Powerful passports are far more than mere travel documents that define our ease of cross-border movement. They also enhance our economic mobility in terms of accessing international investment and business opportunities.
Additional passports acquired via investment migration programs help unlock a larger proportion of the world’s economy. By the same token, countries with more open borders encourage economic activity, resulting in increased entrepreneurship, innovation, and investment, which ultimately drive economic growth.
The Henley Global Mobility Report is a unique publication featuring commentary by leading scholars and experts on major trends influencing mobility patterns. With historical data spanning 18 years, the Henley Passport Index is the only one of its kind based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA). The index includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations.
According to the latest Henley Passport Index, here are the top West African passports, their positions according to the rankings and the number of countries they can access visa-free.
Top West African passports in 2023
1. The Gambia
The Gambia, a small but mighty nation, stands proudly at the 76th position on the Henley Passport Index. While it may not boast the extensive global access of some passports, it empowers Gambians to explore over 70 countries without the burden of a visa.
The country is one of Africa's smallest nations and, unlike many of its West African neighbours, has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence. Most visitors are drawn to Gambia's resorts that occupy a stretch of the Atlantic coast.
2. Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone, a country of resilience and growth, secures the 78th spot on the index. The name of the country hails from the words 'Sierra Lyoa,' meaning 'Lion Mountain Range' in Portuguese.
Sierra Leonean passport holders have the privilege of visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to approximately 67 countries, offering a gateway to diverse experiences.
The country is known for its wildlife, beaches and islands: many of them are in the Freetown Peninsula and can easily be reached from the city.
3. Cape Verde Islands
Cape Verde, a tropical paradise off West Africa's coast, clinches the 79th position. Although not a powerhouse passport, it grants Cape Verdean citizens access to over 66 countries, opening up possibilities for tourism and business ventures.
The former Portuguese colony boasts West Africa’s highest standard of living, thanks to its stable political and economic system. Tourism plays a key part in Cape Verde's economic development
Ghana, known for its vibrant culture and thriving economy, stands at the 80th position. A Ghanaian passport provides its bearers with visa-free access to more than 65 countries, making global travel more accessible.
Ghana, which was the first West African country to gain independence from British colonialism, is considered one of the more stable countries in the region since its transition to multi-party democracy in 1992.
Benin, a nation with a rich history and cultural heritage, secures the 82nd spot. Its passport, while not among the strongest, still offers access to over 62 countries, fostering international connections.
The country has experienced economic growth over the past few years and is one of Africa's largest cotton producers.
6. Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso, often referred to as the "land of upright men," shares the 83rd position. Although its passport may not unlock the world's doors entirely, it provides its citizens access to over 59 countries.
The former French colony gained independence as Upper Volta in 1960 and has significant reserves of gold, manganese, copper and limestone.
7. Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire, a country known for its cocoa production and diverse culture, also sits at 83rd. With over 59 countries allowing visa-free access, its passport facilitates international travel and trade.
Côte d’Ivoire is one of the world's top exporter of cocoa and raw cashew nuts, a net exporter of oil, and with a significant manufacturing sector.
Guinea, a nation with vast resources and a complex history, secures the 84th spot. While not a passport powerhouse, it still grants access to more than 58 countries, promoting cross-cultural exchanges.
Guinea enjoys sizeable endowments of natural resources, energy opportunities, and arable land. Although little known to most of the world, the country is teeming with wildlife, rolling mountainous landscapes and vast sandy stretches.
Senegal, celebrated for its hospitality and traditions, shares the 85th position. A Senegalese passport provides access to over 57 countries, creating opportunities for its citizens to explore and engage globally.
Senegal is considered one of Africa's model democracies. The West African nation has a tradition of stable governments and civilian rule.
Togo, a country known for its diverse landscapes and culture, also holds the 85th position. While not at the pinnacle of passport strength, it still opens doors to over 57 countries, facilitating international travel and business endeavours.
Cattle rearing dominate Togo's livestock sector, while products like coffee, cocoa bean and peanuts account for a significant chunk of export earnings.
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