa open countries in Africa, up 9 places from 2015, and offers liberal access to half of all African citizens, up from less than a third in 2015. The country is supporting regional integration efforts to promote free movement of people through its visa reciprocity policy with citizens of countries in SADC and COMESA. Malawi is also looking into introducing eVisas as part of a new visa policy to facilitate travel access.

São Tomé et Príncipe

  • 2016: São Tomé et Príncipe moved higher up the Index in 2016, with 13 African countries now no longer needing a visa. In 2015 all Africans required a visa to travel to the country.
  • 2016 Index ranking: no. 36 (2015: no. 52)

São Tomé et Príncipe is one of 13 African countries that offers eVisas, in the case of both tourists and business people where there is no diplomatic or consulate representation of the country. The authorities introduced the system in 2012 to facilitate the entry process and there has since been a significant uptake of the service from travellers visiting the country.

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