At the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) in Rwanda, the long-awaited Pan-African passport was launched during the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the AU Commission handed the first two passports to H.E. Idriss Deby Itno, Chairperson of the AU (President of the Republic of Chad), and President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda.
About thirteen countries out of the fifty-five countries in Africa currently practice either no visa or visa on arrival policy. It is believed that the introduction of the new passport will ease the movement of people, goods and services across the continent. According to the African Development Bank statistics, Africans currently need visa to travel to 55% of other African countries while over 75 percent of the countries in the top 20 most visa – open countries are in Africa. The universal passport using five languages (English, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Swahili) is aimed at facilitating the free movement of people on the continent and the AU plans to abolish visa requirements for all African countries by 2018.
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had this to say, “The single visa 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.” movement
After being presented with one of the first passports President Idriss Deby Itno said, “I feel deeply and proudly a true son of Africa after receiving this passport.” He then reiterated the need to fast track integration on the continent with a view to achieving socio-economic growth for the wellbeing of the African citizens.
A lot of people have hailed the new move by the AU while others think it will have adverse effects. Those in support believe that it will foster integration and unity among African countries. Many African professionals that leave the continent for employment purposes can now work anywhere in the continent rather than traveling outside. With that in mind, it is expected to boost economic activities across the continent.
Those not in support of the idea believe that open boarders may enhance terrorism and crime. Some African countries will lose revenue as a result of abolition of visas. There is also the fear of smaller countries being dominated by the bigger countries.
With all the proposed changes most Africans believe that it is a welcome development, as it will usher in other great things for the continent.