Rwandans will be among the first African citizens to access the African common passport after the ongoing AU summit in Kigali.
“We as Rwanda are ready to start issuing the first set of passports to our citizens but each country will follow suit depending on its own legislation,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo in her address to the press on the fourth day of the summit.
The common passport and many other initiatives are expected to boost trade among the 54 countries on the continent as they seek to address trade deficit.
Compared to other continents, trade among African countries is the lowest representing vast untapped resources and market access.
Trade amongst African nations stands at only 13 percent, according to the African Union statistics, compared to an intra-Europe trade ranging between 43% and 83%.
Currently only 13 African countries, including Rwanda offer visa at entrance.
“This is a steady step that we aim to achieve finally but steadily, every nation is sovereign and will start issuing the common passports after their own legislations,” she added.
The chairperson of African Union Commission, Dr Dlamini Zuma indicates that the passport is “symbolic and significant for the continent”, as well as practical, because if one is carrying an African passport he or she will not be expected to apply for a visa.”
Security concerns have been a major hindrance in past discussions concerning the single passport. However, these concerns are set to be addressed by Heads of State before the ceremony of handing out the first bunch of Passports to the Presidents, ministers of Foreign Affairs and other officials from African Union.
“Every country should be ready to pick up on ensuring the protection of their citizens but this shouldn’t be a reason to hinder free movement,” Dr. Zuma said.
Launching the common passport is key in jump starting, “Agenda 2063,” a fifty year plan for collective union by African states aiming at boosting the continent’s economy through free trade, movement of goods and services.
“Whereas the idea is great, inaccessibility will remain the operative word when it comes to intra-African travel until African carriers are able to overcome excessive regulatory intervention,” notes Shyaka Toni an air travel expert regarding the cost and regulations still needed to make the idea more practicable.
Free movement between Africans was on African Union agenda since 1980, but the continent had never had a common ground on how they could make it practical.