Africa is the second-largest continent and second-most-populous continent on Earth. Africa spans over 11.6 million mi² (30 million km²) and has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. Africa comprises 54 countries fully recognized by the United Nations, two independent states (Western Sahara and Somaliland) with little-to-no recognition, and nearly a dozen small, mostly island territories controlled by France, Spain, and other non-African countries. Africa is the poorest continent on Earth and includes a number of in-development countries and countries ruled by extremist regimes. All of these factors contribute to the fact that some African countries are much safer to visit than others. Africa has also been slow to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacts the U.S. Department of State's travel advisory for many African countries.
The Global Peace Index
The Global Peace Index (GPI) is an annual report that measures and ranks the peacefulness of 163 countries to determine the world's most peaceful countries. The GPI is published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace, which measures 23 indicators of peace, which are grouped into three categories: Ongoing International and Domestic Conflict, Societal Safety and Security, and Militarization. Example indicators include the number and duration of internal conflicts, relationships with neighboring countries, political instability, the level of violent crimes, and the level of perceived criminality in society. Each indicator's results are then merged to create a single unified GPI value for each country. The lower the GDI score, the more peaceful—and by extension, the safer—the country is considered to be.
Top 10 Safest Countries in Africa (2022 GDI):
- Mauritius — 1.54
- Ghana — 1.72
- Botswana — 1.75
- Sierra Leone — 1.81
- Gambia — 1.85
- Senegal — 1.86
- Tanzania — 1.89
- Malawi — 1.91
- Equatorial Guinea — 1.92
- Namibia — 1.93
Mauritius and Ghana
The safest country in Africa, Mauritius is also the 28th-safest country in the world. Mauritius is a multicultural island nation that is family-friendly and secure. Mauritius is a haven for tourists, with attractions that include beaches and lagoons, reef dives, water activities, the "seven-colored earth" of the Chamarel, and lush forests filled with wildlife. Mauritius has a very low crime rate overall and what little crime does occur tends to be non-violent, such as petty theft. However, the country is also struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the U.S. Department of State to issue Mauritius a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) advisory that was still effective as of April 2022.
Ghana is the second-safest country in Africa for 2021 and sits at position 38 on the Global Peace Index. Although Ghana fell five positions between 2018 and 2019, it has rebounded for 2021 and is now considered to be safer than several popular travel destinations, including France, Greece, Jamaica, Argentina, South Korea, and the United States. Ghana offers a wide range of attractions, from wildlife viewing and safaris to sun-soaked beaches and on to vibrant nightlife and cultural attractions. As of April 2022, Ghana had a Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State due to crime and unrest in certain parts of the country.
Botswana and Sierra Leone
Botswana is 2021's third-safest African country. Ranked at position 59 on the GPI, Botswana is a popular tourist destination thanks to attractions that include Chobe National Park, game reserves, and the Tsolido World Heritage site. As of April 2022, Botswana had a Level 2 travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State in April 2022 due to COVID-19.
Sierra Leone is a coastal nation in East Africa, known for its vast and numerous beaches, as well as its rainforests and wildlife preserves. The country has a GPI ranking of 46 for 2021, a welcome year-on-year gain of ten places after falling 18 positions from 2018 to 2019. While Sierra Leone is traditionally safe to visit, the COVID-19 pandemic remains challenging and violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery have become more common, with local police often lacking the training and capacity to respond effectively. In light of these factors, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) advisory for Sierra Leone that remained effective as of April 2022.
Gambia and Senegal
Ranked as the 53-safest country in the world and with an overall score of 1.85, the Gambia rose 13 spots in the GPI ranking this year. Leisure tourism is a huge part of the economy of the Gambia, which is known for its mix of "sun, sand, sea, nature, and varied cultural experience." The U.S. Department of State awarded Gambia a Level 1 (normal precautions) Travel Advisory as of April 2022, while noting the border with Senegal may require a small degree of increased caution thanks to some lingering land mines from the Casamance conflict.
Senegal was the sixth-safest country in Africa in 2021. At position 54 on the Global Peace Index, Senegal is just one position below the Gambia and places higher than both France and Greece. Known for its mix of scenic beaches and forests, animal sanctuaries, and archaeological attractions, Senegal has relatively low levels of crime and disease and has a population known for being generous hosts to tourists. Senegal had a Level 1 travel advisory as of April 2022.
Tanzania and Malawi
Africa’s seventh-safest country, Tanzania is ranked 58 on the Global Peace Index in 2021. Tanzania’s most popular attraction is the Serengeti Plains, which offers tourists a potentially unforgettable safari experience. Tanzania is usually given a Level 2 travel advisory due to the potential of crime, terrorism, and targeting of LGBTI persons. However, the country's struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic caused the issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory which remained in effect as of April 2022.
Malawi, 2021's eighth-safest African country, posted a GPI ranking of 59, placing the country between France (55) and Greece (66). Malawi ranked in the top 10 of travel site Lonely Planet's Top Ten Countries list for 2022, thanks to the country's mix of "lake, landscape, wildlife, and culture." Crime in Malawi is generally low, with purse-snatching and petty thefts being the largest threats. As of April 2022, Malawi enjoyed a Level 1 travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State.
Equatorial Guinea and Namibia
One of Equatorial Guinea's greatest tourist attractions is Monte Alen National Park, a 2000 km² preserve filled with rain forest flora, lakes and waterfalls, and wildlife ranging from gorillas to elephants. Equatorial Guinea ranked 62nd on the 2021 GPI and, as of April 2022, earned a Level 1 travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State.
Namibia landed in the 65th position in the 2021 Global Peace Index, and boasts some of the most rugged and picturesque landscapes (and wildlife viewing) in Africa. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and a vast, scenic desert on the other, Namibia's attractions include scenic beaches and mountains, towering sand dunes perfect for sunrise photos, some of the world's least light-polluted skies (for stargazing), and ample opportunities to view giraffes, lions, rhinos, and more. As of April 2022, the United States Department of State had granted Namibia a Level 1 travel advisory.