Rwanda’s capital Kigali is set to host the 27th African Union Summit, which will bring together heads of state from the 54 countries, ministers and business community. The historic summit to be held from July 10 to July 18 2016 is expected to make landmark deliberations key among them will be the unveiling of a common electronic passport that will grant visa-free access to all 54 members of the African Union.
The initiative which has the objective of facilitating free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent – in order to foster intra-African trade, integration and socio-economic development, will be issued to heads of states, Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Representatives of AU Member States based at the AU Headquarters in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. The Union aims to distribute them to all African citizens by 2018.
The passports is a step in fulfilment of the continent’s aspirations as enshrined in Agenda 2063 action plan, to promote greater continental integration and forge a united Africa. Over the years, free movement of persons and trade within the continent has been a longstanding priority among member states. It is with a view to attain that that the Abuja Treaty of 1991 was reached. With time, regional bodies such as the Ecowas Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have come to adopt common passports.
“Countries such as Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Ghana have taken the lead in ensuring easier intra-Africa travel by relaxing visa restrictions and in some cases lifting visa requirements altogether. The scene seems to be set to realise the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020,” read a statement from AU.
The concept of unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services across regions and the continent is not new; it has been outlined in documents like the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty – an indication that the unhampered movement of citizens is critical for Africa’s development.
Countries such as Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Ghana have taken the lead in ensuring easier intra-Africa travel by relaxing visa restrictions and in some cases lifting visa requirements altogether. The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020.
Issuance of the AU e-Passport, is expected to pave the way for the Member States to adopt and ratify the necessary Protocols and Legislation with the view to begin issuing the much expected African passport.