More than a simple grant of access to country, passports and the visas stamped on them are a reflection of geopolitics – the relationship between two nations and a country’s stature relative to the rest of the world.

An infographic recently released by Good Magazine ranking the most powerful passports in the world has listed the Mauritian passport – which grants access without a visa or by receiving one upon entry to 123 countries – as the second strongest passport in Africa after Seychelles.

Seychelles’ passport, which is ranked first in Africa and 28th globally, gives its passport holder the maximum freedom to visit as many as 126 countries either without a visa or by receiving one upon entry.

The Seychelles Foreign Affairs Ministry revealed that it places a priority on negotiating for bilateral visa waiver agreements when it engages in diplomatic relations with any state.

While the majority of these visa waivers are obtained for all Seychelles passport holders, there are at least 5 according to the Seychelles Ministry of Foreign Affairs website which are for diplomatic and official passport holders only.

With some of these nations, Seychelles is conducting negotiations to allow visa free entry for all passport types, including with the United Arab Emirates.

South Africa, on the other hand, is ranked third with access to 94 counties, followed by Botswana with access to 70 countries while Kenya is ranked fifth in Africa with access to 68 countries.

However, Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest economy, finds itself in a lowly 33rd position among African nations, with access to only 47 countries.

Furthermore, according to the infographics, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Congo, Djibouti, Angola, Ethiopia and Burundi have the weakest passports in Africa whereas Somalia and Liberia are not captured in the data at all.

Finally, according to the infographic, passports hailing from Finland, Sweden and UK are the most powerful with access to 173 countries while the Afghan passport is the least valued with access to a mere 28 countries.

Also, in a further move to allow easy movement of tourists and business persons to promote intra-regional trade the Southern African Development Community (SADC) wants to implement a single visa system.

Zimbabwe and Zambia are all set to host the pilot project, which is being financed by the World Bank for USD 700,000.

The project focuses on the harmonisation of visa requirements for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area also known as the Kaza countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola – with high-level consultations, modernisation and advocacy events for visa facilitation.

The funding will also facilitate high-level meeting between partner countries including representation at the highest level from designing the protocol and legislative amendments that will facilitate the implementation of the univisa.

The approach towards removing barriers for visa simplification and reforming of immigration processes included interventions in harmonisation of visa requirements for the Kaza countries.

The benefits of a univisa, modelled more or less along the lines of Europe’s Schengen visa system, include increased competitiveness for countries in the SADC region and an increase in the efficiency and transparency of immigration procedures for tourism.

Image (CNN): The Mauritian passport – which grants access without a visa or by receiving one upon entry to 123 countries – has been ranked as the second most powerful passport in Africa after Seychelles.

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