Gaborone - Botswana and Namibia have been singled out as the two countries on the African continent that are looking to open up on visas.
A report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), in collaboration with the African Union (AU), cited an announcement in which President Mokgweetsi Masisi was quoted as saying that in a bid to promote the tourism sector and boost the business environment, Botswana will liberalise its visa regime by offering tourist visas on arrival.
“The new visa-on arrival policy will make travel to Botswana easier for African travellers,” the AfDB report said.
The report also cited an announcement by Namibia’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa, who in June this year was quoted as saying the country has taken a decision to start issuing visas on arrival to travellers from a number of African countries outside of the SADC region to promote free movement of people in line with the African Union’s integration goals.
“Africans from 27 countries across the continent will benefit from the move,” the AfDB report said.
Out of a total of 54 African countries, Botswana and Namibia were raked 31 and 40 respectively in the latest Africa Visa Openness Index.
The Africa Visa Openness 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; whether they allow people to travel to their country without a visa, if travellers can get a visa on arrival in the country, or if visitors need to get a visa before travel.
The report shows that the top 10 and top 20 countries continued to improve their average visa openness scores in 2019, as more countries adopted liberal access policies for other Africans. At the same time, 85% of the top 20 countries are also the most open African countries to global visitors. Over half of the top 20 countries hold the most favourable passports for African travel, suggesting that more liberal policies can promote their own citizens’ ease to travel.
Close to half or over half of the top 20 countries on the index are champions of the continent’s regional integration milestones, including the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Single African Air Transport Market and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in Africa. Seychelles and Benin are the top performing countries, offering visa-free access to all Africans.
The report also shows that Ethiopia entered the top 20 most visa-open countries.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr. Khaled Sherif, AfDB’s vice-president, regional development, said African travellers no longer needed a visa to travel to a quarter of other African countries, whereas visa-free travel was only possible to a fifth of the continent in 2016.
“While the top 10 and top 20 continue to champion open visa policies, more countries in all regions are following this model, including most recently Africa’s upper-middle-income countries,” he said. Sherif said the 2019 top performers on visa openness rank among the top countries for foreign direct investment in Africa, and benefit from strong levels of growth, including in the tourism sector.
“But the ambition should not stop here. Global challenges, from inequality to climate change, are having a significant impact in Africa as well as elsewhere,” said Sherif.
AU Commission deputy chairperson Kwesi Quartey said the 2019 findings showed that African countries were increasingly open to African travellers.
“The majority of countries and regions have made steady progress across all visa openness indicators, with 13 countries having moved upwards in rank on the index in 2019,” he said. Quartey added that the latest report shows that Seychelles and Benin remained the top two countries on visa openness in Africa, with their visa-free policy for all African visitors.
“In 2019, countries showed that dramatic changes are possible with a simple policy shift. Ethiopia for example, has moved up by a record 32 places on the index, and entered the top 20 most visa-open countries in Africa. An African continent without travel and document restrictions should be an Africa we can be proud of,” he said.