19 June 2016 – African Passport Launches
The African Union is attempting to make travel across Africa far easier with the launch of an African Passport. As it stands, travelling within the African continent can be difficult due to a range of different bilateral visa requirements. According to the Africa Visa Openness Report, a mere 13 African countries out of 55 are visa free or allow visas to be issued on arrival to all Africans. The African Passport will grant visa-free access to all 54 member states.
This new Pan-African passport was launched today at the AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has described this initiative as both symbolic and significant, calling it a “steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens and capable of taking its rightful place on the world stage.”
The first group of beneficiaries will include: AU Heads of State and Government; Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Representatives of AU Member States based at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Union aims to distribute them to all African citizens by 2020.
The openness has its downsides
The concept of unrestricted movement of people, goods and services across sub-regions and the continent is not a new one. It has been outlined in documents like the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty. This is an indication that the unencumbered movement of citizens is critical for Africa’s development.
Countries such as Ghana, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Rwanda have taken the lead in ensuring more seamless intra-Africa travel. They have done this by relaxing visa restrictions and in some cases lifting visa requirements altogether. These countries are certainly leading the way when it comes to realising the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020.
Sceptics are suggesting that this type of pan-African travel initiative may threaten the safety and security of people living across the continent. Terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab will now have an easier time crossing country borders.
What do you think about this initiative?