The Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, states the passport aims to enable free movement of population while promoting intra-African trade and boosting economic growth.
Africans can look forward to greater freedom of travel with the future introduction of the African Union passport. The union’s Commission is set to announce details of this highly-anticipated unified passport at the 32nd African Union summit in Addis Ababa this February. The Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, states the passport aims to enable free movement of population while promoting intra-African trade and boosting economic growth. The ultimate goal is to eventually create a “continent with seamless borders”.
In his New Year’s Message, Faki Mahamat announced the Commission will present detailed guidelines on the design, production, and unrolling of the African passport at the upcoming AU summit. Some people are pointing out the possible difficulties posed. Many African states are already unwelcoming to migrants and refugees with some even enforcing stricter visa rules. Faki, however, remains steadfast in his plans. “The persisting obstacles to our citizens’ movement within their own continent are simply unacceptable” he explained.
The African passport has been available to heads of state and other officials since 2016. Chadian leader, Idriss Déby, and Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, were the first people to acquire it. However, it was always the plan to unroll it across the 54 states. In July 2018, immigration experts gathered in Nairobi to discuss the passport’s security details, technical specifics, and how to issue it to African citizens.
Africans currently hold some of the most restrictive passports in existence with it being very difficult to travel within the 54 countries. In fact, only 20% of African countries were found to allow visa-free access in a 2016 report by the African Development Bank (AfDB). Additionally, 55% of African countries require visas upon entry and 25% offer visas upon arrival. “North Americans have easier travel access to the continent than African themselves”, the report concluded. But all that’s about to change. With the single AU passport, Africans will now see travelling as an accessible option. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, they’ll be able to see the beautiful sights of the continent with greater ease than ever before.
Ultimately, the AU passport will eliminate travel restrictions and the hassle of visas for African citizens. The population will have greater opportunity to travel and broaden their horizons. As the AU perfectly said at the passport’s initial introduction in 2016: “the scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020”.
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