SA's 'green mamba' is on the rise, according to global passport index
The South African passport is faring better globally than most of its African counterparts.
The latest passport index, compiled by Henley & Partners, found that the "green mamba" had moved up two spots in the second quarter of this year, from 53rd to 51st globally.
It continues to occupy third place in the sub-Saharan Africa region, where it trails the Seychelles, ranked 28th globally (down one spot from last year) and Mauritius, ranked 31st.
Somalia, Libya and Eritrea sit at the bottom of the index in Africa, with citizens of each country only able to access 35 or fewer destinations visa-free.
"Aggregately, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the poorest performing regions on the Henley passport index," said Amanda Smit, managing partner at Henley & Partners SA.
"The African continent accounts for 19 for 27 countries whose scores have decreased over the past decade.
"However, although there is limited visa-free access outside the continent, African states are increasingly strengthening their relationships with one another and deregulating internal visa regulations."
In a demonstration of Asia’s growing power and influence on the world stage, Japan, Singapore and South Korea now hold joint top spot on the index.
"While Schengen area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations," said Smit.
Following a visa exemption from Uzbekistan, Germany currently sits alone in second place.
Five countries share third place on the index: Denmark, Finland, France, Italy and Sweden.
The UK and the US, according Henley, look "increasingly unlikely to regain the top spot they jointly held in 2015, with the UK now in fifth place ... and the US sixth".
TRAVEL PODCAST: Three years in the wilderness with a pack of African wild dogs
Aggregately, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the poorest performing regions on the Henley Passport IndexAmanda Smit, Henley & Partners SA
Afghanistan and Iraq remain at the bottom of the ranking with a score of just 30, a position one or both countries have occupied throughout the index’s 14-year history.
The UAE continues its upward trajectory and is now just one spot away from entry into the index's top 20. After the recent formalisation of a mutual visa-waiver agreement signed with Russia, UAE passport holders are now able to access 165 destinations around the world without a prior visa.
Smit said more governments than ever are embracing citizenship-by-investment programmes as a means of stimulating economic development and growth, as an increasing number of wealthy individuals look to diversify their citizenship portfolios.
She said she was not in the business of convincing South Africans to flee the country.
"Yes, a second passport is certainly a hedge against future uncertainty, not just for the applicant but also for his or her family. But dual citizenship is far more than a mere means of escape. It can also significantly enhance the mobility of nationals travelling on visa-restricted passports - South Africans included," said Smit.
"Alternative citizenship represents the most direct route to global mobility, connectivity, and access."