Traveling Africa On An African Passport

For many years, European passport holders have been given the freedom to move around a majority of their continent without the hassle of arranging a visa beforehand. A similar luxury has been given to people from South American countries in regards to travel from country to country on their continent. So what about Africa? Let’s say for example you held a passport of a country on the African continent & you had the desire to visit every other country on the continent. What would lie ahead of you would be an adventure, a very long trip & gigantic hurdles otherwise called visa restrictions.

Africa is home to 54 countries & according to the latest information from the Henley Passport Index, the average African passport can visit roughly 27 of these either without a visa or by obtaining a visa on arrival. The average European passport can enter 35 African countries without a prearranged visa & the US passport a whopping 37. With the exception of a few, most African countries require you to physically go to their embassy to apply for a visa & to make it even more difficult, many of these countries will only issue a visa when you are applying from your home country. Not only are these applications inconvenient because you have to make your way to the embassy, but they often involve huge costs & what seems like endless amounts of pointless paperwork.

The countries with the three biggest economies in Africa are Nigeria, South Africa & Egypt. As business is a very important part of travel, you would think travel requirements would be streamlined between these countries, but that isn’t the case. In fact, none of these three countries’ nationals are permitted to enter either of the other two countries without going through a visa application process at their embassy; an online option is not even available.

Morocco, South Africa & Egypt are the countries that have the highest number of tourists per annum. These tourists, however, are not coming from other African countries & as you may have guessed, like I stated above, the people from the top tourist destinations on the continent cannot be tourists in each other’s countries without a prearranged visa.

All of this brings me to an obvious question: Why is it so difficult to travel through Africa on an African passport? Truthfully, I don’t know the answer nor am I likely to have it any time soon. Is it because the tourism industry in Africa is undeveloped? Could it be that countries wish to preserve their culture & way of life by limiting the number of visitors they see? Or could the answer be more sinister in nature & is the reason xenophobia in the richer African countries? It’s easy to speculate & create theories, but I’d likely only know the true answer if I was privy to higher government meetings in various African countries – little to no chance of that ever happening in my life.

On the up side, things are changing & in more recent years, countries have eased restrictions on visa requirements. Some countries have removed visa requirements for their African counterparts altogether. This is positive, but the time Africans will be able to travel the continent relatively freely is unknown.

What we do know is that Africans who do wish to travel will most likely be opting to travel overseas for the time being. This is due to the high cost of travel within Africa & daunting prospect of bureaucratic visa applications. Travelers are far more likely to choose a cheaper visa free Asian destination or obtain a Schengen visa which allows them access to numerous countries in Europe. That is the reality of traveling Africa on an African passport.

Keep traveling, keep safe.

DanVenture Travels

34 thoughts on “Traveling Africa On An African Passport

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  1. Very interesting. When I was traveling in the early 1970’s on a USA passport, nearly every where I went required visas. It was also costly. I am glad some of these restrictions have eased. It is amazing what Africans have to go through to visit other African countries. I was unaware of this prior to reading your post. Thank you. Happy Travels!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is a pity that these visa regulations have probably been the reason many travellers have not experienced the beauty of the African continent.
      A very interesting read Dan – Thanks for sharing

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Very interesting post. I want to do more traveling in Africa. Kenya requires a visa for US but they make it easy with online and on arrival applications. Perhaps the limited amount on visa free travel within Africa is related to political sensitivities by dictatorships. I agree coronavirus will affect the Henley Index in ways to be determined. In addition to or as part of visas, countries may require health certifications.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Super interesting article. Our trip to Laos/Cambodia five months ago was the first time we’ve needed to get a visa. One was on arrival and the other was taken care of by the tour company. Then I found out that Laos had just introduced an online e-visa. We chose that. I bit of a pain, we at least didn’t have to deal with it when we landed after 37 hours in transit from the USA. (However, other people in our group did visa on arrival and said it was not biggie.) Anyway, even though it wasn’t too much of a hassle, it’s just one more thing to think about, worry about, do, and pay for. I imagine it’s much much worse if you have to actually go to the embassy. I wonder how much travel/tourism business African countries are losing by a) making it so difficult for other Africans and b) not making it electronic. It would be an interesting experiment for those top three travel destination countries to try, but they probably don’t because they know that once they do, it’ll be difficult to go back.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for reading & leaving this great comment. This was actually a little funny to read because Laos & Cambodia are great options for us because both offer visa on arrival – meaning it is less of a hassle for us, yet it was your first experience with visas. I’ll be writing a few follow up posts about the reality of traveling with visa restrictions.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Great insights you have about travel around Africa, being a missionary l have been able to visit five African countries. I pray l can find low budget flights to increase this record when the lockdown eases.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting insight! In Europe, we often take for granted how easy it is to travel around the continent, so don’t often think about how difficult it is for others to travel around their own continents. Although the UK may well get an awakening soon when it all changes due to Brexit.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Some interesting thoughts on travel with an African passport. It seems crazy that it is so difficult for African’s to travel through Africa. Ultimately I am sure the continent would benefit from more efficient visa rules.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for speaking about this topic. It’s something that I too, have often considered. I think there is a bias towards Africans traveling to African countries that probably stem for colonialism and the division of these countries. But, that’s just my theory.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is an interesting post, and thanks for sharing. The division of Africa via colonization remains an open wound which is yet to heal. But the current African leaders and governments of each African nations should work together to enable an open border system among African nations. A situation whereby Africa and its little islands must share a common travel area, in which Africans can travel using their passport alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just read this post and you have just taken me back through my past 6 years heading a visa agency in South Africa. The sole Morrocco embassy opens for 2hours visa submissions for 4 days..I wont even get into that experience. Egypt submission is through handing documents through a letter box opening with officer on the other end behind a bullet proof window..also 2 hour submissions on varied days..Nigeria has a vague payment system. Till now I don’t know how much a visa should cost. One agency could charge about R5000 whilst another would charge R9000 for the same visa…some embassies are orderly but where there is chaos it reigns supreme and definitely that chases away tourists.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. There is no LOVE among African nations, and the so-called “African Union” is a failed organisation. If AU is a good organisation, Africans who hold a traveling passport of one of the 55 member states should travel visa-free around the continent of Africa, just like many European nationals can travel visa-free across Europe. But the African leaders really mastered the art of governing with corruption and nepotism from their colonisers. Thus, they’re now the indigenous colonisers who are spreading corruption and hatred across the continent.

        Liked by 1 person

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