Coronavirus: African passports became more valuable during Covid-19

By Conrad Onyango
Posted on Friday, 12 November 2021 10:53, updated on Friday, 10 December 2021 12:10

In this image taken Friday June 14, 2013, A Mandela Foundation employee shows the archived passport of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela’s condition in a Pretoria hospital remained critical for a second straight day Monday June 24, 2013, said South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, who described the stricken anti-apartheid hero as being “asleep” when he visited him the previous evening.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

African passport holders grew the number of countries which they could travel to visa-free, during the pandemic. Growth occurred in some of Africa's strongest economies - and some of its smallest.

By Conrad Onyango – bird Newsroom

Over the past 18 months, African passports holders have been granted visa-free access to more countries than ever before, a trend which may be surprising, given the increased travel barriers to contain the deadly Covid-19 virus.

“The global mobility gap is at its widest point ever and continues to expand due to proliferating barriers to entry erected since the outbreak of the pandemic,” said Henley and Partners, in their 2021 Passport Index, released

Holders of African passports can now travel to more than three-quarters of all countries of the world without the requirement of a visa.

The island nations of Seychelles and Mauritius, alongside South Africa, rank among the top five countries with the most powerful passports in Africa respectively. According to the index, they led their peers in defying pandemic-induced travel restrictions.

The Seychelles passport ranked 29th globally offers holders access to 153 countries, Mauritius ranked 33rd (148 destinations) while South African passport holders enjoy travel freedom in 103 countries across the globe.

Compared to the Index’s 2020 edition, the three countries have added two more countries each on their visa-free destinations.

According to the Henley Passport index 2021, advanced economies like UK and US still have stricter restrictions to international movement including frequent changes on ‘safe list’ countries even as they contemplate a return to business as usual.

“Ongoing requirements for expensive tests and quarantine periods are throwing significant obstacles in the way of international travellers,” said Hannah White, Deputy Director of the UK’s Institute for Government, in a comment published by the index.

Botswana (77 destinations) and Namibia (76 destinations) ranked fourth and fifth to round out the top five most powerful African passports. They added a jurisdiction each over the last year, giving holders more freedom to travel the world.

Even some of the lowest-ranked African countries with access to less than 50 countries (like Sudan, with 41) and Somalia (with 34) added countries (one each) to their lists of visa-free destinations, during the period.

The index relies exclusively on data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The index can be found here.

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