Tanzania this week announced the cancellation of visa-on-arrival for two more African nations, citing security concerns.
The decision by Dar es Salaam comes as Africa takes stock of its drive for open borders, with the Visa Openness Index 2018 showing that the majority of countries have made little progress in opening up their borders.
Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, who are members of the Southern Africa Development Community, have been entering Tanzania visa-free, but the Dar es Salaam administration has revoked this privilege.
They join citizens from Nigeria, Djibouti and Ethiopia who once enjoyed the visa-on-arrival privilege but are now required to apply for the entry permit three months ahead of their travel, following the policy change by Tanzania.
Asian states Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen are also on the list of countries affected by the policy change.
Immigration Department spokesman Ally Mtanda said the change was made “in the best interest of the nation and for security.”
Tanzania has, in the recent past, cracked down on illegal immigrants, arresting mostly Ethiopians en route to South Africa.
Some of them are serving jail terms in Tanzanian prisons while others were deported.
Mr Mtanda told The EastAfrican that the restriction applies to holidaymakers, businesspersons and investors from those listed countries, and that the decision had been communicated to them.
Only those who hold diplomatic passports from the named countries are allowed visa-free entry.
While the East African Community and the SADC have free movement agreements, the African Union is also pushing for a continental free movement as it seeks to implement a single African market — the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In East Africa, Rwanda has made more progress in opening up its borders, with the Africa Visa openness Index 2018 by the African Development Bank (AfDB) ranking it the third most visa open country on the continent. The others are Seychelles and Benin.
Uganda and Kenya feature in the top 10 at numbers six and nine respectively. Tanzania is ranked number 18, below lawless Somalia.
The index features seven West African countries — Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Togo and Benin —in the top 20.
Visa openness in Africa: Top performers and reformers (2016-2018). SOURCE | AFRICA VISA OPENNESS REPORT 2018
The assessment is based on the progress made on visa openness in the past two years.
The top countries on the list have enacted policies allowing Africans greater visa free or visa-on-arrival access.
The index shows that travellers within the continent continue to face challenges and wasted days or hours in transit due the inability to implement conducive and common visa regimes.
Experts at the recent African Economic Conference, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kigali, said that despite leaders’ commitments to ease movement, little has been achieved in building roads or air routes linking cities, while many Africans are still denied entry to some countries because of visas.
This problem, they warned, will result in the implementation of the Free Movement of People Protocol — viewed as a key pillar to regional integration and the AfCFTA.
"The commitments to ease movement that have been made must be realised and jobs have to be created," said Paul Coullier, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Oxford.
"The barriers in Africa serve in the interest of the more developed countries. The task over the next decade is to build more connectivity among cities and remove barriers that infringe growth on the continent," he added.
AfDB Director General for East Africa Gabriel Negatu said the Africa Visa Openness Index has helped raise awareness and drive visa policy reforms across the continent aimed at easing movement of people and unlocking opportunities for intra-African tourism, trade and investment.
“In so doing, the Bank is contributing directly to the objectives of the AU initiative for a Single African passport,” said Mr Negatu.
Rwanda's Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning Claudine Uwera, said that Kigali had shown political will to push for a visa-free Africa for the continent's citizens.
“Rwanda announced early this year a visa on arrival platform for travellers from all African countries. Development and prosperity will simply not be possible if we do not integrate,” she said.
“Governance will determine the development path for our countries. Equally important is the role of political will and commitment from African leaders. Important pages of our continent’s development history are being written. Let’s take this opportunity to move the continent ahead.”
The 2018 Visa Openness Index shows that Africans require visas to travel to over half the countries on the continent.
The top 20 visa-open countries continue to improve their visa liberal regimes while 43 countries improved or maintained their score.
Benin made the highest jump by opening up its borders to African travellers, which enabled it to move from 27th in 2017 to first place in 2018.
The country alongside Seychelles are the only two on the continent that do not charge Africans visa fees.