South Africans can now visit 99 countries visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival, according to the latest Henley Passport Index.
This latest ranking of passport power and global mobility – which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – shows that overall, African states continue to fare poorly, although there have been some recent positive changes as more countries on the continent relax their visa policies.
South Africa dropped to 54th place on the ranking (down from 51st) after Djibouti changed its policy from visa-on-arrival to an e-visa system.
The Seychelles continues to occupy first place in the Sub-Saharan region, moving up to 27th place globally, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 150.
Mauritius remains in regional 2nd place, with a score of 145, and South Africa retains its 3rd place regionally. At the other end of the mobility spectrum in Africa, Somalia sits in last place, with citizens able to access just 31 destinations without a prior visa.
Globally, Japan and Singapore jointly hold first place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 189. South Korea now sits in 2nd place on the index along with Finland and Germany, with citizens of all three countries able to access 187 destinations around the world without a prior visa.
With a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 183, the UK and the US now share 6th place – the lowest position either country has held since 2010, and a significant drop from their 1st-place spot in 2014.
“With a few significant exceptions, the latest rankings from the index show that countries around the world increasingly view visa-openness as critical to economic growth and mutual trust,” said Amanda Smit, managing partner at Henley & Partners South Africa.
“Asian countries’ dominance of the ranking is proof of that, showing the effects that progressive diplomacy has on global passport power.”
These are the countries South African passport holders can access without a visa:
* Indicates visa on arrival or eTA.
|Cape Verde Islands*||Mauritius||Togo*|
|Hong Kong (SAR China)||Maldives*||Tajikistan*|
|Macao (SAR China)||South Korea|
|Marshall Islands*||Palau Islands*||Vanuatu|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Dominican Republic||St. Lucia|
|Bahamas||Grenada||St. Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Barbados||Haiti||Trinidad and Tobago|
|British Virgin Islands||Jamaica||Turks and Caicos|
|Dominica||St. Kitts and Nevis|
Zimbabwe won’t hesitate to raise interest rates above their current level of 50% to deal with speculative borrowers, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Monday.
Zimbabwe hiked its overnight lending rate to 50% last month after making its interim RTGS currency the country’s sole legal tender.
Central bank Governor John Mangudya said on Monday that Zimbabwean individuals and companies held around $1 billion in foreign-currency accounts, around three months’ import cover.
African superpower Nigeria has signed an agreement which aims to increase trade between African countries.
This leaves Eritrea as the only African country not to be part of the trading bloc.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the landmark agreement at the African Union (AU) summit in Niger.
The first step is to cut tariffs for goods from countries within the bloc but the timeframe to do this is yet to be announced.
The AU says that the African Continental Free Trade Area - called AfCFTA - will create the world's largest free trade area.
It also estimates that implementing AfCFTA will lead to around a 60% boost in intra-African trade by 2022. Only 16% of international trade by African countries takes place between African countries, according to research by the African Development Bank in 2014.
At the moment some of that intra-Africa trade ranges from fresh fish from the Seychelles to petrol from Angola.
Why is it a big deal that Nigeria signed up?
AfCFTA hit a hurdle last year when Nigeria pulled out days before the country was due to sign the agreement.
Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy and has long been a regional leader so, when it stalled, observers questioned if the African trade bloc would ever actually happen.
President Muhammadu Buhari said he needed further consultations in Nigeria.
Since then, the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation says it has consulted with 27 groups, including trade unions.
Nigeria has a lot to gain from increasing access to its goods and services to a wider African market. But many of those consulted also feared increased regional integration would lead to unfair competition for jobs and the goods they produce.
With Nigeria signed up, AfCFTA's dream of increasing intra-Africa trade, which currently lags behind the volume of trade the continent does with Europe, is now one step closer.
Now that AfCFTA can offer access to the enormous Nigerian market, they are in a much stronger position to negotiate with regional bodies in other parts of the world.
Why was Eritrea left out?
Eritrea did not participate in the negotiations because of their conflict with Ethiopia, according to the Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the AU Commission Albert Muchanga.
He adds that now the two countries are at peace and Eritrea has asked the AU to go through the agreement with them.
"So over time they are going to come on board" he said.
What are free trade agreements?
Free trade agreements are designed to cut trade tariffs between member countries.
Tariffs are a form of tax, like a border tax.
They are placed on goods coming into a country for a range of reasons, sometimes to try and protect a home-made product. The purest free trade agreement (FTA) removes all border taxes or trade barriers on goods.
They get rid of quotas too, so there is no limit to the amount of trade you can do. FTAs also help make a country's exports cheaper and give easier entry to other markets. They come in all sorts of forms and with different rules but in short, they make trade between countries as liberal as possible and allow for more rules-based competition.
African Union (AU) leaders will gather in Niger on 7 July for an Extraordinary Summit to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Area.
They will be meeting at a critical moment for the continent. Many African countries are experiencing uneven growth and rising debt. All face an uncertain global environment and need the boost that closer and more dynamic continental trade relations could deliver.
In our view the AU leaders should also use their meeting to reinvigorate their efforts to create an African Monetary Fund. This would be used to encourage African states to engage more actively in regional trade by offering them financial support for managing the risks associated with closer regional integration and expanded intra-regional trade.
Over the past 10 years, most regions have developed regional arrangements that can supplement the help that the IMF provides to countries facing balance of payments problems. Ten years ago, US$100 billion was available through these regional funds. Today more than US$900 billion is available through these arrangements. Africa is currently the most prominent gap in the evolving global financial safety net.
The African leaders signed a treaty to establish this fund in 2014. Unfortunately, progress to set it up has stalled. So far the treaty has been signed, but not ratified, by eleven AU member countries. Fifteen must sign and ratify the statutes for the fund to become operational. Once operational, it will have a capital subscription of up to US $22.64 billion and the ability to provide member countries with loans equivalent to two times their contributions to the Fund’s capital.
Managing the ripple effects
The free trade area offers states new growth and employment opportunities. But by increasing economic linkages between African states, it could also increase the risk that economic problems in one country can spill over and have a strongly negative effect on growth, trade, investment and employment in others. For example, both positive and negative developments in the US economy will have a powerful impact on Canada and Mexico.
To help mitigate these effects, participants in other regional trade arrangements have established regional financial arrangements. These provide financial support to their members to manage balance of payments crises.
The evidence suggests that when states have access to this type of financial support they are less likely to take actions that impede intra-regional trade flows. For example, the Latin American Reserve Fund, which provides its members with financial support during balance of payments crises, has helped the recipient countries to maintain their intra-regional trade arrangements. This, in turn, has reduced the risk that the recipient’s problems would cause a crisis in its neighbours.
The failure of an adequate number of states to sign and ratify the African Monetary Fund treaty is an embarrassing challenge to the credibility of the AU’s efforts to promote a more integrated, dynamic, sustainable and equitable African economy. These efforts have been going on for more than 40 years. Steps along the way have included the former Organisation of African Unity’s Lagos Plan of Action for Economic Development of Africa signed in 1980 and the Abuja Treaty signed in 1991.
In a policy brief published by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria and the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University, we propose three concrete steps to jumpstart the push for the fund.
First, the creation of the fund must be explicitly linked to the success of the free trade area. The AU leaders can do this by making the case that, just as has happened in other regions, the presence of a regional financial arrangement will support the efforts to boost intra-regional trade in Africa. It will help participating countries mitigate the balance of payments challenges that greater regional integration may cause.
Moreover, the fund, by quickly providing its members with financial support, can offer them more time to negotiate a larger support package with richer institutions, such as the IMF. In this regard, it should be noted that eight of the AU member countries (Cape Verde, Comores, Djibouti, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, and Somalia) will be able to borrow more resources from the AMF than the IMF.
Second, one AU member state should become the champion for the fund. This country would become the first country to sign and ratify the fund treaty. It would lobby other AU member countries to ratify the African Monetary Fund. It would advocate for the AU to reconstitute the steering committee created in the treaty and provide it with adequate resources. Since Cameroon is the designated host country for the AMF’s headquarters, it has an incentive to be a champion for the institution.
Finally, the steering committee should develop a plan for overcoming the substantial resource constraints in the region. This will require balancing the fund’s need for sufficient resources to be credible with the limited ability of some states to contribute. This could be addressed by negotiating an arrangement in which richer regional countries and institutions contribute a disproportionate share of their capital contributions up-front.
These additional contributions will be reimbursed as poorer countries make their capital contributions. It’s important to note that the AMF Board of Governors has the authority to extend the period for a country to make its contribution for up to eight years. To further incentivise small to medium sized member countries to contribute capital, they should be allowed to treat their capital contributions as part of their international reserves. Such an arrangement is not unprecedented and was used effectively in South America. These measures would make an implementation plan more feasible.
Africa has tried valiantly for decades to overcome the substantial challenges hindering the development of robust intra-regional trade. The free trade area agreement is the most recent of these efforts. The credibility of the continent’s leaders and institutions will be influenced by its success or failure. The establishment of the African Monetary Fund would demonstrate the continent’s determination to promote intra-regional trade and development.
Hadiza Gagara Dagah is a co-author of the policy brief, Jump-starting the African Monetary Fund , on which this article is based.
Danny Bradlow, SARCHI Professor of International Development Law and African Economic Relations, University of Pretoria and William N Kring, Assistant Director, Global Development Policy Center, Boston University