In Kigali, Rwanda, the African Union announced plans for implementing a common passport that will allow for unhindered travel throughout Africa, other than for Morocco, that is.
The new passport plan seeks to jumpstart and simplify travel across borders in Africa. According to NPR’s Gregory Warner, the current system implements visas, but the process to apply for visas is extremely difficult and can take a long time. The new system hopes to make the process easier for both the hiring of labor and workers, as well as promoting more intra-continental trade. Africa ranks the lowest when it comes to intra-continental trade, which is a major reason for their economic struggles in recent years.
Despite its announcement and the promise of unhindered travel, access to such passports remain extremely limited. Currently, only high ranking political figures benefit from the new system. Heads of foreign ministries, heads of state, etc. will receive the new passports. The first recipients went to the president of the Republic of Chad, Idriss Deby, and president of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. It is expected all African citizens will be able to receive passports by 2020.
While this is a promising prospect that promotes more stable interconnectivity in the African continent, there are still many concerns with the new system. Anne Fruge at the Washington Post has called this move the opposite of Brexit, but there can still be severe consequences with a universal system. One problem that Fruge reports is that the new passport will allow easier access from one country to another by terrorists, human traffickers, drug smugglers, and so forth. It could also mean diseases such as Ebola becoming more widespread, as well. Even the logistics alone will make things difficult: the World Bank reports that over 35 percent of individuals in the Sub-Saharan continent lack legal identification. It is necessary for one to have legal identification if they want to obtain the new passports.
Despite these problems, the African Union has the European Union to learn from. If the AU can implement their own regulations to combat these issues, then the benefits of free movement across the African continent can promote growth and connectivity between all 53 of its members.
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