Nigeria added 0.516 points to emerge as the third most improved country on the African Visa Openness Index (AVOI) since 2016 when its maiden edition was published.
The latest AVOI, which was released in Mauritius, yesterday, ranks Nigeria sixth, with an average point of 0.864 across different parameters.
The country rose from 25th position in the intervening years to join the top 10 on the index. It sits behind Ethiopia and Benin, both occupying first and second positions, as the most improved nations on the list. Though Ethiopia has worked harder than any other country to open its borders to African citizens for business, tourism and others, the Republic of Benin still tops the table alongside The Gambia and Seychelles. First published in 2016, the report is a joint initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC). The latest edition was unveiled at the closure of the African Economic Conference, held December 9 to 11.
AVOI measures the extent to which African countries are open to visitors from other countries on the continent. The index analyses each country’s visa requirements to show which facilitates travel to its territory. 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.
It also tracks changes in countries’ scores over time. This shows how countries’ policies are evolving, as regards freedom of movement across the continent, and how visa-related policy changes can have significant impact on the ease with which Africans travel to other countries.
According to the report, data for this year’s edition were collected in July and August from majorly the International Air Transport Association and respective countries’ official websites.
Thirty-six out of 54 countries are reported to have improved or maintained their cores since 2016, with 13 of the top 20 performers having higher scores this year than six years ago. It notes that three countries, as against one in 2016, are now visa-free to all other countries in the region. The three are: Benin, The Gambia, and Seychelles.
Libya and Western Sahara, with 0.19 points each, sit at the base of the ladder. Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt and Algeria follow from the bottom up. Visa analysts at the event, however, cautioned that the ranking was not about naming and shaming but exploring options for improving openness among African countries.
They regretted that other nationals could move more freely in Africa than Africans themselves, a challenge that has huge consequences for single market drive.
“We need to break down all barriers that impede free movement of people across the continent, especially that of workers. This is vital for promoting investment,” President of AfDB Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, had said.