The ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma and the out-going chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has asked African countries to free up barriers that limit the free movement of Africans on the continent, according to News24. Speaking at the African Union (AU) State of the Continent address at the Hilton Hotel in Durban, South Africa, Tuesday, Dlamini-Zuma said the pace has already been set by Rwandans who recently launched a pan-African passport for diplomats.
“Rwanda was the country that led this move and they opened their borders for all Africans. That kind of policy has seen them increase their tourism by 24 percent and trade by over 50 percent. Generally, the free movement of people has more advantages than disadvantages,” she explained.
Free Movement for Africans
Dlamini-Zuma maintains that people will feel motivated to travel to different parts of Africa when they are assured that they can move in and out of any country as they wish.
The proposed passport would allow visa-free access to all 54 AU member states.
“We are developing a comprehensive protocol of free movement and we are hoping it will be signed by 2018,” she added.
In the meantime, the AU is pushing for the use of a 30-day visa issued by African countries.
Dlamini-Zuma says she hopes that more African states will embrace this policy and open their borders.
Many have applauded the creation of a pan-African passport, noting that it will facilitate the unified mobility of Africans and ease trade across the continent.
Dlamini-Zuma says free movement of Africans on the continent will ultimately lead to Africa’s economic transformation by improving local tourism and boosting regional trade.
One of the main hurdles that the AU faces in making the electronic passport available to all African citizens is the fact that most African countries still don’t have the required biometric systems to register the documents.
Another key obstacle to the realization of visa-free movement in Africa is the fear by some African countries that opening their borders for all Africans might lead to a high influx of immigrants.
AU’s Agenda 2063 states that Africa aims to be a continent where the free movement of people, capital, goods, and services will result in significant increases in trade and investments among African countries, while strengthening Africa’s place in the global trade market.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI