Africa has the lowest travel restrictions since 2016

Approximately 93% of countries across Africa have maintained or advanced in the Africa Visa Openness Index…

Approximately 93% of countries across Africa have maintained or improved on the Africa Visa Openness Index this year.

Travel is being eased across Africa, with visa restrictions at their lowest since 2016, the government said African Development Bank‘s (AfDB) annually Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI).

The index, produced in collaboration with the African Union Commission, confirmed that two-thirds of African nations have introduced less restrictive visa requirements compared to six years ago.

The AVOI, published every year since 2016, measures the extent of restrictions on citizens of other African nations visiting any country on the continent. The report considers the number of visa requirements for each nation, including which nationalities require visas to enter, which do not, and which may receive visas upon entry.

This year marked a return to pre-pandemic norms, with the report noting that Africa’s total AVOI had exceeded pre-pandemic levels as the continent opened up and economies welcomed the influx of new business, tourism and investment opportunities .

Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, AfDB Acting Vice-President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Operations, wrote: “The increase in travel is due in large part to pent-up personal demand, but also to the realization that many businesses are benefiting from the mobility of the depend on people and this investment thrives on it.”

Significant barriers have been broken down in the years since 2016, with 27% of all Africans making intra-African travel able to travel visa-free, up from 20% in 2016. A further 27% of travel situations now allow for a visa to be secured on arrival, an increase from 25% in 2016. For intra-African travel, 47% of scenarios required a visa prior to travel, compared to 55% in 2016.

Five of the top 20 countries in 2022 have moved up the rankings since last year. Ten countries improved their AVOI and 40 remained stable on the list.

Interestingly, low-income countries are on the rise, with nine of the top 20 ranked countries on the 2022 list being listed as low-income. Low-income countries have evidently taken the lead in liberalizing visa regulations and promoting intra-African mobility. The report cites West African countries among the top performers, with eight of the top 20 countries in the index coming from the region. Meanwhile, East Africa represented eight countries and Southern Africa three. North Africa had just one nation in the top 20 rankings, while no country from Central Africa made it among the top performers on the list.

One factor blamed for lower trade barriers has been the increasing popularity of e-visas, with 24 nations in Africa offering an e-visa in 2022, compared to 21 in 2019 and nine countries in 2016. The new visa regimes have been cited for taking significant stress and time from traveling across African borders.

The emerging trend towards liberalized travel policies has also been endorsed by the African Union as further steps are taken to secure free movement under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In a statement accompanying the report, Deputy Chair of the African Union Commission, Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, highlighting the encouraging progress the continent had made in reducing trade barriers over the course of 2022, commenting: “There is a growing recognition that human mobility is key to Africa’s integration efforts.”

The goal set out in the African Union Agenda 2063 reads: “Africa shall be a continent where the free movement of people, capital, goods and services results in a significant increase in trade and investment between African countries, of unprecedented levels Achieved, and Africa’s Position Strengthened in Global Trade” depends on the success of the AfCFTA as a comprehensive transnational agreement to break down barriers to movement and trade across Africa.

However, in the period since the world reopened from Covid-19 lockdown, restrictions in Africa have been marked by slight but improving shifts in mobility across the region.

Africa has the lowest travel restrictions since 2016

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