As some parts of the world are deciding to “brexit” their Unions, Africa seems set to embark on an ambitious drive towards integration with the launch of an e-passport that will grant visa-free access to all 54 member states.
The electronic passports will be unveiled at the 27th AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda, later this month, where they will be issued to heads of state and senior officials. The African Union aims to distribute them to all African citizens by 2020.
“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 AU announced in the statement.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has described this initiative as both symbolic and significant, calling it 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.”
The e-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).