South African passports are down – again – in global rankings, no thanks to China and India

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The South African passport dropped another two rungs in an update to the authoritative Henley Passport Index published on Tuesday, continuing a long slide in the global rankings since 2008.

South Africa’s passport power is ranked at number 52 in the world, down from 50 in the previous quarter.

That is down 17 places since 2008.

The ranking, by global citizenship advisory group Henley & Partners, measures the power of passports by the number of countries the holder can access either visa-free, or with a visa obtainable on arrival.

For South Africans, that number is a steady 102, while other countries have been improving the freedom of movement of their citizens with bilateral agreements.

Holders of the new top passport in the rankings, Japan, can now travel to 190 countries and territories without making any prior visa arrangements.

The South African passport continues to be ranked third among African countries, with both the Seychelles and Mauritius remaining far ahead.

Seychelles residents can now travel to 152 destinations without a visa, and Mauritius residents to 146, both up a single destination since the last quarterly update to the rankings.

BRICS member countries have committed themselves to dropping travel restrictions between one another, and China and South Africa have signed a memorandum of understanding to achieve just that. Nonetheless, South Africans still require visas for both China and India.

Since last year South Africa has added four new visa-free destinations. Over the same period Georgia has added 18, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates 17, and China 14.

(Henley & Partners)

The two worst-ranked passports on the index, those from Afghanistan and Iraq, have access to only 30 destinations without visas.

Many ranking spots are shared by multiple countries with access to the same number of destinations. Spot three, for instance, is shared by France, Germany and South Korea, all with 188 visa-free destinations.

As a result, while SA is ranked at 52, there are actually 95 countries with stronger-rated passports on the index.