In a bid to show solidarity and promote free movement of Africans within their region and other parts of the continent, African heads of states are to carry an African passport for the next African Union Summit to be hosted in Kigali, Rwanda, in July.
The heads of states will receive the African passport since the AU wants to popularise it as it is very symbolic and significant for the continent, as well as practical, because if one is carrying an African passport he/she should not be expected to apply for a visa, according to Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
“A few of us at the AU are already using that passport within Africa and it is very useful, but we want the heads of states to carry it when they are visiting African countries to make it official and known to others as well,” she said.
Africa’s attempt to address this situation has seen free movement show up in continental development strategy documents since the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action and the 1991 Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (AEC), commonly known as the Abuja Treaty.
Abuja committed African states to “adopt, individually, at bilateral or regional levels, the necessary measures in order to achieve progressively the free movement of persons, and to ensure the enjoyment of the right of residence and the right of establishment by their nationals within the community.”
The chairperson also said that all African countries must give a 30-day visa on arrival for all African passport holders, and Ghana and a few other countries have already responded to that decision, “which we commend a lot”.
“We also urge other countries to follow suit,” she said. “Countries have said that they are going back to look at the practicality of doing their immigration regulation, but there is a decision and it is up to all of us to hold our countries to that decision so that indeed Africans can move freely amongst other African countries.”
She stated that a lot of countries had that arrangement within their regions like in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and even the East African Community (EAC), but now was time to move beyond that to inter-regional so that people, not only in their region, but also beyond their region, could move freely.
Sharing her sentiment, Daniel Admassu, an entrepreneur who travels to other African countries, said that if this came about it would make ease of business a lot either.
“We have to submit a lot of paperwork, including a bank statement, and even then we have to wait for at least two weeks to get a visa in some embassies. That creates a gap between our travels and customers do not always understand,” he said.
The week-long occasion, the African Development Week, jointly organised by ECA and the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, has created a platform for discussion on a range of issues around Africa’s economy, regional integration, investment and related areas.
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