The year 2018 is a landmark chapter in Africa’s regional integration efforts.
The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market are major milestones in the creation of a regulatory environment that promotes air connectivity and makes it faster, easier and less expensive for Africans to travel within Africa. Findings in the 3rd edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index Report 2018, published by the African Development Bank and the Africa Union Commission, show that on average African countries are becoming more open to each other.
The top 10 and the top 20 most visa-open countries continue to improve their average score, reflecting countries’ more liberal visa policies. In addition, 43 countries improved or maintained their score. Benin made the most progress in opening up its borders to African travelers, moving from 27th place in the 2017 edition to 1stplace in the 2018 report. Zimbabwe also broke into the top 20 with the introduction of a visa-on-arrival policy for SADC members.
Overall, when compared to 2017, Africans do not need a visa to travel to 25% of other African countries (up from 22%); can get visas on arrival in 24% of other African countries, same as last year; and need visas to travel to 51% of other African countries (down from 54%). “Regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank,” said Akinwumi A. Adesina, President, African Development Bank Group. However, the fact that Africans still require visas to travel to just over half of other African countries shows that more progress is needed to realise free movement of people continent-wide.
As infrastructure expands across Africa, and tangible trade and investment opportunities are put on the table, Africans will need to travel with greater ease. Solutions such as the African passport, visa-free regional blocs, multi-year visas, or visa-on-arrival schemes should continue to be promoted.
“Looking at the recent development this year, such as the announcement by Ethiopia, Africa’s diplomatic capital, on the establishment of a visa-on-arrival regime for all African passport holders, Africa is indeed on an upward trajectory towards seamless borders and the free movement of its people. Commendable work has also gone into the actual roll-out of the African passport to the citizenry, ” said Amb. Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
The Visa Openness Index website is accessible at www.visaopenness.org
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