African states continue to rank poorly on the Henley Passport Index despite the recent positive changes in some countries and their relaxed visa policies. Picture: Pexels.

South Africa has dropped three spots on the latest Henley Passport Index with a visa-free/visa on arrival score of 99. The report also shows that African states continue to rank poorly despite the recent positive changes in some countries and their relaxed visa policies. 

The index is compiled using data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and enhanced by research by the Henley & Partners Research Department. Amanda Smit, Managing Partner & Head of South, East and Central Africa at Henley & Partners, told IOL Travel that South Africa now sits at 54th place on the index. 

“In terms of the rankings, this is quite a significant drop from the 51st place it held in Q2. South Africa’s visa-free score dropped from 100 to 99 after a change to Djibouti’s visa policy (the country previously offered a visa-on-arrival to South Africans, but now requires most countries around the world, including South Africa, to apply for an e-visa in advance).”

Smit said South Africa’s drop in rank is due to the positive visa changes in other countries and not because of the country’s visa-free/visa-on-arrival score. 

Despite the poor rankings, there’s hope for Africa. 

Many countries have made their borders more open for other travellers from Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda and Benin. Rwanda initiated a visa-on-arrival policy for citizens of all African countries in 2018 and was one of the countries to receive the highest degree of foreign direct investment last year. The Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, linked it to their robust visa-openness policy and views freedom of movement as a vital component for economic integration.

Smit said that data garnered by the African Development Bank and African Union since 2016 suggests that on average African countries are becoming more open to each other, as countries waive visa requirements or amend existing regulations to ease cross-border travel. 
African countries like Seychelles, ranked 27 on the list, and Mauritius, ranked 31 on the list, have remained strong on the ranking. 

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