African passport: What is in it for African citizens?

The Africa Visa Openness report, published by the African Development Bank, in March, cast a gloomy image on ability of Africans to travel across the continent.

The report showed that visa policies and regimes have made it difficult for Africans to travel across the continent compared to European or American passport holders.

This state of affairs, economists said, was among the major issues holding back integration.

The survey to inform the report showed that, on average, Africans currently require visas to travel to 55 per cent of other African countries and can get visas on arrival in only 25 per cent of other countries.

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Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo shows her Pan-African passport during the press conference in Kigali. / Nadège Imbabazi.

Only 13 African countries offer liberal access to Africans, the report established, while middle income countries were found be the hardest to access.

In his analysis of the state of affairs, AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina had said that complexities and challenges for African passport holders to travel across the continent was part of the factors for low levels of intra-Africa trade.

The level of intra-Africa trade is at about 12 per cent compared to over 40 per cent in Asia and close to 70 per cent in Europe.

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A journalist asks a question during the press conference. / Nadège Imbabazi.

Africa needs a larger, integrated market and mobility of people to be able to do that. One of the biggest challenges to intra-Africa trade is the ease of travel across the continent for African passport holders, Adesina had said.

The Pan-African passport, launched at the 27th African Union Summit that ended in Kigali, on Monday, could provide a response to the state of affairs and open up the continent to Africans.

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Journalists follow proceedings in the press conference in Kigali yesterday. / Nadège Imbabazi

The Pan-African passport, which is expected to help eliminate the need for visas for Africans travelling within the continent, was launched Sunday.

Africans and challenges

Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that a majority of Africans have for long cited challenges while travelling across the continent.

The challenges range from delays in accessing visa, logistics and time involved in getting visa, as well as visa charges.

“Holders of the African passport will not require visas to travel to other African countries. No African country has expressed reservation on visa-free travel using the Pan-African passport,” Mushikiwabo told journalists in Kigali yesterday.

This latest development, she says, will facilitate travel and integration of Africans from all parts of the continent further increasing opportunities.

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Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo addresses media. / Nadège Imbabazi.

Already, there is demand for the document, especially from the business community, who are keen on travelling across the continent.

Citizens will receive the passports from their respective countries. Other than the African Union insignia, each passport will also bear the issuing country’s name.

Countries agreed to put in place internal mechanisms and modalities to issue the travel documents.

For Rwanda, Mushikiwabo last week said the Government had already put in place modalities to print and issue the travel document.

Source: The New Times

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