The Gambia was ranked 18 out of 53 African countries with a score of 0.496 on the recently published Africa Visa Openness Index by the African Development Bank Group.
The Africa Visa Openness Index is a study that measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other countries in the continent when they travel.
The neighboring Senegal fell 6 places behind The Gambia, ranking 24, with a score of 0.356.
The top 5 countries are Seychelles, Mali, Uganda, Cape Verde and Togo while at the bottom 5 are Libya, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Soa Tome and Principe and Western Sahara.
“Opening up a country’s visa regime is a quick-win on development that remains untapped,” says Moono Mupotola, Director of NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade at the African Development Bank.
“Visa openness promotes talent mobility and business opportunities. Africa’s leaders and policymakers have a key role to play in helping Africans to move freely in support of Agenda 2063’s call to abolish visa requirements for all Africans by 2018.”
The 27-page report also showed which countries are facilitating travel for citizens of other countries and how: whether they allow people to travel to their country without a visa—if travelers can get a visa on arrival in the country or if visitors need to get a visa before they travel.
The data has been collected from immigration, visa agencies and travel operators across Africa. This includes data on visa regulations collected by McKinsey & Company, UNECA and AfDB.
The report revealed that African countries are on average more closed off to each other than open, making travel within the continent difficult.
The report also revealed that Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other countries, get visas on arrival in 25% of other African countries but don’t need a visa to travel to only 20% of other African countries.
“Global comparisons show that North Americans have easier travel access to the continent than Africans themselves. North Americans require a visa to travel to 45% of African countries, can get visas on arrival in 35% of African countries and don’t need a visa in 20% of African countries,” the report stated.
“Free movement of people is not a reality across Africa. Central Africa and North Africa are the most closed regions. Good results in West Africa are due to the Free movement of persons protocol and in East Africa are as a result of the high number of visa on arrival policies.”
The restriction on travels within Africa, experts believe, has serious impact on the level of intra-trade amongst countries in the continent, thus statistics shows intra-trade within African countries is at 12%.
The findings of the Visa Openness Index, which has been developed in partnership with McKinsey & Company and the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Africa, will be presented and discussed at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan on 21-22 March 2016.
Experts said Africa’s economic success will largely depend on its success on transforming the continent’s over 600 borders to over 600 trade links.
“Visa openness is helping Rwanda to achieve its goal to become a Middle Income Country by 2020. In recent years, trade, tourism and investment has grown and the economic outlook is strong. GDP growth increased to 7% in 2014 and tourism revenues rose by 4% to USD 305 million,” the report stated.