South Africa's passport is getting weaker in a global setting

15 January 2020 2 min. read
More news on

South Africa has ranked 56th on the latest Henley Passport Index (HPI), although there is scope for considerable improvement provided that the country takes certain measures. These are the vies of Amanda Smit, Managing Partner and Head of South Central and East Africa at residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.

Henley & Partners produces a list of the strongest passports in the world each year, based on the number of countries that can be accessed by the passport holder without a visa. Over the last ten years, South Africa’s position on the index has declined steadily, with a cumulative loss of ten positions over the period.

The latest index saw South Africa ranked 56th, a scenario that the government will be eager to rectify given its intentions to solidify foreign trade relations. Drawing international investment is the central theme for economic growth under the current administration, and more freedom of movement for South Africans is crucial to achieving this.

South Africa's passport is getting weaker in a global setting

South Africa is the only country in Africa to be losing ground in the index, as the rest largely remain unchanged in their positions. Other BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), however, appear to be suffering from similar problems as South Africa, seeing the strength of their passports eroded.

India, for instance, has dropped seven spots on the index, while Russia has dropped two. China and Brazil, meanwhile, appear to have improved their performance. South Africa, therefore, has had the sharpest decline, which is not only concerning due to the country’s interest in foreign trade, but also due to its efforts to promote travel and tourism.

At present, South African passport holders can access as many as 100 countries without a visa, which comes into perspective when compared to Japan, which has access to 191. Amanda Smit further reveals that none of the countries on South Africa’s list are what would be described as ‘popular.’

According to Smit, an effective way of improving this scenario is to establish mutual visa waiver arrangements with more countries that fall under the “high quality nation” category. She uses the example of UAE to demonstrate this point, given that the country has jumped 47 places over the last decade to reach 18th, primarily through visa-waiver arrangements.