United States of Africa? African Union launches all-Africa passport

AfricanPassport
By Kieron Monks

July 6, 2016

The African Union believes easing access restrictions for travel within the continent will reduce then number of people embarking on dangerous migration routes.

Open doors save lives – The African Union believes easing access restrictions for travel within the continent will reduce then number of people embarking on dangerous migration routes.

But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.
Photos: Access all areas
Hidden costs? – But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.

But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.
Photos: Access all areas
Hidden costs? – But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.

The African Union is introducing a common passport that will allow visa-free access to all 54 member states, superseding existing national documents.

Full house – The African Union is introducing a common passport that will allow visa-free access to all 54 member states, superseding existing national documents.

The electronic passports will first be issued to heads of states and officials at the upcoming African Union summit in Rwanda, before being rolled out to citizens.

First served – The electronic passports will first be issued to heads of states and officials at the upcoming African Union summit in Rwanda, before being rolled out to citizens.

Pan-Africanism – The move represents a step towards a continental integration and the historic vision of ‘Pan-Africanism’ espoused by post-independence leaders such as Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah (left) and Egypt’s second president Gamal Abdel Nasser (right).

The African Union believes easing access restrictions for travel within the continent will reduce then number of people embarking on dangerous migration routes.
Photos: Access all areas
Open doors save lives – The African Union believes easing access restrictions for travel within the continent will reduce then number of people embarking on dangerous migration routes.

But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.
5 of 6
But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.
Photos: Access all areas
Hidden costs? – But critics argue that opening borders will help terror groups and organized crime.

The African Union is introducing a common passport that will allow visa-free access to all 54 member states, superseding existing national documents.
Photos: Access all areas
Full house – The African Union is introducing a common passport that will allow visa-free access to all 54 member states, superseding existing national documents.

The electronic passports will first be issued to heads of states and officials at the upcoming African Union summit in Rwanda, before being rolled out to citizens.
Photos: Access all areas
First served – The electronic passports will first be issued to heads of states and officials at the upcoming African Union summit in Rwanda, before being rolled out to citizens.

The move represents a step towards a continental integration and the historic vision of 'Pan-Africanism' espoused by post-independence leaders such as Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah (left) and Egypt's second president Gamal Abdel Nasser (right).
Photos: Access all areas
Pan-Africanism – The move represents a step towards a continental integration and the historic vision of ‘Pan-Africanism’ espoused by post-independence leaders such as Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah (left) and Egypt’s second president Gamal Abdel Nasser (right).

Proposed African Union passport would allow visa-free travel to all 54 member states
Logistical challenges make 2018 target ambitious
(CNN)As the European Union threatens to unravel in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave, the African Union is pursuing a path of closer integration through the launch of a common passport that will grant visa-free access to all 54 member states.

The electronic passports will be unveiled at the AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda, later this month, where they will be issued to heads of state and senior officials. The Union aims to distribute them to all African citizens by 2018.
“This flagship project 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 Union announced in a statement.
The passports represent a key plank of the Agenda 2063 action plan, which emphasizes the need for greater continental integration, drawing on the popular vision of Pan-African unity. Freedom of movement has been a longstanding priority among member states, as enshrined in previous agreements such as the 1991 Abuja Treaty. Common passports have already been adopted for several regions, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Open door policy
Currently, just 13 African states are open to all African citizens without advance visas, with many placing severe restrictions on travel. A recent report from the African Development Bank advised that easing entrance requirements would support economic growth, citing the case of Rwanda, which saw GDP and tourism revenues climb after abolishing visas.
AU Director for Political Affairs Dr. Khabele Matlosa believes opening borders will have a profound effect for workers at the lower end of the scale.
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“We have a problem now that young people are risking their lives to cross the Sahara Desert or travel on boats to Europe,” says Matlosa. “If we open opportunities in Africa we reduce that risk.”
The Director has been studying the example of Europe, but believes a closer African Union will not be so threatened by concerns about immigration or loss of sovereignty.
“Africa is a continent of migrants so we are not as suspicious of refugees,” he says. “This is a test of our Pan-Africanism, the doctrine which underpins the African Union’s existence. We are committed to this philosophy.”
However Matlosa acknowledges the target of providing all citizens with the passports by 2018 is ambitious, conceding that full coverage may not be achieved until several years later.
Risks and rewards
Analysts have highlighted logistical challenges of the initiative.
“Not all countries have the same level of technology needed for the biometric system and to register their citizens,” says David Zounmenou, senior research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies. “The timeframe is too short — 2020 would be a fine effort.”
Zounmenou adds that the closer union will face a complaint familiar to European counterparts — that of more powerful states overriding smaller members.
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“Not every country will buy into it,” he says. “Visa revenue is an important source of income for some countries and removing it will affect the local economy unless there is compensation.”
But Zounmenou believes that common passports will support international trade within the continent, reducing the widespread dependence on Western goods, and offer new opportunities to many citizens.
“Many people ask ‘what are the practical benefits of being a member of the AU?'” he says. “This can be one of the most important social and economic responses, which allows business to flow, students to travel, and people to move from one corner of the continent to another.”
Critics have suggested open borders risk strengthening terror groups and organized crime, but Zounmenou disagrees.
“One key advantage is that we will have centralized records to show who is going where,” he says.

The Danish passport grants its holders access to 174 countries. It joins Belgium, Netherlands and the U.S. in the fourth spot on the index.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Best passports, No. 4: Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, U.S. – The Danish passport grants its holders access to 174 countries. It joins Belgium, Netherlands and the U.S. in the fourth spot on the index.

Pictured is the border crossing between Finland and Russia in the southern Finnish border town of Imatra. Finland ranks third on the list of "best passports," while the Russian Federation ranks 48th. France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. join Finland in third place, with citizens getting visa-free access to 175 countries.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Best passports, No. 3: Finland, France, Italy, Spain, U.K. – Pictured is the border crossing between Finland and Russia in the southern Finnish border town of Imatra. Finland ranks third on the list of “best passports,” while the Russian Federation ranks 48th. France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. join Finland in third place, with citizens getting visa-free access to 175 countries.

Swedish passport holders have visa-free access to 176 countries, earning it the second spot on the index.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Best passports, No. 2: Sweden – Swedish passport holders have visa-free access to 176 countries, earning it the second spot on the index.

German citizens, it seems, have the potential for the greatest mobility in the travel world. With a German passport, travelers can enter 177 out of 218 countries and territories without a visa, according to the 2016 Visa Restrictions Index.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
World’s best passport: Germany – German citizens, it seems, have the potential for the greatest mobility in the travel world. With a German passport, travelers can enter 177 out of 218 countries and territories without a visa, according to the 2016 Visa Restrictions Index.

At 102nd place, Iraqi passport holders are only able to visit 30 countries without a visa.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Worst passports, No. 3: Iraq – At 102nd place, Iraqi passport holders are only able to visit 30 countries without a visa.

Ranking behind Iraq, Somalia and Syria, Pakistan passport holders can visit 29 countries without a visa.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Worst passports, No. 2: Pakistan – Ranking behind Iraq, Somalia and Syria, Pakistan passport holders can visit 29 countries without a visa.

Coming last on the "travel freedom" index since 2010, Afghan nationals are able to travel to 25 countries without a visa.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Worst passports, No. 1: Afghanistan – Coming last on the “travel freedom” index since 2010, Afghan nationals are able to travel to 25 countries without a visa.

The 2016 Visa Restrictions Index ranks nations by how freely their citizens can explore the planet. Hungary, Czech Republic and Iceland tied for 10th this year, with their citizens getting visa-free access to 167 countries.
Photos: World’s best and worst passports revealed
Best passports, No. 10: Hungary, Czech Republic, Iceland – The 2016 Visa Restrictions Index ranks nations by how freely their citizens can explore the planet. Hungary, Czech Republic and Iceland tied for 10th this year, with their citizens getting visa-free access to 167 countries.

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