South African passport

South African passport / photo via Facebook

Declining desirability: Power of SA passport drops even more

Global mobility offered to South African passports has declined – bringing its desirability to an all-time low.

South African passport

South African passport / photo via Facebook

Travelling with a South African passport has always been challenging but international travel has become even more difficult for South African passport-holders, who now have less mobility than last year.

Despite a number of countries having opened up to South African nationals in recent weeks, restrictions against South Africans have increased over the past year making the South African passport less desirable than before.

According to Henley & Partners which ranks passports according to the mobility offered by each passport, South African passports now rank the 58th most useful in the world. 


This year, the South African passport has dropped to 58th position in Henley & Partners’ passport ranking – due to the increased entry restrictions against holders of SA passports.

The relative power of South African passports has declined significantly over the last 13 years.  In 2008, South African passports ranked 36th in terms of the comparative mobility which the South African passport afforded to passport-holders. 

South Africa’s ranking in the index since 2006, when SA ranked at number 37. (Henley & Partners)


The Covid-19 pandemic has done little to improve global mobility for the majority of developing countries.  Henley & Partners says that several countries with lower-ranking passports have promptly reopened their borders after the pandemic-related restrictions, but without reciprocation from developed countries.

“This has created an ever-widening gap in travel freedom – even for fully vaccinated travellers from countries at the lower end of the passport power ranking who remain locked out of most of the world,” Henley & Partners said.


For nationals of countries outside of the highly developed nations in the global north, there is little hope for improvement in the short term.    

According to BusinessInsider, analysts warn that the concept of open borders may not exist for quite some time after the pandemic. Countries that lack significant leverage may find it difficult to negotiate or renegotiate bilateral treaties that would make for reciprocal visa-free access.