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Published on : Friday, July 8, 2016
An electronic passport would be launched by the African Union (AU) that would permit travelers to wander across the 54 African states without a visa. This is a crucial move that aims to meet the goal of this organization to bridge continental barriers.
The senior officials and heads of state based in the summit of AU in Kigali region, Rwanda would be the first ones to receive the e-passport. However, this would happen only later during this month. The African Union has stated that it has been making attempts to offer electronic passports to every African within the year 2020.
This decision of AU to issue e-passports to Africans comes at a time when the European Union (EU) has been experiencing major cracks following Britain’s vote to leave the EU. The issue of a common e-passport in Africa would give rise to a spirit of Pan-Africanism.
Rita Kiki Edozie, the co-author of a book on African Union asserted that the launching of a passport is a wonderful way to unify the people of Africa as one continent. However, the people of AU are also anxious as to whether the decision to issue e-passport to Africans would take care of the African citizens in the member states of Africa.
The passports would be a welcome offering to the ever-growing middle class populace of Africa who would reap the rewards of economic benefits offered to them on account of a visa-free travel.
A spokesperson of the AU said that the project aims to facilitate the free movement of services, goods and people all across the African continent for the purpose of boosting socio-economic development and encourage intra-Africa trade.
Such efforts to integrate the continent are functional in Africa, and AU has been planning to introduce visa-free travel in Mauritius and Ghana.
ECOWAS or the Economic Community of West African States has offered the facility of visa-less travel to Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and Liberia. In addition, the AU has also made passports a compulsory element of its 2063 Agenda.
A visiting fellow at London School of Economics, Bronwen Manby is of the view that the individual member states of Africa are yet to find out a way in which they can gain access to visa-free travel. So, establishing common passports for African citizens might be quite an uphill task.
This is because, there exist innumerable Africans who do not possess their official documentation of national identity. Therefore, it is a challenging job to determine the exact number of Africans who are stateless.
The European and African Union also confront with different issues, though certain issues are common. The AU is concerned over the fact that the issue of common e-passports to Africans could trigger a racial backlash, especially in South Africa.
Khabele Matlosa, director of political affairs, AU, has said that the proposal to bridge the barriers between the border of the African member states could have an impact on the number of youngsters travelling large distances for work.