AFRICA – For the first time, Africans can travel to approximately 27 countries visa-free or with a visa on arrival.

This is according to the 2019 Africa Visa Openness Index published by the African Union Commission and African Development Bank.

 Ethiopia which had for a long time closed its borders to other African nations moved up a record 32 places on the Index, entering the top 20 most visa-open countries in Africa.

 The Visa openness Index report, which was released in Johannesburg, South Africa on the sidelines of the Africa Investment Forum revealed that for the first time, African travelers have liberal access to over half the continent.

The progress on visa openness in Africa follows a growing momentum for greater integration between countries and signals that policymakers across the continent are pushing reforms, making it easier for African businessmen and women, investors, students and tourists to travel.

This fourth edition of the Index shows that 47 countries improved or maintained their visa openness scores in 2019.

 According to the report, African visitors no longer need a visa to travel to a quarter of other African countries, whereas visa-free travel was only possible to a fifth of the continent in 2016.

Currently, 21 African countries also offer eVisas to make travel more accessible, up from up from 16 in 2018.

The number is also an improvement compared to the 2016 and 2017 data which only had 9 and 13 countries offering eVisa.

The 2019 top performers on visa openness also rank among the top countries for foreign direct investment in Africa, and benefit from strong levels of growth, including in tourism, the report noted.

The Index shows that Seychelles and Benin remain the top two countries on visa openness in Africa, with their visa-free policy for all African visitors.

African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina said, “Our work on the Africa Visa Openness Index continues to monitor how Africa is doing on free movement of people. Progress is being made but much still needs to be done.”

“To integrate Africa, we should bring down the walls. The free movement of people, and especially labour mobility, are crucial for promoting investments.”

Since its inception, The Visa Openness Index has inspired reforms in more than 10 African countries including Ghana, Benin, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Kenya, unlocking tremendous potential for the promotion of intra-regional tourism, trade and investments.

Countries however, need to make more progress on visa regimes, including introducing visas-on-arrival to be able to enjoy the full benefits of regional integration initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Single African Air Transport Market, and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons.