Power of SA's passport: has the 'green mamba' risen or fallen short?

Global politics has shaken up the Henley Passport Index in the third quarter of 2019

03 July 2019 - 15:23
By staff reporter
Japan and Singapore share the title of most powerful passport in the world.
Image: AngeloNZ / iStock via AFP Relaxnews Japan and Singapore share the title of most powerful passport in the world.

SA's "green mamba" has dropped three places in the latest edition of the Henley Passport Index (HPI). This listing ranks the world's countries according to strength of their passports based on the number of destinations citizens can visit without a visa.

The SA passport, which was ranked 51st globally in the second quarter of 2019, has moved down to 54th in the third quarter.

Local travellers currently have access to 99 countries visa-free.


Seychelles (27th) and Mauritius (31st) are the only African countries that rank higher than SA. Citizens of these nations have visa-free access 150 and 145 countries, respectively.

Somalia (105th), Sudan and Libya (tied at 103rd) are Africa's weakest passports, with citizens of each country only able to access 37 or fewer destinations visa-free.

"While African citizens on average still require visas to travel to more than half of Africa's countries, evidence indicates that the continent is moving in the right direction in easing freedom of movement," says Ryan Cummings, a director at Signal Risk, in the latest HPI report.

"Data garnered by the African Development Bank and AU since 2016 suggests that, on average, African countries are becoming more open to each other, either through waiving visa requirements or amending existing regulations to ease cross-border travel,” he adds.


For the third quarter of 2019, the HPI has seen some reshuffling following new visa policies from Pakistan and developments with Brexit. 

Japan and Singapore have managed to jointly hold on to the number one spot, making them the most powerful passports in the world. Citizens of these Asian nations have visa-free access to 189 countries.

Meanwhile, both the US and the UK dropped to the lowest position they've held since 2010, sharing sixth spot.

Their drop is attributed notably to their exclusion in Pakistan's Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) program, which was extended to 50 countries. 

The UK's imminent exit from Europe is also poised to weaken the power and status of the British passport, analysts say. 

With visa-free access to just 25 countries, Afghanistan sits at the bottom of the list.

Here are the most powerful passports according to the HPI: 

  1. Japan, Singapore (visa-free access to 189 countries)
  2. South Korea, Germany, Finland (visa-free access to 187 countries)
  3. Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg (visa-free access to 186 countries)
  4. France, Sweden, Spain  (visa-free access to 185 countries)
  5. Austria, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland (visa-free access to 184 countries)
  6. Norway, UK, US, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland (visa-free access to 183 countries)
  7. Malta  (visa-free access to 182 countries)
  8. Czech Republic (visa-free access to 181 countries)
  9. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Lithuania (visa-free access to 180 countries)
  10. Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia (visa-free access to 179 countries)

The HPI is compiled from data provided by the International Air Transport Association.

• Additional reporting by AFP Relaxnews