The South African passport remains stable in 2019 on the latest Henley Passport Index. Photo: Pexels

DURBAN – The South African passport remains stable in 2019 on the latest Henley Passport Index. 

South Africa, ranked 53rd globally, continues to occupy 3rd place in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, following the Seychelles, ranked 27th globally, and Mauritius, ranked 31st globally. 

Japan goes into the new year holding first place on the Henley Passport Index, with citizens enjoying visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations. In a further display of Asian passport power, Singapore and South Korea now sit in joint second place, with access to 189 destinations around the globe. 

This marks a new high for South Korea, which moved up the ranking following a recent visa-on-arrival agreement with India. Germany and France remain in third place going into 2019, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 188. 

The US and the UK continue to drop down the Henley Passport Index – which is based on authoritative data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata) – and now sit in joint sixth place, with access to 185 destinations. This is a significant fall from the first place position that these countries held in 2015. 

Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Sweden now hold joint fourth place, while Spain and Luxembourg are in 5th. As they have done for much of the index’s 14-year history, Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the ranking, with access to just 30 visa-free destinations. 

Amanda Smit Director of Henley & Partners South Africa and Head of Central, East and Southern African, says this latest ranking shows that despite rising isolationist sentiment in some parts of the world, many countries remain committed to collaboration. 

Smit said, “The Henley Passport Index is an important tool for measuring not only the relative strength of the world’s passports but also the extraordinary results that states can achieve when they work hand in hand with their global peers to build a more interconnected and collaborative world." 

The UAE now holds the top spot in the region at 22nd place globally on the Henley-Iata index, with its citizens able to access 164 destinations around the globe, the nation recently signed agreements with a number of countries, including Mexico, Japan, and Sierra Leone. 

Commenting on the UAE’s recent partnerships with African nations, Ryan Cummings, Director of Signal Risk, said, "The United Arab Emirates has demonstrated a penchant for reciprocating visa deregulation as the country aims to attract diverse skill-sets and increase the power of its own passport.”

Cummings suggests that the African continent would also benefit from this more expansive approach: “Africa continues to lag behind the rest of the world. That said, it is certainly moving in the right direction in terms of enhancing visa openness". 

According to Cummings, over the past year, several African countries – notably Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Senegal – relaxed visa requirements, with the intention of enhancing trade, co-operation, and security.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE