AU Releases The First “African Passport”

On May 25, 1963, the 32 African states that had achieved independence agreed to establish the organization of African Unity (OAU). As time passed, the organization saw other member states join the institution. In a bid to re-shape the organization, the former chairperson, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, disbanded and rebaptized the OAU as the African Union on July 9, 2002. It is important to note that during this time, membership of the organization had increased drastically from 32 to 53. Currently, it is made up of 54 African states, and the rejoining of Morocco after 32 years of absenteeism could increase this figure to 55 members. The African Union, like other international organizations, seeks to promote unity and solidarity of African states, spur economic development, and promote international cooperation.

Recently, in Kigali, on July 17, 2016, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the acting President of the African Union Commission, during the 27th summit of the African Union, released the African passport, printing two samples for the acting chairperson, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and the second Vice-chairperson, H.E Paul Kagame of Rwanda in accordance with the transformation reforms under Agenda 2063. The African passport is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063, with the view to facilitate free movement of persons, goods, services, and to enhance African unity among its different states, so that African nationals can see themselves as one. The Former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi said the United States of Africa is the only way Africa can develop without western interference, and the launching of the African Passport is just the tip of the iceberg. Many countries in Africa, such as Madagascar, Tunisia, Gabon, and Mali have approved the “United States of Africa,” and are ready to start using the passport.

According to the acting president of the African Union Commission, the initial plan was to deliver these passports to African heads of state, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and to certain high-ranking diplomats, but the aftermath of the launching saw many requests from people who wanted to benefit from this privilege of obtaining an African passport. In response to this demand, Dr. Dlamini Zuma urged all member states to accept the challenge of issuing this African passport to their citizens in accordance with their national policies. However, many have started to question when and how member states will start issuing the passport because many African states remain largely closed off to African travelers, and the few countries to implement the visa-on-arrival policy were Rwanda, Mauritius, and Ghana. According to the African Development Index,

“Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other countries, can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries and don’t need a visas to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent”.

This has also worsened due to the fact that the 30-day visa-on-arrival policy, which AU member states were expected to implement has been sluggish. This alone shows how disunited the states of Africa can be, though the African Union has made a bold step in launching the African passport. Even though the African Union has done a great deal to release the first ever copy of the African passport to diplomats and politicians on the continent, many in Africa now expect the AU to take bold decisions, like the establishment of an international African reserve or an African federal bank for the following: a unique petroleum company, an African court of justice, and a unique African currency and the funding of the AU by the African federal reserve.

Nowadays, the AU has done much, and more is still to be done in the future in order to meet with Agenda 2063.

Adewale Daniel Omojowo
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