WHAT IS THE AFRICAN UNION PASSPORT?
The African Union declared the intention of releasing a passport that would be available to all African citizens at its 27th summit in 2016. This passport would allow free movement of people throughout Africa, meaning that there would be no need to apply for a visa when visiting another country. Currently there are only thirteen countries in Africa which don’t require a visa upon entry from any other African countries.
WHEN WILL IT BE AVAILABLE?
For the passport to go ahead, twenty-two countries would have to ratify it (confirm that they want it), and after this it would be ready for use by 2020.
WHAT WOULD BE THE BENEFITS?
Economically, there are many ways that the African Union passport would be of positive effect. For example it would increase intra-Africa trade (trade between the different countries within Africa). It would do this by promoting interactions between countries, and enabling goods and services to be transported more easily and cheaply. This would prove very important for development in Africa and so would help to boost Africa’s economic standing on the world stage, as a united and integrated Africa would have a more powerful voice. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, has stated that ‘it cannot be stressed enough how crucial integration is for the development of the continent and the fulfilment of its people’s aspiration to well-being’.
Moreover, the passport would increase the safety of travel for refugees, which is currently extremely dangerous. More than 15% of refugees travelling north through the Horn of Africa were kidnapped during their journey in 2018. The passports would increase their safety as it would allow them to travel legitimately rather than have to apply for an often expensive visa, which they cannot afford.
WOULD COULD BE THE POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGES?
There is a definite risk when trying to introduce freedom of movement. When considering a place as diverse as Africa in terms of culture, system of government, and language, it seems naïve to presume that these differences wouldn’t cause problems when it comes to free movement. This is because there is often an understandable suspicion when integration is forced, and so people come to resent it. However, the African Union undoubtedly recognises this, and it always aims ‘to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States’.
TO SUM UP
Of course the introduction of a universal passport for Africa will not be plain-sailing. There are certainly problems that need to be thought about, for example how to protect the sovereignty of African countries. However with positive leadership from the African Union, and cooperativity from African countries, the passport will hopefully prove to be very beneficial in bringing more unity and economic prosperity to Africa.