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CAPE TOWN - Henley & Partners, a company focused on residence and citizenship planning have released their annual Partners index, which is a ranking of all the passports of the world according to the number of countries their holders can travel to visa-free.

The Henley Passport Index is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). 

In Africa, South Africa ranked the 3rd highest African country on the index. Globally, SA ranked 52nd. 

In 2008 and 2009, South Africa reached its highest ranking over the last 10 years when it ranked 35th on the index.

 Nigel Barnes, the Managing Partner of Henley & Partners South Africa, explains that, when it comes to both Travel and Settlement Freedom, South Africa is lagging behind in its rankings.

 “In fact, of all the continents, Africa as a whole has suffered the most dramatic decline in travel freedom on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, with African countries accounting for 19 of the 27 biggest fallers over the past decade,” he says.

 Seychelles, which, with visa-free access to 141 countries, is the highest-ranking country in Africa and sits in 27th place on the index. 

Ranking 2nd in the region and 32nd globally, Mauritius, meanwhile, grants its citizens visa-free access to 134 countries.

Globally, Germany holds on to 1st place for the fifth year running in the 2018 edition of the index. Compared to their African counterparts, citizens of the European country enjoy visa-free access to 177 countries in total.

Of the 199 countries featured on the index, 143 (including the US) improved their rank over the past year and 41 countries (the Russian Federation among them) maintained their position.

Barnes points out that the countries that offer the most credible citizenship-by-investment programs in the world consistently perform strongly on the Henley Passport Index. 

“Malta offers the top-ranked investment-migration program globally, and the country also scores very highly on the index, holding the world’s 9th most powerful passport and offering visa-free access to 169 countries. In 4th place, Austria provides access to a total of 174 countries. Cyprus, in 17th place, is another highly sought-after destination and offers visa-free access to 159 counties,” he says.

Global trends

“Global mobility is on the brink of massive change and some of the emerging trends we are seeing, as a result, include travel bans, visa restrictions, Brexit and growing support for nationalization,” says Barnes. 

“Closer to home, credit rating downgrades, the volatile political and social climate, and concerns about the sustainability of sectors such as education are further evidence of increasing uncertainty and the major shifts shaping our world.”