Kenya’s passport power improves as Africa moves towards visa liberalization

A man showing his Kenyan passport
  • Kenya passport improves and gains access to 71 destinations on the Henley Passport Index.
  • In Africa, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and South Africa, respectively, continue to hold the top 3 spots.
  • African Continental Free Trade Agreement begins to show visa liberalization potential.

Entering into the final quarter of 2019, Kenya moves up two places to 72nd position on the Henley Passport Index, with passport holders now able to access 71 destinations without obtaining a prior visa. 

The index, which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), reflects a similar slight upward shift for many other Sub-Saharan African states, as countries on the continent move to liberalize their visa regimes in accordance with the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Commenting on these results, Amanda Smit, Managing Partner and Head of South, East and Central Africa says: “The latest countries to relax their visa regimes are Namibia and Sierra Leone, both of which now offer visa-on-arrival access to a number of African states. Regionally, Seychelles, Mauritius and South Africa remain the top 3, with a global ranking of 26, 30, and 53 respectively.”

More broadly, as the global economy transforms and centers of power shift, Asia’s dominance appears to be unfaltering. Japan and Singapore retain a firm hold on first place on the Henley Passport Index, each with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190 out of a maximum 227. 

With visa-free/visa-on-arrival scores of 188, Finland, Germany, and South Korea remain in 2nd place, while Denmark, Italy, and Luxembourg are in 3rd place, with citizens of those countries now able to access 187 destinations worldwide without requiring a visa in advance.

While the positions on the index’s top 10 have remained relatively stable since the last update in July, there have been some striking shifts further down the ranking. Most dramatically, the UAE has climbed an extraordinary five places over the last three months after gaining visa-free access to a number of African countries, including South Africa, and now sits in 15th place, with UAE passport holders able to access 172 destinations without a prior visa. Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the ranking, with visa-free/visa-on-arrival scores of just 29, 27, and 25, respectively.

“Our ongoing research has shown that when we talk about ’passport power‘, we are discussing more than simply the destinations a holder can travel to without acquiring a visa in advance. Often, there is a strong correlation between visa freedom and other benefits such as business and investment freedom, independence of the judiciary, fiscal health, and property rights.” said Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index concept.


Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: