The new passport for African Union (AU) member countries was launched on Sunday at the opening ceremony of the AU Summit held in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. This passport will allow holders to travel throughout the continent without a visa.
According to the AU commission’s chairperson, the passport is considered to be a major achievement for the commission, and is intended to help with the regional integration of people on the continent. The passport has already been given to two top diplomats in the AU.
Initially, however, the passports will only be given to heads of states, ministers of foreign affairs, and top diplomats. It will allegedly later filter down to be available to African citizens.
Many see the launch of this passport as a continental achievement that will facilitate the seamless mobility of Africans and ease trade across the continent, leading to economic growth. Rwanda, one of the 13 states that enacted a visa-free policy for African citizens, has witnessed significant development since it eliminated the necessity for visas.
However, several researchers noted that many other countries may not have the same level of technology as Rwanda in enforcing the system. Additionally, visa revenues are a key source of income for many countries—another drawback. Furthermore, more developed African countries may see an influx of people from other less-developed countries, which could result in social, economic, and political pressures.
Abu Bakr Hefny, Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU had previously told Daily News Egypt that it is unlikely the passport will be issued because it was not discussed in the AU, saying: “How can you eliminate visas between 54 countries?”
The passport is supposed to be available for all AU citizens, so it will only include the 54 countries of the union. Other countries, such as Zanzibar, will not be included.