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VISITOR-FRIENDLY

These are Africa’s most powerful passports

A person's left hand holds a green booklet.
Reuters/Mike Hutchings
The Global Passport Index measures how travel-, investor-, and relocation-friendly passports are.
  • Carlos Mureithi
By Carlos Mureithi

East Africa correspondent

Published

Traveling around the world is known to be a difficult affair for holders of African passports due to restrictive visa rules.

Now a new global passport index is offering a different take on the ranking of passports. Besides taking into account visa-free access, it looks at building mobility, investment opportunity, and quality of life offered by the countries.

The Global Passport Index, released this week by Global Citizen Solutions, a London-based investment migration consultancy firm, looks beyond visa-free access to offer a ranking that gives a more rounded view of life aspects. It ranks the passports of 197 countries by measuring the attractiveness of the locations for relocation, investment, and dual citizenship, and showing how travel-, investor-, and relocation-friendly passports are.

“A strong passport is not only about travel mobility, Global Citizen Solutions says in a press release. “In today’s increasingly globalized world, people are looking to invest beyond their borders and obtain residency abroad. The difficulty lies in picking the right country” it adds.

The index ranks the island nations of Mauritius and the Seychelles as the most powerful in Africa, while those of Somalia and the Central African Republic are placed lowest.

The rankings take into account three sub-indices. One, the enhanced mobility index, is based on the travel benefits that a passport gives its holder and the level of “attractiveness” of the passport’s country based on its quality of life. Another, the investment index, assesses the economy as an investment option. The third, the quality of living index, covers components relating to the quality of life.

Mauritius and the Seychelles are the only African countries that rank in the top half of the index. They perform particularly well in the enhanced mobility and investment indices, indicating strong economies for investment, good travel benefits, and the attractiveness of the countries due to high qualities of life. Other reasons for their good ranking could be that the islands have a visa-waiver agreement with Europe’s Schengen area, and the Seychelles is a visa-free country.

On its part, South Africa, the third-placed African country, is in the top half globally in the quality of living index, with the Global Passport Index giving it good ratings for freedom, cost of living, and environmental performance.

In contrast to indices that measure the strengths of passports by the number of locations their holders can enter visa-free, the Global Passport Index gives more power to the countries where the passports are from and is more useful in helping figure out where to relocate, rather than where to travel to.

Globally, the top five countries in the index are the US, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

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