I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. The year was 2002. I was studying eTourism at the University of Surrey in England. A class trip was coming up. Destination? Helsinki, Finland.
Whilst most of my peers on European passports were making arrangements to go, their only concern was how cold it was going to be in Helsinki. My concern was crossing the visa hurdle with my Ghanaian passport in order for me to make the trip. Of course, the sheer planning and paperwork alone put me off the trip. I ended up telling myself, “for a student and most people, Helsinki was expensive anyway.”
I am not alone in this and the story hasn’t changed for many people around the world.
While some people can fill out an application form and have their passports sent to their home addresses within a few weeks, some have to hassle; from waking up at dawn just to get a spot in a long queue and then go through a process that is not as transparent. In some cases, they probably have to
know someone who knows someone at the passport office. This can be a long line of people that might not always yield results.
If you take 2 passports from the same country, a different level of importance is also attached to the passport with more travel stamps from an experienced traveller and the one from a newbie. I have been harassed at some land border crossings because of my passport, whilst my colleague with few stamps got no hassle. I have also been allowed to sail through immigration with smiles and a few questions that revolve around my hairstyle, whilst my colleague was quizzed and asked for supporting documents.
So make no mistake, all passports are not equal, just go on Wikipedia and type in visa-free countries for your country and you will see the results and ranking.
Even on the African continent, nationals from countries like Mauritius can go 145 countries as at January 2019 and ranked 27th most powerful passport in 2016, and they could go to 129 countries when their passport was ranked 35th. You can check current visa rankings for all countries in 2019 here.
Some countries in Africa are considering visa-free travel for all African passport holders. My own country Ghana has taken the lead in this direction and it makes me very proud. This has its plus and minuses. Recent experiences in Europe has put some question marks on the usefulness of ease of movement. I am up for people travelling with good intent to explore and learn. Let’s face it, exposure can do a world of good.
All passports will probably never be equal, but that should never stop you from seeing this beautiful world of ours. You really did not choose to be born wherever you were born. Get armed with information and VAMEJO!
If your passport gives you the flexibility to see the world at a whim, do not take it for granted, just spare a thought for your friends who are from different parts of the world, next time you are organising a trip.