The Impact of the Pandemic

In 2022, after many countries lifted COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the AVOI observed a reversal in the previous year’s deterioration of visa openness on the continent (and the world). 2022’s gains in visa openness continued in 2023 as countries learning from the pandemic reassessed their policies on access to their territory. 

In some cases, countries simply wished to respond to the pent-up demand for tourism-related travel, by making it easier for travellers to cross the border. More commonly, however, countries were motivated by a new appreciation of the importance of economic integration and the central part played by enhanced human mobility and the easing of cross-border travel. Continental integration initiatives such as the AfCFTA will only pay off if decisions to open borders to trade in goods and services are accompanied by liberal visa and immigration policies and efficient border facilities.

It is largely with this motivation that regional economic communities like IGAD and COMESA are taking steps to implement measures and policies to free the movement of people within their region. In some cases, the region had already developed such policies, and its member states had already endorsed them, but countries were not actually applying them on the ground.