News: East African Nations are the best in Visa Openness
Kenya Rwanda and Uganda have been named among the top 10 most open destinations, in Africa in the Africa Visa Openness Report 2018.
The report by African Development Bank and the African Union noted that African countries on average are becoming more open to each other, with indications that travel within the continent is getting easier.
According to the President, African Development Bank Group Akinwumi A. Adesina, 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.
“We must accelerate investments in regional and national infrastructure, especially, to boost connectivity, reduce costs and raise competitiveness.” He said.
In 2018, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Single African Air Transport Market were launched, and progress was made on the Free Movement of Persons Protocol.
The AfCFTA was signed by close to 50 countries at the AU Summit in March 2018, alongside the Kigali Declaration and the Free Movement Protocol. The AfCFTA creates one African market of 1.2 billion people, with a GDP of US$2.5 trillion, that has the potential to boost intra-African trade by 52% by 2020,12 beneftting African producers, consumers and traders.
The report noted that compared to 2017 and 2016, progress has been made in 2018 against visa openness indicators.
“Africans currently do not need a visa to travel to more countries than in previous years, and they need visas to travel to fewer countries.” A section of the study reads adding that however, the fact that Africans still require visas to travel to just over half of other African countries shows more progress is needed to realise free movement of people continent-wide. So far, africans do not need a visa to travel to 25% of other African countries (up from 22% in 2017, and 20% in 2016). Africans can get visas on arrival in 24% of other African countries (also 24% in 2017, and 25% in 2016). Africans need visas to travel to 51% of other African countries (down from 54% in 2017, and 55% in 2016)” the report stated.
In East Africa, Rwanda performed best with a score of 0.857. the country was ranked position 3 followed by Uganda at position five with a score of 0.853. Kenya was ranked position 9 with a score of 0.694.
According to the study,Kenya moved into the top 10 countries in the Index up from position 15 in 2017, and position 16 in 2016.
Rwanda moved up in the top 10 countries in the Index to stand at number three up from position 9 in 2017.
Ethiopia automated its visa application system and announced a decision to liberalize visas for African travelers.
The announcement was made by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in May 201839 and has been widely welcomed in African policy and media circles.
According to Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission Amb Kwesi Quartey, 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.” He said.
“A relaxed visa regime will enhance both Ethiopia’s openness and will allow the country to harness the significant stopover transit traffic of flyethiopian.” Fitsum Arega Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Ethiopia said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the free movement of people on the continent has always been a cornerstone of Pan-African brotherhood and fraternity.
“Today, I am directing that any African wishing to visit Kenya will be eligible to receive a visa at the port of entry. To underscore Kenya’s commitment, this shall not be done on the basis of reciprocity. The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity, we will become.” President Kenyatta said.
Facilitating visa access improved in 2018, with slightly more countries offering liberal access to all Africans, while the number of countries offering visas on arrival to all Africans stayed the same. More countries offered eVisas in 2018, an increase of seven countries from 2016.
From the report, 8 countries in the top 20 most visa-open countries are in East Africa (Comoros, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania). The top 20 improvers, based on progress made on visa openness scores between 2016-2018, cover Southern Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and North Africa. The top improvers all have policies allowing Africans greater visa free or visa-on-arrival access.
Benin was the highest performing country since the last edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index. The country increased its score by 200%, moving from 27th place in 2017 to join Seychelles at the top in 2018. Benin is only the second country on the continent to offer visa-free access to all African countries and the first Francophone country to do so.
The move ties into the government’s tourism action programme launched in December 2016, which includes a priority development of seven tourism sites across the country. Total travel and tourism contributed 5.7% to Benin’s GDP in 2017 and is forecast to rise by 3.8% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council Economic Impact 2018 report.
by Kawira Mutisya