A new report has indicated that 93 per cent of African countries have maintained or improved their visa process.
Reviewing their scores last year and comparing them with what obtained this year, the report stated that relative to 2021, two-thirds of African countries have adopted more liberal visa policies compared to six years ago.
This was revealed in the 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI) report, showing that African countries are making progress in their freedom of travel policies, most of which had been severely curtailed by the Covid-19 crisis.
The annual publication, prepared by the African Development Bank Group in collaboration with the African Union Commission, is now in its 7th edition and was launched on Sunday on the sidelines of the 2022 African Economic Conference in Mauritius.
The report tracks visa policies adopted by African governments on three main criteria: whether entry to citizens from other African countries is visa-free, if a visa on arrival can be obtained, and whether travellers are required to obtain visas ahead of traveling to other African countries.
This year’s report underlines the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years (2020 and 2021) during which most countries restricted movement, both domestically and for international travel. Restrictions on international travel ranged from closing entire borders to quarantines, screening measures, and bans on visitors from countries deemed ‘high risk.
Domestic restrictions included a gamut of measures such as prohibitions on travelling between provinces, bans on non-essential movement, curfews, and rules that limited gatherings, as witnessed in Nigeria during the lockdown.
The 2022 report reflects on renewed signs of progress: 10 countries have improved their visa openness score over the past year, and visa openness on the continent now exceeds that recorded during the year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and is in line with the peak score achieved in 2020.
Progressive visa policies that increase visa-free entry or to visa on arrival policies, will ensure that this positive trend continues. The use of technology and a greater adoption of e-Visa systems will help fast track the ease at which travellers can cross borders.
According to the Visa Openness Index, African travel has become more open to African citizens in 2022, with fewer restrictions overall. There is now an even split between travels that is visa free, and travel where a visa may be obtained on arrival at the destination country.
Three countries—Benin, The Gambia and the Seychelles—offer visa-free entry to Africans of all other countries. In 2016 and 2017, only one country did so.
African Development Bank Group Acting Vice President in charge of regional development, integration and business delivery, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, said: “The Africa Visa Openness Index has been tracking visa openness as a measure of the freedom of movement since 2016. This year’s edition—the seventh—shows many African countries having greatly simplified their visa regime over the past year.”