Will Africa achieve a continent-wide ePassport and visa system?

03/01/17

African Union chairperson  Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has proposed that freedom of movement be created in Africa through the establishment of a continent-wide ePassport and visa on arrival scheme.

The union, which oversaw the launch last year of an ePassport scheme which will be rolled out to 54 member countries, intends to have an all Africa ePassport distributed to all African citizens by 2020, garnering both praise and scepticism.

Idriss Deby Itno, president of the Republic of Chad and chairperson of the AU, and Paul Kagame, president of the Republic of Rwanda, received the first AU passports issued. “I feel deeply and proudly a son of Africa after receiving this passport,” said President Idriss Deby during the ceremony.

The new African Union passports are ultimately designed to allow visa-free travel for citizens of the union’s 54 member states to all other union member nations.

The new electronic AU passports were initially given to the heads of state and senior officials of the member countries. The plan is to make the new electronic passports available to all citizens of member nations by 2018. The AU passport is a key platform of the union’s long-range Agenda 2063 plan.

In the summer of 2016, Ghana and Benin began offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals – a trend that is expected to broaden this year.

However, sSome member states are apprehensive about relaxing border entry requirements for their neighbours struggling with active terrorist groups. The fear is that these groups could more easily spread unless stringent security measures accompany the relaxing of visa requirements.

 

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