African countries are simplifying entry processes and dropping restrictions to improve cross-border travel at inter-country and regional levels.
SPECIAL REPORT | BIRD AGENCY | In the past eight years, 35 countries have improved their visa policies and, since 2016, five countries have abolished all visa requirements for African travellers.
As a result, citizens of at least five countries can now enjoy visa-free travel in 42 different countries, compared to just three in 2020.
According to the Africa Development Bank’s Africa Visa Openness Report 2023, most countries are making progress towards simplifying entry processes and dropping restrictions for other nations.
The report also indicates that the free movement of people has advanced within Africa’s regional economic blocs. In the past year, six of the eight regional economic communities recognized by the African Union have improved their members’ average visa openness.
West African countries are leading the rankings, with most of the top 10 performers being from this region. In fact, in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), 97% of country-to-country travel routes are visa-free for citizens of the region.
Here’s a summary of Africa’s most open countries for travel.
Benin is among the most visa-open countries in Africa, having consistently ranked highly since 2018. Travellers from 53 African countries do not require a visa to enter. However, visa-free travel privileges offered by Benin are only reciprocated by 13 of the 23 member states of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).
2. The Gambia
The Gambia also ranks highly in visa openness, having joined the top performers in 2020. Travellers from 53 African countries do not require a visa to enter. However, like Benin, The Gambia’s visa-free travel privileges are only reciprocated by 13 of the 23 member states of CEN-SAD.
Seychelles has consistently been one of the top performers since the inception of the African Visa Openness Index (AVOI). The island nation allows travellers from 53 African countries to enter without a visa.
Rwanda is a newcomer to the list of visa-free champions on the continent. In 2023, it will extend visa-free access to all 53 African Union member states. Since 2016, citizens of almost 90% of African countries have been able to obtain a visa on arrival in Rwanda. In 2020, the country waived visa-on-arrival fees for citizens visiting for 30 days or less.
Kenya, also a new visa-free champion, began implementing a visa-free regime in 2024, after abolishing visa requirements in December 2023. Previously, travellers from 21 countries did not require a visa to enter Kenya, while those from 32 countries could obtain a visa on arrival. In 2022, Kenya was ranked 31st out of 54 states in the visa index. However, all foreign citizens are now required to apply for their travel ahead of time through an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) system, which levies fees of at least US$30.
Nigeria grants visa-free entry to citizens of 17 countries globally and offers a visa-on-arrival service to those from 36 countries. Nigeria has been rising up the ranks after the country announced it was dropping its requirement that African citizens obtain a visa before arrival, in December 2019.
Ghana allows travellers from 20 countries globally to arrive visa-free and offers a visa on arrival to citizens of 34 countries. Among African countries, only citizens of Morocco need to obtain a visa ahead of travel.
Guinea-Bissau grants visa-free entry to citizens of 13 countries globally, while citizens of 40 countries can obtain a visa on arrival.
9. Cabo Verde
Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) Citizens of 16 countries globally do not require a visa, while citizens of 36 countries can obtain a visa on arrival. Amongst African countries, only citizens of Morocco need apply for a visa before arrival.
In Togo, citizens of 15 countries do not require a visa, while citizens of 37 countries can obtain a visa on arrival. Amongst African countries, only citizens of Djibouti need a visa.
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