Kenya slid further in the latest Africa visa-friendly ranking, indicating increased difficulty for businesspeople and holidaymakers from the rest of Africa to visit the country.
The country dropped three places to rank 31 in the 2022 Africa Visa Openness Index (AVOI), which measures how easy it is for Africans to enter one of the 54 countries on the continent covered in the study.
This marks a new low for Kenya which was ranked 28 in the prior year.
Kenya’s best ranking at ninth position came in 2018 after former President Uhuru Kenyatta implemented a visa-on-arrival policy for all Africans, a decision that was reversed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A visa is a permit to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country.
The government’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 by restricting international travel has seen Kenya lose its position as one of the most welcoming countries in Africa.
Kenya requires visas from nationals of 34 countries while citizens of 19 nations on the continent are welcomed visa-free.
Kenya has no visa-on-arrival arrangement with any African country, according to the data which was captured between July and August this year.
The index, published by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC), says the introduction and reversal of travel restrictions related to the pandemic are among the factors driving changes in the ranking of countries.
More countries, including Ethiopia, have reversed the travel curbs that were put in place to fight the spread of the pandemic.
“A striking discovery about Africa’s regional economic communities this year is how most rebounded from the pandemic, often fully reversing recent restrictions that impacted their visa openness,” the report says.
“However, recent changes in scores cannot always be attributed solely to the pandemic.”
The accelerated return to international travel and visa openness in Africa reversed the downward trend of 2021 and brought average visa openness to a level similar to that of 2020.
The report notes that as a whole, the continent’s visa regimes are more liberal today than they have been in any year since 2016.
Despite its rank dropping, Kenya maintains one of the highest visa-free reciprocity in Africa.
“Visa-free reciprocity within Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) averages a low 20 per cent, or 36 per cent when combined with a visa on arrival,” the report says.
“No Comesa member state offers visa-free entry to more than half of other Comesa members: the most open countries in this regard are Kenya and Uganda, which dispense 10 fellow Comesa members from obtaining a visa but do not offer a visa on arrival to the rest.”
Nairobi and Pretoria recently reached an agreement to have Kenyan citizens travel to South Africa visa-free for up to 90 days in a calendar year.
South Africans already get free visas on arrival in Kenya, while Kenyans were required to pay for the travel document besides showing proof of sufficient funds and return flight tickets.
Kenya is among the countries that have made it relatively easier for visitors to obtain a visa through an online application.
The visa ranking measures three items – visa required before travel, visa on arrival and no visa required. Not requiring a visa has the greatest weight in the score.
Part of the pandemic-era travel barriers was the result of differences in strategies for managing the respiratory illness, with countries putting more effort to control the health crisis and seeking to curb travel from less concerned States.
Some countries instituted a series of public health measures such as wearing masks and reducing social interactions while others told their citizens to carry on as usual.