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Africa ‘most open’ for travel, Burundi top

Global mobility report unveils unexpected leader in open-border policy — Africa, with Burundi as the most visa-friendly nation in the world for international travel.

SPECIAL REPORT | BIRD AGENCY | African states are leading the global travel sector’s recovery, boasting 12 out of the top 20 most open countries for travel, according to a new index by Henley & Partners.

The Henley Global Mobility Report 2023 Q3 ranks all 199 countries and territories worldwide according to the number of nationalities they permit entry to without a prior visa.

It is based on official and exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

According to the index, 12 of the top 20 most open countries are in Africa, with Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Rwanda and Seychelles sharing the first place with a 100% openness score.

These countries allow all 198 other nationalities to enter their borders without a visa.

Other African countries that made it to the top 20 are Cape Verde Islands, Madagascar, Mauritania, Somalia and Togo, with openness scores ranging from 99.49% to 89.39%.

It further shows a positive correlation between a country’s openness and its own citizens’ travel freedom, as measured by the Henley Passport Index (HPI).

Tellingly, Seychelles, which is the most open country in Africa, also has the most powerful passport in the continent, ranking 24th globally with visa-free access to 155 destinations.

Mauritius, which ranks ninth on the openness index, also ranks 29th on the passport index with 148 destinations.

The index also reveals some surprising contrasts between countries’ openness and their own passport power.

For instance, Japan, which has lost its top spot on the passport index to Singapore this week, ranks only 63rd on the openness index with a 51.52% score.

Comparatively, the US, which ranks eighth on the passport index with 184 destinations, ranks even lower on the openness index at 78th place with a 22.22% score.

“South Africans sit somewhere in the middle of the global mobility spectrum with access to 106 destinations visa-free, which seems relatively high at almost 50% of the globe, but their passports give them access to only 15% of global GDP,” notes Dr Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners.

With increased openness and ease of doing business, African nations are becoming more attractive destinations for international tourists, investors, and businesspeople, thereby expanding their global reach.

Already, Bloomberg projects Kenya to become the “next Singapore” on its strategy location growing openness policy.

Africa is striving to promote intra-African travel and trade, initiatives mirrored in their HOI scores.

Africa’s dominant presence on Henley’s index, accounting for some 60% of the most welcoming countries, could underscore a remarkable and perhaps unexpected shift in the dynamics of global tourism.

Already, the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is gaining traction and once fully implemented would become the world’s largest single market.

Here are the world’s most open states for travel:

1. Burundi —Africa
2. Comoro Islands — Africa
3. Djibouti —Africa
4. Guinea-Bissau —Africa
5. Maldives — Asia
6. Micronesia — Oceania
7. Mozambique —Africa
8. Rwanda — Africa
9. Samoa — Oceania
10. Seychelles —Africa
11. Timor-Leste — Asia
12. Tuvalu — Oceania
13. Cambodia —Asia
14. Cape Verde Islands —Africa
15. Dominica — Caribbean
16. Madagascar — Africa
17. Mauritania — Africa
18. Somalia — Africa
19. Sri Lanka — Asia
20. Togo — Africa


SOURCE: Seth Onyango, bird story agency