South African passport power weakens again
The South African passport has fallen 18 places on the global ranking since 2008.
It means we can travel with hassle to other developing nations but not the major tourism or business destinations. Last year‚ even Colombia and New Zealand tightened access to South Africans.
For South Africans who travel frequently to the UK‚ the US‚ and the EU‚ this situation is very restrictive.
On Wednesday‚ the Henley Passport Index revealed that although South Africa is the third most powerful passport in Africa. However‚ the report states‚ "it is far surpassed by the Seychelles in 24th position with visa-free access to 144 countries and Mauritius in 32nd place with access to 134 countries".
Nigel Barnes‚ managing partner of Henley & Partners South Africa‚ said when it comes to travel freedom‚ the South African passport does not provide visa-free access to any of the four major global economies: namely‚ India‚ China‚ the EU‚ and the US.
In addition‚ the majority of the countries to which South Africans can travel unhindered are located in Africa and South America.
“This means that South Africans have freedom of movement to predominantly developing economies and regions.
“For South Africans who travel frequently to the UK‚ the US‚ and the EU‚ this situation is very restrictive. Many of our business travellers will‚ at any given time‚ be waiting for different visas from different embassies.
“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‚” Barnes said.
Somalia‚ Libya‚ and Eritrea sit at the bottom of the Henley Passport Index in Africa‚ each only able to access 35 or fewer countries visa-free.
Overall‚ Japan and Singapore have knocked Germany off the top for the first time in five years‚ with citizens of both Asian nations now enjoying visa-free access to a record 180 countries. The German passport is now only the second most powerful in the world‚ providing its citizens with access to 179 countries worldwide.
Japan and Singapore rose to the top of the index after‚ among other developments‚ Uzbekistan lifted visa requirements for Japanese and Singaporean nationals in early February. Uzbekistan’s efforts to increase tourist inflows saw a number of other countries in Asia and the Middle East (including Turkey‚ Indonesia‚ and Israel) gaining access‚ the report said.
In general‚ it added‚ the Asian and Middle Eastern regions have in recent months seen high levels of visa-policy activity compared with their European and American counterparts‚ where the signing of new cross-border agreements on short-term travel has been far less frequent.
As a result of these shifts‚ the UK has dropped down one rank to 4th place overall‚ but the country still provides its citizens with visa-free access to 177 countries. The US continues to hold 5th place on the index‚ offering its passport holders access to 176 countries.
The Russian Federation‚ meanwhile‚ has climbed three places to claim 45th position.
Partly as a result of China’s recent visa-waiver agreement with the UAE‚ the North Asian nation has shown the most growth in its region over the past year‚ moving up 11 places compared with 2017 and now ranking 74th globally.
"The UAE continues to be a leading example of travel freedom in the Middle East‚ climbing an impressive 34 positions on the Henley Passport Index over the past decade - and 11 positions in the past year alone‚" the report states.
It now provides its citizens with visa-free access to 140 countries worldwide. The UAE climbed to 27th place on the index after gaining entry to China and Ireland earlier this year. It also recently signed a visa-waiver agreement with Burkina Faso‚ set to come into effect in the coming months.
"Between 1999 and 2018‚ visa restrictions on Emirati citizens have been lifted by some 45 different countries‚ which helps explains the UAE’s remarkable performance on the index‚" the report's authors state.
The Passport Index also noted that more governments are embracing citizenship-by-investment programmes as a means of stimulating economic development and growth‚ and that "an increasing number of wealthy and talented individuals are looking to diversify their citizenship portfolios to afford themselves and their families greater international opportunity‚ travel freedom‚ stability‚ and security".
Barnes said the countries that offer the most credible citizenship-by-investment programmes in the world consistently perform strongly on the Henley Passport Index.
“Malta offers the top-ranked investment migration programme globally‚ and the country also scores very highly on the index‚ holding the world’s 7th most powerful passport and now offering visa-free access to 173 countries. In 4th place‚ Austria provides access to a total of 177 countries. Cyprus‚ in 15th place‚ is another highly sought-after destination and offers visa-free access to 163 counties‚” he said. Likewise‚ Caribbean countries offering citizenship-by-investment programmes performed well on this year’s index.