The upward trend in African countries liberalizing their visa regimes and welcoming African travellers has persisted.
As travel restrictions ease and safety measures are put in place to contain the pandemic, sustaining progress and momentum on more comfortable continent-wide travel is vital.
This is according to the 2020 Africa Visa Openness Index published by the African Union Commission and African Development Bank on Thursday.
The fifth edition of the Index highlights the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the pandemic has impacted recent economic gains of African countries, thereby affecting socioeconomic sectors from tourism through to investment.
As travel restrictions ease and safety measures are put in place to contain the pandemic, the Index argues that sustaining progress and momentum on more comfortable continent-wide travel is vital.
- The 2020 Index shows that a record 54% of the continent is accessible for African visitors, who no longer need visas to travel or can get one on arrival, up by 9% since 2016.
- In 2020, The Gambia joins Seychelles and Benin in allowing visa-free access for all African travellers.
- In addition, 20 countries moved upwards in the Index ranking, while 50 countries improved or maintained their scores.
- The report shows a significant rise in e-visas, offered by 24 countries in Africa.
Further checks revealed that despite improvement in ease of access as detailed above:
- African citizens still need visas to travel to 46% of African countries.
- Countries in East and West Africa rank highest among the top performers, worthy of emulation by countries in the other regions.
- The 54% accessibility comprises 26% no visa policy and 28% visa on arrival.
The Index’s findings reinforce the benefits of prioritizing visa openness solutions in large and small economies, with the biggest gains accruing to business, investment, innovation and tourism. It also facilitates the free movement of people, goods and services.
This becomes even more important considering the start of trading on 1 January 2021, under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
What they are saying
Commenting on the development, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, noted that:
- “A global COVID-19 health pandemic has upended all plans – including travels… Yet our interdependency, our need to pull together, uniting and staying focused together, has never been more important.”
The Vice-President, Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery at AfDB, Dr. Khaled F. Sherif said:
- “As the evolving fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, countries increasingly need to look beyond domestic frontiers to boost their economic prospects. Visa openness will support Africa to reposition its future growth.”
Amb. Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission submitted that:
- “As the time has come to safely reopen and revive economies across Africa, it is imperative to institute measures that propel the continent and all its citizens forward. Liberalizing a country’s visa regime is a policy tool that can be quickly adopted to do this.”
The Chairperson of African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said:
- “We should go beyond the present situation, by preparing for post-pandemic conditions in the world. There is an urgent need for Africa to develop new forms of resilience… There is an urgent need for Africa to chart its own course… We should, in full lucidity, boldly opt for an innovative approach that is inward-looking rather than outward-looking.”
What you should know
- The higher a country’s score in the Index, the more visa open it is and the higher it ranks – scores range from 0 (lowest) – 1 (highest).
- Index categories are visa required, visa on arrival and no visa required.
- Each category is weighted based on its degree of openness. For example, a “no visa” result is weighted by 1 (high openness), “visa on arrival” is weighted by 0.8 and a “visa required” by 0.
- 24 countries oﬀer e-visas reﬂecting 44% of the continent.
- Nigeria ranks 8th alongside Guinea-Bissau, with a score of 0.849 out of 1.000.
- Nigeria launched a new visa policy, Nigerian Visa Policy 2020 (The NVP 2020) in February 2020.
- The NVP 2020 expands the classes of visa from six (6) to seventy-nine (79) to accommodate additional travel requirements for people intending to travel to Nigeria.
- The NVP 2020 classifies travellers to Nigeria into two broad categories: Visa Free/Exemption and Visa Mandatory
- The Africa Visa Openness Index measures the extent to which African countries are open to travellers from other African countries when it comes to visas. It looks at what it takes for citizens of other African countries to get into a particular African country.
- Thus, the Index tracks changes in country scores over time to show countries that promotes ease of movement across Africa.