The 2020 Africa Visa Openness Index has shown that the liberalisation of African countries’ visas regimes would boost the continent’s economic recovery.
The index was published by the African Union Commission (AUC) and African Development Bank (AfDB) on Thursday.
The index measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other countries in Africa when they travel.
It aims to show, at a glance, which countries are facilitating travel for citizens of other countries and how.
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It also shows whether they allow people to travel to their countries without visas, if travellers can get visas on arrival in the country, or if visitors need to get visas before travel.
The index showed that the upward trend in African countries liberalising their visa regimes and welcoming African travellers continued.
Dr Khaled Sherif, AfDB Vice-President, Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery said the 2020 index showed that a record 54 per cent of the continent was now accessible for African visitors.
These were visitors who no longer needed visas to travel or could get one on arrival.
Sherif said it marked a significant increase of nine per cent from five years ago.
He added that The Gambia joined Seychelles and Benin in allowing visa-free access for all African travellers.
He also said 20 countries had moved upwards in the rankings, while 93 per cent of countries had improved or maintained their scores.
“The overall picture on visa openness is positive, and reflected in the latest Africa Regional Integration Index, which finds freedom of movement to be the strongest of the continent’s integration dimensions.
“The evolving fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown countries increasingly need to look beyond domestic frontiers in order to boost their economic prospects.
“Visa openness will support Africa to reposition its future growth and, at the same time, promote participation in regional and global value chains.”
Sherif, however, expressed optimism to see more African countries easing travel restrictions for students, investors, tourists or business people.
“This, in a significant way, can help lessen the severity of the COVID-19 crisis and make us more connected than before,” he said.
Also, Amb. Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, AUC noted that it was critical to advance measures that propelled the continent forward as countries safely reopened and renewed economic opportunities.
Quartey said liberalising countries’ visa regimes were policy tools that could be adopted to make such opportunities.
The deputy chairperson lauded The Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone for “expanding travel horizons for citizens from other African countries”.
“It serves as a clear reminder of the benefits of prioritising visa openness solutions in large and small economies, with big gains accruing to business, investment, innovation and tourism.”
He, however, said in spite of the progress recorded, more could be done as the index findings showed that African citizens needed visas to travel to 46 per cent of other African countries.
He emphasised the need to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services, with the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on Jan. 1, 2021.
“The advantages of a united, integrated Africa are undisputed. For countries and regions to benefit the most from regional integration, they must take bold steps,” he said.
Data on visa openness was collected in July and August.
The primary source of information was from official country websites and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The index tracks changes in country scores over time to show which countries are making improvements that support freer movement of people across Africa.
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