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An overview of the Africa Visa Openness Report 2018

In 2015, the Heads of State and Governments of the African Union adopted the Agenda 2063, a plan for socio-economic change in Africa over the next 50 years. The Agenda is built around seven aspirations. According to Aspiration 2, Africa should be “[a]n integrated continent, politically united based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance”. More specifically, this aspiration underlines the will to make Africa “a continent where the free movement of people, capital, goods and services will result in significant increases in trade and investments amongst African countries rising to unprecedented levels and strengthen Africa’s place in global trade”. One of the main actions in this regard foreseen by Agenda 2063 is to create an African Passport, and to eliminate visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018. On the 15 January 2019 the African Development Bank published the Africa Visa Openness Report 2018. The report shows that there is still a long way to go before reaching visa-free travel for all Africans, but progress has been made.

In 2018, African countries took significant steps to improve their openness to other countries in Africa. First, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Single African Air Transport Market were introduced, and the Free Movement of Persons Protocol was improved. The AfCFTA was concluded by almost 50 countries at the African Union Summit in March 2018, together with the Kigali Declaration and the Free Movement Protocol. The advances made on Free Movement of Persons pushes African countries to take action to improve the rights of residence and establishment of other African countries’ citizens. The Single African Air Transport Market symbolises an additional landmark to progress air connectivity which will lead to quicker, economical and more accessible travel within Africa.

Here are some of the results presented in the report:

· In 2018, the number of Africans who do not need a visa to travel to another African country reaches 25% which represents a slight increase from 22% in 2017, and 20% in 2016. The number of Africans that can get visas on arrival remains the same since 2017 with 24% and the number of Africans that need a visa to travel to other African countries decreased from 54% in 2017 to 51%. 37 countries improved their visa openness score between 2017 and 2018.

· The two only countries with a total visa-free travel policy with other African countries are the Seychelles and Benin. Comoros, Djibouti, Madagascar and Somalia offer visa on arrival to all other African countries.

· We can also see that ¾ of the top 20 most visa-open countries are in East and West Africa, while none are in Central Africa. This can be explained by their regional free-movement policies, namely the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement, Right of Residence and Establishment in West Africa and the visa-free travel within the East African Community (EAC) for EAC Citizens.

· An interesting point to underline is that the most visa-open African countries are low or low-middle income countries, while 7 out of 8 of Africa’s upper-middle income economies remain more closed to foreign citizens. However, half of the top 20 most visa-open countries saw an increase in their real GDP growth.

In the report, the African Development Bank mentions that African countries should give their support to further visa-free regional blocs, promote better reciprocity, and initiate more visa on arrival policies for Africans.

Author: Dr. Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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