East African passports among weakest worldwide

Saturday January 12 2019

A copy of the East African passport. The EAC passports are among the weakest in the world. PHOTO | NMG


East African Community citizens continue to encounter major problems in travelling across the globe, with a new index showing that the passports of member countries are among the weakest in the world.

As the world economy becomes increasingly globalised, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily, creating a scenario where individuals want to transcend the constraints imposed by their countries of origin and obtain access to business, financial, career and lifestyle opportunities on a global scale.

“In many ways, global connectivity has become an indispensable feature of wealth creation and wealth preservation, and its value will only grow as regional volatility and instability increase,” says The Henley Passport Index 2019 by Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm.

While citizens of Japan, Singapore and South Korea — three countries with the most powerful passports — can enter 190/189 out of 218 countries visa-free, those from the EAC can only enter a maximum of 71.

The Kenyan passport was ranked the most powerful in the region, at position 72, globally, followed by Tanzania’s at 73, Uganda’s at position 76, Rwanda’s at 84, Burundi 92 and South Sudan’s at 97.



The ranking comes at a time when EAC member states are implementing the electronic passport and phasing out individual national passports.

So far only Kenya and Tanzania have rolled out the e-passport, which is expected to comply with guidelines set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, making it admissible globally.

In Africa, the Seychelles passport is the most powerful giving its citizens visa-free access to 151 destinations, followed by Mauritius with access to 145 destinations and South Africa with 101 destinations.

Somalia ranks at the bottom, with only 32 destinations. Eritrea and Sudan make up the bottom three with 38 and 39 destinations respectively. Somalia and Sudan passports also rank among the weakest globally.

Henley & Partners chairman Christian Kälin, said that the latest ranking shows that despite rising isolationist sentiment in parts of the world, many countries remain committed to collaboration.

“The general spread of open-door policies has the potential to contribute billions to the global economy, as well as create significant employment opportunities around the world,” he said.

The index shows that Japan’s passport is the most powerful globally, allowing its citizens to enjoy visa-free access to 190 destinations.

Singapore and South Korea are in second place with access to 189 destinations. Germany and France remain in joint third place with visa-free access to 188 destinations.