The much talked about African Union passport will be launched in July, leaving many to speculate on the possibility of an ‘African Schengen’ reality.
The African Union passport is an e-passport that allows its holder to travel to any of the 54 member states of the AU without visa.
The passport aims to promote Africa’s socio-economic development by reducing trade barriers and permitting the free flow of people, ideas, goods and services.
Africa has long been criticized for not patronizing each other. It’s been recorded that African countries trade more with western countries than they do with fellow African countries.
Not only is inter-African trade more of a fantasy than reality, but easy inter-African travel as well. Usually, getting a visa to other African countries is as tough as getting a European visa. Regional bodies like the Economic Community Of West African States promoted African unity when it allowed its member states to visit each other visa-free.
Although so many have argued in favor of a border-less Africa, many remain skeptical. Top of the skeptics’ list is the issue of cross-border terrorism. They fear that the African Union passport will allow terrorism to permeate terror-free Africa countries. Already, countries like Chad and Niger are victims of cross-border terrorist attacks by Boko Haram. In the east, there is Kenya falling prey to Somalia’s Al-Shabaab.
Not only is security a major concern, there are also fears of illegal immigration that is particularly common in eastern and southern Africa.
The African Union passport will be unveiled this month at the next African Union Summit happening in Kigali, Rwanda. The e-passport will be made available only to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. AU citizens will be granted access to this passport some time in 2018.
Also part of this new mechanism to foster Pan-Africanism, Ghana’s decision to grant all AU member-states visa on arrival will take effect this month.