In September 2016, Africa’s richest man Dangote was quoted expressing his incredulity at the fact that as a Nigerian, despite the size of his group and investments on the continent, he still needed 38 visas to visit countries on the African continent. Earlier in July 2018, the Henley Passport Index, a ranking of all the passports of the world according to the number of countries their holders can travel to visa-free, had ranked Nigeria 90th alongside Liberia and Congo (Rep.) with access to 47 countries globally in a report. Now, in a new report released 9 October, Africa’s most populous nation ranks 94th.
The ranking may be expected to regress even further as Tanzania, previously one of the 28 African countries Nigerians could visit without a visa, has allegedly withdrawn its visa on arrival. Tanzania’s island Zanzibar, one of the hottest travel spots for Nigerians in 2018, will now require an application for a Tanzanian tourist visa at the Embassy or have the Tanzanian host apply for visitors. This change in visa processing also affects countries such as Mali, Niger, Yemen, Somalia.
Funmi Oyatogun, founder of TVP Adventures, shared this development on Twitter from information gotten from an Immigration officer in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. BBC Pidgin service also spoke to someone who confirmed the development. However, the governments of Tanzania and Nigeria are yet to respond to requests for clarification.
Global connectivity has become an indispensable feature of the 21st century, and some African countries were beginning to realise how this could contribute to their economies. In line with recommendations by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in its Africa Visa Openness report, more countries began attempts to make travel easier to encourage intra-continental travel which has been notoriously difficult for African citizens. Members of the African Union (AU) introduced an AU passport meant to ease travel between member states either by allowing visa-free entry or streamlining the visa process.
“The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020,” the AU said in a statement announcing the launch.
A number of African countries including Ghana, Benin, Kenya and Namibia scrapped visa requirements from 2016 with Ethiopia being the latest, joining the list of African countries (pdf), that have loosened or scrapped visa requirements altogether. However, countries like South Africa, and now Tanzania, continue to show the continent’s visa double standard, remaining largely closed to other Africans but more welcoming to the wider world.
Seychelles, the first African country with a passport that is able to travel visa-free (including visa on arrival) to the most countries, and the only nation where visa-free travel is open to all Africans, ranks 25th (previously 24th) globally with access to 152 destinations. The top five African countries with the most access include: Mauritius which ranks 31st (previously 28th) with 146 destinations, South Africa which ranks 52th (previously 50th) with 102 destinations, Botswana which ranks 63rd (previously 61st) with 81 destinations, and Namibia, 69th (previously 66th) with access to 76 destinations.
Singapore which ranked first on the global list and could access as many as 189 countries was tied with Japan but has now been overtaken by the Asian country. The Japanese passport is now the strongest in the world, according to the new Passport Index Ranking by law firm Henley & Partners released Tuesday. Its citizens can travel without a visa or gain a visa on arrival in 190 destinations after the country gained visa-free access to Myanmar earlier this year.
Germany moved down from 2nd place with France and South Korea joining at 3rd place, all with visa-free access to 188 destinations. Sweden is among countries in 4th place with access to 187 destinations while the United Kingdom and United States which previously ranked 4th with 186 destinations now rank 5th. Canada (formerly 5th) is among countries ranked 6th with 185 destinations.
“As the world economy has become increasingly globalized, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily,” a statement by Henley reads on the website which also has a search engine for which countries your passport can access. “Across the economic spectrum, individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their country of origin and access business, financial, career, and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale.”
However, the reality of a borderless continent still seems far off for Africans. So far, only heads of state and AU officials are being considered for the AU passport documents, and the cost of cross-border travel is still prohibitively expensive for most travelers with very few flights that directly connect African cities. Traveling to Europe can cost the same or even less than between two African capitals in the same region.
“The free movement of people on our continent has always been a cornerstone of Pan-African brotherhood and fraternity,” Kenyatta said during his inauguration for a second term in office, while announcing that Africans who wish to visit Kenya will be eligible to receive a visa on arrival. “The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity, we will become.”
Somalia, the last African country on the list, ranks 105th (previously 101st) globally with visa-free access to just 32 countries. The country’s passport comes after Libya and South Sudan tied at 100th (prev. 96th) with access to 41 countries, and Eritrea and Sudan tied at 102nd (prev. 98th) with access to 39 destinations.