When news streamed about the launch of the common African Union passport, I and my fellow Africans jubilated with great optimism at the prospect of finally having a unifying travel document that is meant to foster visa-free travel to all the 54 African Union member states. The common African Union passport – similar to EU’s Schengen visa scheme – was launched at the AU’s 27th summit that took place in the second week of July in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. According to a press release by the AU, the launch of the African Union passport 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.”
Speaking from a personal experience, I believe that this has been long overdue since the end of colonialism in Africa. When colonialists partitioned Africa in the late 19th century, many ethnic communities were divided by the national boundaries drawn by the imperialists. This didn’t only weaken the ability of Africans to fight colonialism, but it also eroded the African spirit of unity and togetherness. The launch of this continental passport is a great step towards reclaiming the unity that we lost more than a century ago. This will integrate African communities and hence spur economic and social growth.
It is also hoped that the use of the African Union passport will greatly facilitate the unrestricted movement of Africans and their goods. We as Africans are like one mega ethnic community with relatives scattered all over Africa and we are required to obtain hard-to-get travel documents like the Yellow fever certificate, visas, and national passports to visit our relatives just across the border.
Like I explained above, colonialists divided ethnic tribes whereby part of one tribe is in country A and the other in country B. For example, here in East Africa, we have the Iteso of Uganda and the Iteso of Kenya. They are required to have all the above-mentioned documents to visit each other despite being a homogenous community. Other tribes across Africa have faced the same challenge. Hopefully, the AU passport will sort this out. But why are these hardships even necessary? A borderless Africa is one step towards the total unification and togetherness.
The fact that Africa is a rising competitive economy with vibrant young people, having a robust interconnectedness will push Africa ahead in realizing this investment potential. Such human resources do not need to be restricted in terms of movement and this will help in the distribution of labor, skills and technological transfer. African states will become more cooperative and this will improve the socio-economic development through free trade and the movement of economic resources.
Removing visa restrictions on Africans will ensure an easy intra-Africa travel and solidify the concept that the African continent is home to Africans. Africans will become fond of their beloved continent if such measures are put in place for them to enjoy their ‘Africanity’. Moreover, how can you call a highly fragmented place your home when your movement is severely restricted?
“This is a steady step towards 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.”
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, AU Chairperson.
Motivating Africans to be more patriotic in such ways will make us proud of our continent. We have witnessed thousands of our African brothers and sisters losing their lives in desperate attempts to move to other continents where they are unwelcome. All this is because they don’t feel that Africa holds any positive future for them. This initiative by the AU is likely to allow free interaction of Africans towards finding a common ground for development.
Am a great admirer of African beauty; from the sand dunes of the Sahara, Mount Kilimanjaro, Maasai Mara, the great Pyramids of Giza & Luxor, Cango caves the massive Victoria falls, the Drakensberg mountains, the Kalahari Desert, the savanna grasslands, the teeming wildlife, rivers, lakes, and beaches. Having the African Union passport will help me to unlock my tourism potential to visit all these attractions without any setback.
Today, prospective African adventurers face a myriad of travel challenges. From being dictated for how long you should stay in a certain country, to paying huge sums of money before you can be granted entry. Such issues prevent Africans from traveling. If you are to spend money in a hosting country by buying their goods or services, then why would you have to pay visa fees?
Many African countries rely on tourism by visitors from outside the continent who bring in some good revenues. And when they reduce in numbers, our economies become unstable.
But did you know that if realized to its potential, African domestic tourism can flourish and sustain our own economies? Africa is the world’s most beautiful continent with a lot of tourist attractions scattered all over. Many Africans would love to adventure the beauty of their own homeland but the restriction of their movement is the major obstacle.
Countries like Ghana, Seychelles, Rwanda, and Ghana have taken a great step ahead by waiving visa restrictions on Africans wishing to visit their countries. It is hoped that other African countries will follow suit because this should be realized as soon as possible to catch up with the fast developing world. No one will ever provide a lasting solution to African challenges except ourselves. Therefore, such initiatives towards the complete realization of the African unity and togetherness should be welcomed and acted upon wholeheartedly.
As for me, I am still anxious to know when my government will start accepting applications for this prestigious travel document. I will be very happy to get mine because I know that with the African Union passport, I will be free to explore the breadth and width of my marvelous home continent while meeting my African friends scattered in the different parts of Africa.