Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Member states: Benin, Burkina, Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, The Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo

Population: 407.7 million

GDP: USD 17.79 billion

Visa openness

ECOWAS’s stance on visa openness dates to 1979, when the region adopted a protocol on the movement of people and the right to residence. Phase 1 of the protocol related to the right of entry and is the only phase to have been implemented so far. The results are impressive: today, the average AVOI score of ECOWAS’s 15 members is higher than the average score of the members of any other regional economic community in Africa. ECOWAS also counts more top-10 performers (seven) than any other regional economic community. Along with Seychelles, which is not a member of ECOWAS, ECOWAS members Benin and The Gambia are jointly ranked the most visa-open countries on the continent. Guinea has improved remarkably over the last year, rising from 52nd position to 31st.

Regional reciprocity

Regional reciprocity within ECOWAS achieves a near perfect score: the nationals of 97% of ECOWAS member states do not require a visa to travel within the ECOWAS region. The nationals of 10 of ECOWAS’s 15 members do not require a visa to visit the territory of any other member, and even the lowest-ranked country on the reciprocity index (Sierra Leone) reciprocates visa-free entry with 12 of ECOWAS’s 14 other members. To the remaining two members, Sierra Leone offers a visa on arrival. No ECOWAS member state requires a visa in advance from the nationals of any other member.

The region is also making strides on increasing its openness to non-ECOWAS countries: ECOWAS officials have agreed on a harmonized ECOWAS visa regime (ECOVISA) that will standardize travel modalities to the region and within it.

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