Written by Nelly Niyonzima
Africa – Leaders of member states plan to unify the continent with the introduction of a single passport allowing free movement persons, good and services between countries.
Following the awareness modelled on EU’s Schengen area allowing free movement of people, the African Union (AU), which represents 54 states, wants to eliminate the need for Africans visiting African countries to require a visa by 2018.
Also, AU wants to create a free trade arrangement across the continent by 2017, to reduce high intra-African trade costs that surpass any other region.
Currently, 13 African countries have visa-free agreements in place with each other -citizens visit another country without a visa, or present visas at the port of entry.
To effect this action, Heads of state from across Africa will be the first to initial the new electronic African Union passport, ahead of the African Union Summit hosted by Rwanda in July.
The AU Statement confirm that, “The specific aim of the passport is ease free movement of persons, goods and services within the continent – in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development.”
The chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlaimini Zuma, is enthusiastic that the innovation was a “steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens.”
Although, some critiques think that this dream will be hampered by the militant groups like Boko Haram, Al Shaabab and the like, Dr Zuma reiterates that, “It is up to all of us to hold our countries to that decision so that indeed Africans can move freely among other African countries.”
So far, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda and Ghana have unfastened travel restrictions for Africans. In fact, Ghana is the most recent state to loosen border restriction, announcing that decision during it last Independence Day celebrations.
Indeed, this is a long awaited step for the continent as it seeks to tackle embedded structural problems to a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa.