Southern African Development Community (SADC)


Member states: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe


Visa openness

Among the eight RECs, SADC ranks joint second. Seychelles achieves a perfect score, and Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, and Tanzania are among the AVOI’s top 20 for 2023. Six SADC members feature among the lower half of performers. 

SADC is one of two RECs whose average fell slightly in 2023. The change came after Angola replaced its visa-on-arrival policy towards seven countries with a visa-ahead-of-travel regime, and Namibia extended its visa-on-arrival policy to Mauritanians and Nigeriens but ended it for Nigerians. Meanwhile, Mozambique exempted Ivorians and Ghanaians from all visa requirements. In October 2023, however, Angola extended its visa-free regime to several African countries. This will advance the country’s—and the region’s—AVOI score going forward.

Only half of SADC members have signed the African Union’s Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons. The signatories tend not to include island states and members of the South African Customs Union (SACU). Most SADC members signed the SADC’s Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons (2005), but only SACU members and Mozambique have ratified it, so it is not in force.

Regional reciprocity

In 60% of country-to-country travel configurations, SADC member states reciprocate visa-free policies. In another 11%, they reciprocate visa-on-arrival policies. Mauritius, Seychelles, and Zimbabwe allow the citizens of the most SADC members to enter their territory visa-free; in the case of Zimbabwe, 13 members reciprocate. Four other countries—Botswana, Mauritius, South Africa, and Zambia—enjoy visa-free reciprocity with 12 other SADC countries, even though the AVOI scores of all but Mauritius are well down the scale. This shows that the borders of these countries are more open to Africans from within the region than to Africans from elsewhere.
Taking reciprocity a step further, Botswana and Namibia agreed in March 2023 to allow each other’s citizens to cross their borders using a national identity card instead of a passport. 

In contrast, neither Comoros nor Madagascar offers visa-free travel to the citizens of another SADC member state, but both offer a visa on arrival to all Africans. For that reason, they rank among the AVOI’s top 20 performers.