#AfriTravel: SA passport ranks 3rd strongest in Africa but slips in global power

2018-01-09 14:30
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Cape Town - If you're looking for visa-free travel destinations to fulfill some of your wanderlust aspirations - you have a total of 100 countries to choose from worldwide.

South Africa has ranked 52nd on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, with an overall ranking of 3rd highest African passport on the index - and locals enjoying visa-free access to some 29 African countries. 

These include  Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde Islands, Comores Islands, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, St Helena, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia,       Zimbabwe. 

Click here to see the full list of 100 visa-free destinations for South Africans. 

SA's passport power is surpassed by the Seychelles, which, with visa-free access to 141 countries, is the highest-ranking country in Africa and sits in 27th place on the index.

SEE: Kenya announces visa on arrival for all Africans  

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.

According to Henley's historical data spanning more than 13 years, in 2008 and 2009 South Africa reached its highest ranking over the last 10 years when it ranked 35th on the index.

Nigel Barnes, 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.

SEE: Visa-free travel: Why is SA's passport power declining?

Sierra Leone, which gained visa-free access to seven countries, and rose eight places to secure 73rd position, is the biggest climber of all African countries on this year’s index. The Sierra Leonean passport now offers visa-free access to 62 countries globally. Meanwhile, Somalia, Libya and Eritrea, with a visa-free scoring of 32, 36 and 37 respectively, sit at the very bottom of the region in the Henley Passport Index,

Supplemented with extensive in-house research, the Henley Passport Index is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most definitive database of travel information.

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 ratings 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.”

The biggest movers in this year’s index were Georgia and Ukraine, which completed the visa-liberalization process with the EU in 2017 and gained access to 30 and 32 new countries respectively. Georgia was the highest individual mover, climbing 15 places, while Ukraine ascended 14 ranks, clinching 1st place from the Russian Federation in the Commonwealth of Independent States. China, Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia also performed strongly this year, each gaining seven or more places compared to 2017.

At the other end of the spectrum, 14 countries — Cyprus, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Iran, North Korea, Nepal, Yemen, Antigua and Barbuda, North Korea and Syria — fared equally poorly in terms of downward movement on the index, each losing four places year-on-year. New Zealand descended the most but fell by only two places.

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.

In terms of visa-free access, only seven countries saw their level of access reduced over the past year: Azerbaijan, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, Laos, Algeria, North Korea, and Syria all lost visa-free access to a single country.

By contrast, 18 countries maintained their level of visa-free access year-on-year, and the remainder of countries (174 in total) saw an improvement in their level of access compared to 2017.

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