The one-passport-for-all-Africans initiative will move an inch closer early this year as the African Union (AU) will have its 32nd summit in February to unveil details on the design, production, and issuance of the long-awaited African passport.
This is according to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. The declaration comes in the heels of the AU’s launch of a single air market programme to improve interaction and a free trade agreement to establish a common market for goods and services.
The African unified passport which was first presented in 2016 is still exclusive to heads of states and other diplomats with Chadian leader Idriss Déby and Rwandan President Paul Kagame being the first receivers.
Immigration experts from member states, however, met last July in Nairobi to deliberate on the document’s technical specifications, security features, and how best to unroll it across the AU’s 55 states.
If the heads of state assembly adopt the measures in February, it will pave the way for of the issuance of the African passport in accordance with respective national laws and regulations.
The unified passport is aimed at easing the free movement of people, spurring economic growth, promoting intra-African trade, and eventually creating a “continent with seamless borders.”
The move is likely to be a windfall for citizens of African states, who hold some of the least powerful passports in the world. Movement within their own continent is hard for Africans too: only Seychelles and Benin offer visa-free travel to all African travellers. And even as visa regimes get relaxed, travellers from nations like South Sudan and Burundi need visas to go to 48 and 47 African countries respectively.
Skeptics point out the move will be challenging, with many African states already resistant to migrants and refugees, and some have been quietly tightening their visa rules. Faki, however, stated the AU will push for more integration saying “the persisting obstacles to our citizens’ movement within their own continent are simply unacceptable.”
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