Drop in SA passport power - report

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South Africa has dropped in the Henley Passport Index, due to a reduction in the number of visa-free or visa-on-arrival destinations which the SA passport has access to.

The so-called "power" of the SA passport fell three spots on the latest index to 54th place, with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 99.

The index is compiled based on data from the International Air Transport Association.

According to the index report, the latest ranking of passport power and global mobility shows that, overall, African states continue to fare poorly. This is despite recent positive changes as more countries on the continent relax their visa policies, according to the report.

The global ranking shows that African passports are either static or dropping significantly.

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 2nd place in the SSA region, with a score of 145, while South Africa retains in 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.

New research commissioned by Henley & Partners found a greater realisation among African countries of the positive imipact that visa-openness, economic growth and social progress can bring. It is reflected in strengthened diplomatic relationships on the continent and beyond.

Globally, Japan and Singapore jointly held 1st place, with a visa-free or 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. Asian countries' dominance of the ranking is proof of that, showing the effects that progressive diplomacy has on global passport power," says Amanda Smit, managing partner at Henley & Partners South Africa.

Countries with citizenship-by-investment programmes continue to perform strongly on the index and demonstrate a similar connection between passport power and economic and social progress, according to the report.

Moving up from the 8th spot it held in the last quarter, Malta now sits in 7th place with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 182, just one spot behind the UK and the US.

Cyprus retains its 16th place on the index, with a score of 172, while the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda is now in 29th place, with a score of 147, rising 11 places over the past decade.

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