Reviewing the One Africa, One passport policy
By Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya
On Tuesday, 25th of April, 2017 which was co-incidentally a month to our Africa Day celebrations, I was in a building in Oregun, Ikeja, with some highly intelligent and informed people. We were discussing the future of our great continent and our individual and collective responsibilities in making Africa what God had intended it to be – One Great Nation. Mr. Richard Mammah (Editor-In-Chief, The Difference Newspaper) noted that if Africa were to be a country, she would be a World Power and with over 1.2Billion people and a massive mineral and material resources, Africa would be a very powerful country. Hear his words; “everyone is waiting for Africa to succeed, even God, and that is why He created the first Human on our planet” He noted.
An editorial on our website titled; “Why We Are Celebrating Africa Day in Nigeria” explains in explicit terms the rationale behind the celebration of Africa Day and the E-Passport in focus. Excerpts; “We plan the event to be a colloquium on the new Africa Union passport which is guaranteeing visa-free travel to Africans all across Africa. Along the line also, we will equally be celebrating leading West African businesses in a segment we have dubbed the ‘Business Kings of the West Coast.’ And then there will be the presentation of ‘Africa Day,’ a journal addressing issues of pan-African significance and the anniversary edition of The Difference which is being produced for the celebration.” (The Difference Newspaper – Editorial on 9th of April, 2017)
This week, I would be discussing in great details, unlimited possibilities the African Union’s proposed E-Passport would unlock for the continent especially in areas of intra-continental travel and we at the Difference Newspaper are celebrating Africa Day on May 25th, 2017, with the theme. So, the next question is, what is the AU E-Passport?
The African Union Electronic passports are for African citizens to be able to travel throughout the continent without visas. There are two passports – one issued by the African Union for officials and people who travel a lot on business and the other by individual countries for everyone else. It will bear the African Union’s name and that of the issuing country. The diplomatic passport is in English, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Swahili.
It is a bio-metric, or e-passport, that meets international standards and will be modeled on the European Union one. It is an attempt to ease movement of people and stimulate trade across the continent. The Africa Development Bank (AfDB) report on visa openness found only 13 out of 55 countries allow all Africans to enter either without a visa or to get one on arrival. These kind of blockages hinder intra-African trade, which remains very low. According to the report, many countries still do more business with their former colonial power, than with their African neighbors. (Should Africa have a single passport? – Emmanuel Igunza, BBC Africa, Kigali, Rwanda, 19th July, 2016)
In consequence, we should not forget the focus of this educative piece which is to address the effects of the proposed passport on intra-continental. These effects are itemized and discussed in the following paragraphs.
Unlimited Opportunities – After South Africa opened its market to Kenyan airlines in 2000, the number of passengers jumped by 69%, and after South Africa struck a bilateral accord with Zambia in 2013, cost of travel between the countries plummeted by almost 40%. A study by IATA predicts that if just 12 of Africa’s member states opened their skies to each other, fares would drop by 35%, an additional 155,000 jobs would be created, and GDP would rise by $1.3 billion. Liberalization has gained traction in Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia and other African countries over the last few years. (What Does the AU Passport Mean for Intra-African Air Travel? – Valerie Silva, 13th July, 2016)
Obviously, the proposed single passport if well implemented would significantly boost intra-Africa trade and expand businesses across the continent because it would tackle travel infrastructure bottlenecks, which is one of the biggest challenges to trade across the continent.
Curiously, many countries today have more flights to London or Paris than with other countries on the continent. For example, there are very few flights between Abuja and Dakar – two major West African capitals – and passengers sometimes have to travel via Nairobi or Addis Ababa in East Africa, or even Europe.
Security – Co-operation within Africa would be immeasurably improved. This is of utmost importance because Africa leaders would be forced to share information and security and other crime prevention tips with regional neighbors and other distant African countries because a security breach or lapse in one country can result to significant crisis in others and collaboration would be further entrenched.
Additionally, an AU representative also argues that it will be easier to track criminals and terrorists within the continent with the enabled Bio-metric chip.
In a previous write-up on a similar topic titled; “The Time for Africa is Here: The Time for Action is Now”; I had prophesized that the sky is the starting point if Africa’s human, mineral and material resources can be holistically harnessed for the benefit of the average African. Excerpts; “Africa’s greatest potential is its people. With wide access to quality education, health and infrastructural services, the African man is given the necessary tools he needs to chart his course in life. The governments and other global institutions must ensure that policies, legislations and programmes that foster the well-being and better living conditions of Africans is sponsored, effected and promoted because over the past three decades per capita output of electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa has reminded virtually flat; only 16% of all roads are paved compared with 58% in south Asia. We need a positive change and the only way to do that is to ensure that our leaders are held accountable for their actions and inactions.” (http://dailyindependentnig.com/2015/09/time-to-unleash-african-economic-potentials/) (Oluwole Olusanya, 2015)
If you ask me, I would I am in total support of the single passport, however, it might come with its own teething problems and implementation challenges but it is the right move in the right direction. And before I drop my pen, I would like to use the opportunity to invite everyone to our Africa Day event which would be held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday, 25th of May, 2017.
Last years’ celebration was a hit, I am sure this years’ celebration would be a bomb.
God Bless Africa, God Bless Africans
Olusanya, Oluwole Sheriff is a relationship officer with Sterling Bank Plc, Lagos
Pix: Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair, African Union Commission