The Passport Index 2021, the benchmark global index in terms of the power of passports, was released on October 21. Which African passports make traveling the easiest?
In 2016, a McKinsey report indicated that more than half of the trips in the world are tourist and very often intra-regional. However, African nationals are the travelers in the world who face the most administrative difficulties, not only when they plan to travel outside the continent but also within. In Africa, however, people in different countries are not in the same boat.
In Africa, according to the latest global passport power index from the NGO Global Citizen Solutions, only two countries are found in the global high average of the most powerful passports: Seychelles and Mauritius. The two island countries are taking advantage of their geographical location to establish themselves as tourist and tax havens.
The Passport Index ranking examines mobility, but also the investment opportunities and quality of life offered by countries. South Africa and Botswana are doing well: the two countries of southern Africa are highly industrialized and their citizens enjoy the best purchasing power in Africa.
A ranking that has some surprises in store: from fifth place, we find Lesotho and Tunisia, tied, followed by Malawi, Namibia, Eswatini, Tanzania and Zambia. And if the following ten passports are not very far apart, we must above all note a fall in the power of Moroccan and Nigerian passports, as well as an increase in the power of Gambian, Rwandan and Tunisian passports.
Tunisia and Lesotho, two surprises
The rise of passports in the Lesotho and Tunisia remains a mystery. The landlocked kingdom of South Africa is one of the poorest countries on the planet. The Human Development Index (HDI) ranks it 167th out of 188 countries. We must also note a vaccination rate against Covid-19 of 15,8%, one of the lowest in the sub-region. However, Lesotho is doing quite well in terms of the classification of countries at health or security risk, much better than South Africa. And he takes advantage of the diplomatic hegemony of the latter, benefiting from a certain facility in terms of travel: the inhabitants of Lesotho need about thirty visas throughout the world, in particular towards Asian countries.
As for Tunisia, with a debt of 97% of its GDP, a socio-economic, political and diplomatic crisis, nothing explains why it appears in such a high position. In terms of mobility, Tunisia has taken the brunt the reduction in the number of visas decided by France, and the country is consistently rated red for Western travelers. Global Citizen Solutions seems to have taken into account the vaccination rate against Covid-19 of around 40%. But the NGO obviously does not count the investment opportunities in Tunisia, or the quality of life - yet two of the three criteria - both in free fall for years.
Moroccan and Nigerian passports drop
With regard to Morocco, in addition to the reduction in French visas, the kingdom has especially suffered the consequences of the severance of its relations with Algeria. Without forgetting, of course, the longevity of the crisis in Western Sahara and the tensions with Spain and Germany, further reducing the chances of citizens obtaining a Schengen visa. On the Nigerian side, the security crisis has alienated the passport, even vis-à-vis neighboring African countries. Today, Nigerians can only travel freely to 47 other states, 20 of which are visa-free.
The Gambia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya are undoubtedly the big winners of this edition. The passports of the four countries have gained weight for different reasons. In the case of Tanzania, it is mainly the diplomatic efforts of the new president Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has restored relations with the countries of East Africa, as well as with the United States and several countries. Asian. Tanzanians therefore gain access to seven visa-free countries, and two countries with visa on arrival, a total of nine compared to 2020.
Kenya also gained a lot from the change of the Tanzanian regime after the death of John Magufuli. Kenya's recent opening up to China has generated a domino effect. Despite a serious political crisis and several scandals, Uhuru Kenyatta is a privileged partner of the new administration of the White House, where he has been invited by Joe Biden twice. Kenya, a poor country with good human capital, is therefore coveted by the two greatest world powers.
Then, the Rwandan passport took off thanks to the recent restoration of relations with France and Europe. This has opened the borders of several countries, especially African - such as Côte d'Ivoire - to Rwandans, but also the West Indies and Madagascar.
As for The Gambia, its progress results from the links restored with Senegal since the fall of Yahya Jammeh, affecting the West African integration of the country. In addition, Gambian President Adama Barrow has established an effective diplomatic circuit with Arab-Muslim states, from North Africa to the Gulf or South Asia. A context that allows Gambians to visit 37 countries without a visa and 24 with a visa on arrival.