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Seven Things You Need to Know About Traveling in Africa on an African Passport

The dream of visa-free travel in Africa for Africans is still a dream, but it's changing. Here's what you should know.

If you've ever tried to travel around the continent on an African visa, you know that it can be quite confusing. From having to contact embassies in third countries to obtuse rules at customs. A few years back when I was backpacking through Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin, I was asked to provide various documentation from my hosts. This documentation had to be stamped by a high ranking police officer in their countries of residency.


I should mention that I was planning to couchsurf in all these countries. I was also asked to provide proof of bus ticket bookings—despite the fact that you can only get your next bus ticket when you get to a certain city. The administrative hurdles almost made me give up on the trip altogether. The reader will understand why even when I fell terribly ill in Ouagadougou, I was still quite tempted to take the 17 hour bus ride to Lome. After all the money I had spent getting the various visas, the 5+ trips to each of the embassies, only to get a one month single-entry visa, I was not about to cut my trip short.


Photo via TONL

In 2016, the African Development Bank published the first Africa Visa Openness report. It confirmed what many Africans had always suspected, but never really had numbers to confirm: It's easier for North Americans to travel within Africa than Africans themselves. To be precise, at that time in 2016, Africans needed visas to enter 55 percent of countries on the continent while North Americans only needed them for 45 percent of African countries. In addition, Africans could only get visas on arrival in 25 percent of African countries compared to the 35 percent for North Americans.

Since then, there have been some changes and improvements to visa policies on the continent with some of them being highlighted in the third edition of the Africa Visa Openness report that was published at the end of 2018.

Okayafrica rounds up all the important information for the African wanderluster looking to travel on the continent!

  • Contrary to what you would expect, the strongest African passport for traveling within Africa isn't South Africa, but Kenya. A Kenyan passport can get you to 33 African countries (18 visa free, 15 visa on arrival), compared to 29 countries for an South African passport (16 visa free, 13 on arrival) and 28 for a Nigerian one (17 visa free and 11 on arrival.
  • You can now easily access up to date information from the AfDB visa openness site that shows which countries you need a visa for, which ones you can get on arrival and which ones you must apply for before travel. The data is available for all African countries and periodically verified with data from The International Air Transport Association. This is a relief! No need to spend hours on the phone trying to reach embassies that might not even be in your country!

Photo via TONL

  • While the continent is still a long way from visa free travel for Africans, there have been great improvements in the past 3 years since the first AfDB visa openness report was released. By the end of 2018, Africans on average do not need visas to travel to 25 percent of other African countries (up from 20 percent in 2016), need visas to travel to 51 percent of other countries (down from 55 percent in 2016) and can get visas on arrival in 24 percent of other countries (down from 25 percent in 2016.) In 2016, only Seychelles allowed visa free entry to all Africans. By the end of 2018 Benin also scrapped all visas for Africans. From 2016 to mid 2018, 43 countries improved or maintained their visa openness score. Progress is painfully slow but in the right direction.
  • The weakest African passports for traveling in the continent are all found in East Africa—Somalia , Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. Somalis get visa free travel only to only 2 countries and visa on arrival in 11, Eritreans (3 no visa, 14 on arrival), Sudanese (2 no visa, 15 on arrival), Ethiopians (4 no visa, 14 on arrival) and Djiboutians (4 no visa, 15 on arrival)\
  • The countries that are most welcoming to other Africans in terms of not needing visas or giving visas on arrival are Benin & Seychelles (1st place), Rwanda & Togo (2nd place), Guinea-Bissau & Uganda (3rd place), Ghana (4th place) & Cape Verde (5th)
  • Visa openness is good business and African airlines are beginning to understand the opportunity. It is paying off. As of November 2018, Addis Ababa has overtaken Dubai as the hub of african flights thanks to Ethiopian Airlines. The airline has revived defunct African airlines, increased partnerships with other national carriers, established hubs in Malawi and Togo, and flies to more than 60 destinations across Africa. As of November 2018, Ethiopia plans to offer visa on arrival to all Africans. A recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report says 40 percent of international tourists in Africa are African.

  • There are three policy changes that bode well for increased intra-africa travel and trade. The first is the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) which was launched in January 2018 at the African Union Summit and signed by 23 countries. The SAATM aims to promote trade, investment and tourism, creating more jobs and growth. The second is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was officially established in March 2018 and adopted by close to 50 countries. AfCFTA aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments. The third is the Free Movement Protocol that was launched at the same time as AfCFTA and was adopted by 30 countries. It aims to ease travel restrictions for African citizens. It does take a long time from when policies are drafted to when they are implemented, but it does give some hope that the movement of people, goods and services on the continent could be easier in the future.

With the world getting more closed up and anti-immigrant it's a positive sign that African countries are beginning to see the opportunity in other Africans.

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Photo: Mucyo H Gasana | @dailyinteractions.

Interview: Kenya's Xenia Manasseh Has Arrived

We talk to the fast-rising Kenyan artist about her debut EP, Fallin' Apart, being chosen for Mr Eazi's emPawa program and her two latest singles.

I meet Xenia Manasseh at a café as she apologetically explains that she needs to send off some songs, "you don't have WeTransfer do you?" It's about 4:20 in the afternoon and she recaps how her day has been going so far. "I haven't eaten all day. I've been trying to find a personal assistant." I ask her if things have gotten busier since her debut EP, Fallin' Apart, dropped in October, she looks up, pauses, and simply nods in relief as she finally manages to send off the tracks.

In the last year, Xenia moved to Nairobi from Atlanta. She completed and released her EP, was chosen to be part of Mr Eazi's emPawa program this year, opened for Rema's Nairobi show, recorded with Extra Soul Perception and performed on the same stage as Blinky Bill and GoldLink. As she recaps the year, you begin to realise that her stories are all rooted in meeting the right people, manifesting what she wants and gratitude.

The vulnerable-yet-soulful presence you come to know on her EP is a contrast to the bubbly and funny 23-year-old at the beginning of a promising music career. Signed as a songwriter with the Atlanta-based The UpperClassmen Music Group, she recalls taking a songwriting class at Berklee College of Music, "I couldn't write a single song, all those assignments never happened." She credits her place burning down in Boston to breaking her seven-year writing hiatus, and her subsequent move to Atlanta allowed her the change of environment she needed to continue writing.

This fast-rising Kenyan artist sat down with OkayAfrica to speak about her EP, her powers of manifestation and her two latest singles.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Dedan Kimathi Waciuri, shown at his trial in the Nyeri forest, led an armed military struggle known as the Mau Mau uprising against the British colonial government in Kenya, 1956. (Photo by Authenticated News/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Remains of Kenyan Liberation Leader, Dedan Kimathi, Believed to Have Been Found After 62 Years

UPDATE: The family of Dedan Kimathi is standing by earlier reports that his gravesite has been found, despite a statement from Kenya's Ministry of Interior calling the news "false and misleading."

UPDATE 10/29/19: Dedan Kimathi's family is standing by earlier reports that his gravesite has been identified, despite a recent tweet from Kenya's Interior Ministry, calling the news "false and misleading."

A foundation in the late Kenyan liberation leader's name shared a statement on Friday, claiming that his burial site had been located after 62 long years. The news was welcomed and celebrated by many Kenyans who had long been anticipating the identification of his remains.

However, over the weekend Kenya's Ministry of Interior denied the claims. According to an AFP report on the Japan Times, Kimathi's daughter Evelyn Wanjugu Kimathi stood by the original report, telling the AFP that the family released the statement without the government's knowledge or involvement. "We, the family, are the ones that went to Kamiti Maximum Prison, and were able to find the place he was buried in an unidentified grave," she said.

A video shared by the Dedan Kimani foundation appears to show a group of supporters gathering and signing around his 88-year-old widow, affectionately known as Mama Mukami Kimathi following the announcement, which comes just under a week before what would've been Kimathi's 99th birthday.

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Veteran Somali Musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein Has Died

Considered one of the founding fathers of contemporary Somali music and affectionately known as 'Hudeydi', the musician has passed away from the coronavirus at age 92.

Veteran Somali musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein has passed away at the age of 92 according to reports by the BBC.

Considered one of the founding fathers of contemporary Somali music, the musician passed away in London, England, after having tested positive for the coronavirus.

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(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rejoice! WhatsApp Places New Restrictions on Chain Messages to Fight Fake News

To combat the spread of misinformation due to the coronavirus outbreak, users are now restricted from sharing frequently forwarded messages to more than one person.

The rise of the novel coronavirus has seen an increase in the spread of fake news across social media sites and platforms, particularly WhatsApp—a platform known as a hotbed for the forwarding of illegitimate chain messages and conspiracy theories (if you have African parents, you're probably familiar). Now the Facebook-owned app is setting in place new measures to try and curb the spread of fake news on its platform.

The app is putting new restrictions on message forwarding which will limit the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be shared. Messages that have been sent through a chain of more than five people can only subsequently be forwarded to one person. "We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," announced the app in a blog post on Tuesday. "In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers."

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