Overall, Africans were able to travel more freely across the continent in 2016 as visa openness levels improved compared to 2015.
This was revealed at the launch of the second edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index undertaken by the African Development Bank (AfDB), in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the World Economic Forum, ahead of the Bank’s Annual Meetings in Ahmedabad, India.
This was contained in a report made available to the Ghana News Agency.
The Index measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other African countries when they travel.
It aims to show at a glance which countries are facilitating travel for citizens of other countries and how: whether they allow people to travel to their country without a visa; if travelers can get a visa on arrival in the country; or whether visitors need to obtain a visa before travel.
The report, however, pointed to many challenges, which highlighted pervasive regional differences in visa openness performance.
It stated for example that 75 percent of countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in either East or West Africa, while 20 percent are in Southern Africa.
Only one country in the top 20 most open to visas is in North Africa (Mauritania), while no countries in Central Africa rank in the top 20.
Mr Aliko Dangote, President and CEO of Dangote Group, said “I need 38 visas to move around Africa.”
Although challenges remain, much progress was also achieved in 2016.
It said continent-wide, Ghana has made the most progress in 2016 in opening up its borders to African travellers, moving into sixth place in the Index, up 16 places from 2015. Senegal also moved into the top 20 most visa-open countries, up nine places from 2015, and Tunisia moved up 13 places from 2015.
Seychelles continues to lead the Index and remains the only African country on the continent to offer visa-free access for all Africans with Uganda and Togo placing second and third, whereas The Gambia, Malawi and Burkina Faso complete the last 20 positions.
“Our leaders have to bring down the walls that separate us, from East Africa to Central Africa to North Africa to West Africa. We need a wider open market,” says Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Group, who received an African passport in 2016.
Going forward, the priority now is to continue this positive trend and deliver on the AU’s decision for African countries to issue visas on arrival to all Africans.
Greater visa openness in Africa could help create a people-centered African integration that offers much-needed travel, trade, leisure, study and job opportunities for all Africans.