Africa is known for its breathtaking natural scenery, superb wildlife, ancient ruins, cultural traditions and diverse peoples. There is no need to travel far if everything is on the same continent; Africa has everything you could ever want. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you can just hop on a plane, boat or bus and enter the country of your choice – to enjoy its beauty and discover new places? Unfortunately, this is not the case for most Africans as there are visa restrictions for certain countries hindering the full tourism potential of the continent. The good news is there are several nations with visa-free travel in Africa. Does your country belongs to an economic or regional bloc? You can also visit member states without a problem.
VISA-FREE TRAVEL & OPENNESS IN AFRICA
When it comes to visa openness, the AfDB reports in its 2016 Africa Tourism Monitor that the Seychelles scored the best in the survey followed by Uganda, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Ghana. Senegal also increased it’s number of visa-free countries from 16 in 2015 to 42 in 2016. Tunisia, Malawi and Sao Tome et Principe are three other nations that have improved their visa openness. The Africa Visa Openness Index , released this year, also inspired a number of countries to allow better access for African travelers by removing visa requirements or granting visas upon arrival. Benin, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe are looking to open their countries and improve mobility.
Which countries are entirely visa free? Where can an African national get a visa on arrival? What travel perks come with being a citizen of a country in a regional bloc? Find some standouts below.
Seychelles is one of the few countries in Africa where a visa is not required to step foot on the island. In fact, the island nation does not require a visa from any visitor of any country. All you need is a passport that is valid until your return to the country of origin. A visitor’s permit is issued upon arrival provided you meet the requirements: you are not a ‘prohibited immigrant’ and you do not hold a permit to reside in the Seychelles. In addition, you must be in possession of a return ticket, confirmed accommodation and enough funds to support your stay.
Rwanda also eased up its visa restriction in 2013 for African nationals. The country allows all African nationals to obtain a visa upon arrival. A passport with a validity of six months plus one empty page are required for entrants to the country. East African Community (EAC)citizens are issued a visa upon arrival valid for six months without a fee. This favorable policy helped the country enormously, boosting tourism receipts by as much as 24% and 50% increase in trade activities. Moreover, the policy helped attract investments, trade and labor movement in the country.
In July 2016, Ghana officially opened its doors to fellow Africans removing visa requirements before arriving in the country. Now, citizens of the African Union (AU) member states are issued visas upon arrival at the country’s Kotoka International Airport.
ECONOMIC & REGIONAL BLOCS
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the pioneer when it comes to the freedom of movement of people. ECOWAS citizens can travel between countries using the ECOWAS passport. Its 15 member countries include Benin, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria. This freedom is enshrined in the Protocol on Free Movement, Right of Residence and Establishment.
KAZA Kavango Zambezi is the common tourist visa between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visitors who apply for a visa can visit both countries including day trips to neighboring Botswana. If successful, this pilot project will be expanded to include Angola, Namibia and Botswana in the second phase. The third phase will see Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa while the fourth stage will include all Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries such as Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Tanzania and the DR of Congo. KAZA is a product of the UNIVISA, the common visa envisioned by the SADC leaders in 1998. Although it is meant to facilitate travel among the 15 SADC countries, the vision is to allow fellow Africans move freely without a visa in the future. Currently, it is easier for passport holders of developed countries to enter Africa without a visa compared to Africans.
Most nationals belonging to one of the 15 SADC countries can visit another country visa-free. However, there are some that still restrict the movement of people. South Africa, for example tries to implement a visa-free policy for SADC members – however there’s a catch on time limits. Citizens of Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe can enter without a visa and stay up to 90 days. Those who are in transit or staying 30 days or less are allowed visa-free into South Africa. Lesotho, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Swaziland belong to this group.
The East African Community (EAC) is composed of 6 partner countries, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. It is home to 150 million people. The citizens of each of these countries are free to enter any of the member nations without a visa. But, if you are a non EAC resident, you can avail of the EAC single visa for Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.
The benefits of easing travel among Africans in Africa are far reaching, promoting revenues in the tourism sector, creating jobs, stimulating economic growth and enhancing further regional integration. For the ordinary African, the freedom to discover the beauty and cultures of neighboring countries is incentive enough to pack up and head somewhere new and exciting.
Jackie Edwards is a freelance researcher, editor and writer. She spends most of her time traveling between Africa and America.