Pan-Africanism wins a major victory as African leaders agree to issue a unique African passport set to lift travel barriers across the continent.
Rabat – The African Union will unveil a unique African passport in February, lifting travel barriers and fulfilling an important part of the organization’s cherished pan-African ambitions.
While there has always been overwhelming agreement among Africans for greater African unity and regional integration, national differences have traditionally stood in the way, making pan-Africanism a much harder vision to realize.
But AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat is confident that the African passport move will succeed. He said that details about implementation will be announced at the 32nd summit of the AU in February when the prototype will be unveiled.
“I am pleased to stress that, in February 2019, in Addis Ababa, at the 32nd Summit of our Union, the Commission will present, for adoption, guidelines on the design, production and issuance of the African passport, the materialization of which will take us one step closer to the long-held dream of complete free movement across the continent,” Mahamat said in a statement.
Like Mahamat, a number of AU leaders, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, the AU’s current chair, hope that giving the document an actual shape and color will boost the pan-African mood and accelerate the process of full implementation.
Initiated in July 2016, the African passport project has reignited a pan-African sentiment similar to the one that followed the independence of African states. A number of observers and African citizens have spoken in support of the move, hinting at the necessity of “African Unity.”
Once fully implemented, the African passport will first be delivered to African presidents and senior officials, including foreign ministers and diplomats. Only after that will it be generalized to other officials and the general population.
Conditions on how to proceed are set to be announced in February together with the unveiling of the prototype.
The move comes months after 32 African countries signed a Free Trade Agreement to further the continent’s economic and socio-political integration. The long-term goal of the agreement is to create an integrated African market that lifts existing barriers to the free movement of people and goods. There are also talks of a common African currency.
As part of the much-reported Africa 2063 vision, both the unique passport and African Free Trade Agreement are aimed to “unify all Africans,” according to AU officials.
Mahamat, speaking in defense of the moves, argued, “Integration is for the development of the continent and the fulfillment of its people’s aspirations to wellbeing.”
Only two African countries, the Seychelles and Benin, offer visa-free travel to all African countries. But once the new passport is issued, Mahamat hopes, barriers will be lifted and Africans will be able to freely travel across the continent.