The African Union (AU) is prepared to launch the electronic passport (e-Passport) at the next AU Summit tabled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2016. This flagship project, first agreed upon in 2014, falls squarely within the framework of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and has the specific aim of facilitating free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent – in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has described this initiative as both symbolic and significant, calling it a “steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens and capable of taking its rightful place on the world stage.”
Aspirations 2 and 7 of Agenda 2063, respectively, envision an Africa that is ‘integrated’ and ‘united’, and the introduction of the Common African Passport as an effort towards realizing integration and unity on the continent.
The first group of beneficiaries will include: AU Heads of State and Government; Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Representatives of AU Member States based at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The AU e-Passports will be issued to them in July 2016, at the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. In order for all the recipients to acquire the passports, they are strongly encouraged to comply with the needed paper work required to accelerate the processing lead time.
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.