The 2022 issue of the Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI), which assesses the extent to which African countries are open to travelers from other African countries, reflects that visa openness on the continent has increased since the year before the COVID-19 pandemic and is now on par with the peak score attained in 2020.
According to the report, Ethiopia stood out as having significantly opened its visa regime between 2016 and 2022, achieving the largest nominal increase in score since 2016 and figuring among the continent’s top 20 performers (17th). It also boasts a visa openness rate of 96%, meaning that nationals of 96% of African countries are eligible to enter Ethiopia visa-free or with a visa on arrival (this changed in late-2022, when Ethiopia temporarily revoked visaon-arrival privileges for many countries).
This success has largely been attributed to the fact that Ethiopia— followed by Burundi and Djibouti— undertook wholesale changes to their visa regime and moved from a general “visa required” policy to visas on arrival. All three had ranked among Africa’s lowest performers in 2021 and moved into the top 20 in 2022.
- Benin, Gambia, and Seychelles are tied and rank 1st on the list.
- West Africa counts the largest share of top-performing countries in 2022: it is home to eight of the top 20 performers (9 in 2021).
- East Africa also has eight representatives in the top 20 (it had six in 2021).
- Southern Africa is home to three top-20 countries (15%), down from four in 2021. North Africa has one country in the top 20 (5%), the same as in 2021.
- No Central African country ranks among the top 20 on this year’s 2022 AVOI or on the AVOI of last year.
It is evident that often, low-income countries lead Africa in adopting progressive policies that encourage human mobility.
- 18 of 2022’s top-20 performers are low-income or lower-middleincome countries.
- 5 of 7 of Africa’s upper-middleincome countries have a low visa openness score.
The Africa Visa Openness Index is a joint initiative of the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission which has annually tracked the evolution of visa regimes on the African continent from 2016 to today. For each country, the AVOI calculates the number of African countries whose citizens must obtain a visa before travelling there, the number of countries whose citizens may obtain a visa upon arrival, and the number of countries whose citizens do not need a visa to enter. Each country is then assigned a visa openness score and ranked accordingly.