The African Union will be launching its electronic passport later this month at the next AU Summit holding in Kigali, Rwanda.
The e-passport project, which was agreed upon in 2014, is part of the framework of Africa’s Agenda 2063, and will allow easy movement of people around the continent, which in turn will encourage unity and facilitate the conduct of business within the region.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission, South Africa’s Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, believes the initiative is 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.”
Issuance of the AU e-passport will begin in July 2016, at the 27th AU Summit in Kigali with 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.
However, the AU in an official statement has stated that the recipients are expected “to comply with the needed paperwork required to accelerate the processing lead time.”
“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,” the official statement added.
While countries like Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Ghana have made moves to ease up intra-Africa travel by reducing visa restrictions, some other countries are concerned about the negative side of the easy-access move.
The Chairperson Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA), Gershon Mosiane, points out “security threats like terrorism” as some of the impediments to implementing the passport.
Nevertheless, the AU believes “the scene seems to be set to realise the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020.”
“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 realising integration and unity on the continent,” the AU says.