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Posted on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 13:55

Will the pan-African passport ever be a reality for citizens?

By The Africa Report

The first pan-African passport was launched at the African Union Summit in Rwanda in July. The organisation intends to have the passport distributed to all African citizens by 2020, garnering both praise and scepticism.

 

Tonderayi MukeredziYES.The launch of the new pan-African biometric passport by the African Union (AU) in July was a bold step. Beginning 2018, many countries are expected to issue the passports to their citizens. Already, the continent has witnessed ground-breaking changes towards realising the goal of greater integration. In Ghana, Rwanda and Mauritius, visas are now issued upon arrival to all AU citizens, while Namibia and Zimbabwe have also made good progress. The changes in visa policies in the aforementioned countries indicate that more and more African countries are willing and are warming up to the idea of ‘One Africa’, a precondition that makes the passport more attractive. The success of the visa-free entry regime in the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the positive spin-offs of the system in countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, which are members of the open East Africa Tourist Visa, show that an African passport can work. Although only 13 out of 54 countries currently offer biometric passports, this is expected to increase with time as countries see the benefits of opening up borders. Experiences have shown that instead of burdening their host countries, migrants contribute significantly to both their countries of origin and the host countries by paying taxes and social contributions than they receive in individual benefits. Tonderayi Mukeredzi, Journalist and communi­cation consultant, Zimbabwe

 

Cristiano d’OrsiNO. The idea is that the free movement of people will help create jobs and stimulate economic activity. This, in turn, would enhance intra-African trade, boosting economic growth. However, a number of insuperable obstacles stand between the vision of a pan-African passport and it becoming a reality. I believe they are too big to be overcome, especially in the short time frame the AU has given itself. The first is that many African countries are still missing the basic measures to implement the initiative. For instance, currently, only very few African countries offer biometric passports. Second, there is already a resistance to migration. Existing visa barriers to other African nationals would need to be revoked before a pan-African passport could be adopted. Third, some countries are averse to allowing entry to more migrants due to high domestic unemployment rates. Fourth, despite sub-regional agreements allowing for the freedom of movement of people, some African countries continue to embrace derogatory policies, citing security concerns. The idea of adopting a unique e-passport for Africans is unquestionably commendable. However, in my opinion, the use of this passport is currently infeasible. We should start by reinforcing existing sub-regional agreements to integrate more deeply the different, signatory countries. Dr. Cristiano d’Orsi, Research fellow and lecturer, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

From the October 2016 print edition



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