Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)


Member states: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Eswatini, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Visa openness

COMESA’s members include Rwanda and Seychelles, two of the four countries that obtained a perfect score on this year’s AVOI. Both countries offer visa-free entry to the citizens of all other African countries. In a recent development, Kenya announced that it would soon follow suit and allow visa-free access to all African citizens. Altogether, COMESA counts seven members among the AVOI’s top 20 and five members among the eight lowest rankers. This places COMESA in fourth position among RECs. COMESA’s two protocols on free movement have not been widely implemented, but recently, new interest in free movement has emerged. 

Regional reciprocity

In COMESA, visa-free reciprocity—the practice of countries extending visa-free entry privileges to each other’s citizens—is only 20%, not far ahead of IGAD, Africa’s least reciprocal REC. Interestingly, COMESA’s score is unchanged from 2022 even though the reciprocity of COMESA member states’ visa-on-arrival policies declined slightly. This suggests that ease of travel within COMESA fell even as the region opened to citizens from Africa as a whole. 

Kenya and Uganda are COMESA’s leaders on visa-free reciprocity: in addition to reciprocating visa-free entry for each other's citizens, their visa openness is weighted in favour of citizens from the region. Following closely are Mauritius and Seychelles, each of which counts nine reciprocal visa-free agreements with fellow COMESA members. Recent reports state that Uganda and DRC have also agreed to abolish visa requirements for each other’s citizens (these developments fall outside the 2023 data-collection period). Rwanda is one the continent’s most visa-open countries, but its openness is little reciprocated by its fellow COMESA member states.
Six COMESA countries—Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Madagascar, Somalia, and Sudan—decline to offer visa-free entry to any fellow COMESA members. Comoros, Djibouti, Madagascar, and Somalia do, however, allow citizens from COMESA countries to obtain a visa on arrival.