Sin­gle African pass­port

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The African Union Pass­port was for­mally launched last week dur­ing the 27th African Union Sum­mit in Ki­gali, Rwanda. African Union (AU) de­sires a bor­der­less con­ti­nent by its in­tro­duc­tion of African pass­port which is part of its 2063 Agenda for “a con­ti­nent with seam­less bor­ders.” So far, Mau­ri­tius as well as Rwanda are im­ple­ment­ing the plan. The project was agreed upon in 2015 and as­pires to im­prove in­tra-African trade and move­ment of goods be­tween mem­ber states.

AU Com­mis­sioner for Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs Dr. Aisha Ab­dul­lahi said Africa would soon be­come bor­der­less as the plan for a sin­gle African pass­port is in progress. “Our peo­ple will not have to carry a visa to gain ac­cess to other African states. There will be free trade of goods,” she said at the #Afric­i­ties sum­mit. Ac­cord­ing to the African De­vel­op­ment Bank (AfDB), “The AU’s vi­sion is matched by a call to ac­tion to in­tro­duce an African Pass­port and abol­ish visa re­quire­ments for all African cit­i­zens in all African coun­tries by 2018.” AfDB is also cre­at­ing “the first Africa Visa Open­ness In­dex” which ranks African coun­tries on the level of open­ness/re­stric­tive­ness of their visa regimes. The ob­jec­tive is “to drive visa pol­icy re­forms across Africa, sim­plify visa ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ce­dures and en­cour­age pos­i­tive rec­i­proc­ity.”

Rwan­dan Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs and Co­op­er­a­tion said the pass­port should be seen as a bless­ing not a curse. “Rwanda is ready for the AU Pass­port is­suance. Other coun­tries will also be work­ing to­wards im­ple­men­ta­tion of this de­ci­sion. The free move­ment of peo­ple in Africa will spur our eco­nomic growth,” Min­is­ter Mushiki­wabo said on the side­lines of the Sum­mit. He also said after the African Union Pass­port’s launch, each coun­try will go on and is­sue the pass­ports ac­cord­ing to its na­tional reg­u­la­tions but that this will be done in part­ner­ship with the African Union.

He said, “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.” the min­is­ter ex­plained. She said launch­ing of the AU Pass­port is ex­pected to be­gin the process of adop­tion and rat­i­fi­ca­tion of pro­to­cols and leg­is­la­tion for the mem­ber states.

This de­vel­op­ment copies other unions across the world which have abol­ished visa re­quire­ments, for in­stance the bor­der-free Schen­gen Area (a cre­ation of the Schen­gen Agree­ment) where 26 Euro­pean coun­tries have got rid of pass­ports and other bor­der con­trols. The mem­ber states have a mu­tual visa pol­icy which eases the free move­ment of peo­ple. Free move­ment, as a trade and in­te­gra­tion tool, has been around for a while in con­ti­nen­tal de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives be­gin­ning with the 1980 La­gos Plan of Ac­tion as well as the 1991 Treaty Es­tab­lish­ing the African Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity (AEC), known as the Abuja Treaty.

In­te­gra­tion is good; there­fore, we wel­come this de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, in the im­ple­men­ta­tion, AU should take ad­e­quate mea­sures to ad­dress the con­cerns of Africans. First, the en­tire world is trou­bled with vi­o­lence and in­se­cu­rity. But we be­lieve this is a solv­able prob­lem even in Africa. There­fore, AU should use its se­cu­rity agen­cies to fash­ion ef­fec­tive mea­sures to look into this men­ace as it plans to open its bor­ders to all. An­other con­cern is the aware­ness for this ini­tia­tive. It is quite trou­bling that our checks re­vealed that even the agen­cies that will drive the AU Pass­port, such as the im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices, were not in­formed in some coun­tries. A de­lib­er­ate cam­paign in this re­gard would ben­e­fit all con­cerned.

Fi­nally, AU should look into the weak in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and elec­tric­ity in­fra­struc­ture in mem­ber states. Even the reg­u­lar pass­port is a prob­lem for many AU mem­ber states, let alone a process that would re­quire the in­te­gra­tion of data­bases across bor­ders. While we whole­heart­edly wel­come the AU sin­gle pass­port, we must warn that good ideas have never been the prob­lem of AU pro­to­cols. It is im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.