Pan-African dream gets fresh boost
By Ada Anioji
When Heads of States of Africa congregate next month in Kigali, Rwanda, it will be to, among other things, agree to a single passport initiative.
Acording to observers, this is going to be one of the most impact-ful decisions to be taken since leaders from the continent agreed to form a supra-national body in 1963.
They will be voting on proposals for a unified All-Africa Passport which will entitle citizens of member states to travel freely across the continent without any restrictions.
Some analysts trace the motivation for the idea to the European Union’s Schengen area arrangement that allows the free movement of EU citizens and any other person with a valid visa into any of the signatory European states across the totality of the Schengen states
Already, the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa Ethiopia is already a beehive of activities as African Union Commission African leaders fine-tune the plan to turn the continent into one of “seamless borders” with the introduction of a single passport allowing free movement between countries.
Currently, 13 African countries reportedly have visa-free deals in place with each other. These allow citizens to visit another country without a visa, or offer them visas on arrival.
Analysts say that upon its emergence, the scheme would greatly boost travel by Africans within Africa even as it would equally reduce the spate of bureaucratic and other bottlenecks that currently dog non-Africans who want to travel across the continent’s 54 borders.
They also see it as a continuing triumph of the vision of pan-African solidarity which the founding fathers of Africa had envisioned since the 1950s and which had led to the formation of the organisation of African Unity, OAU in Addis Ababa, in 1963 and now the AU.
However, some commentators are of the view that the passport scheme is even coming too late in the day given its critical importance in boosting intra-African relations. They are also piqued that the present situation of things leaves foreigners working within or visiting Africa with even more privileges than Africans.
Noted the Cameroonian, Kathleen Ndongmo in a sarcastic Twitter post, on Tuesday:
’13 African countries have visa-free deals in place with each other. Americans can travel to 20 African countries without a visa. Beat that!’