The African Union has launched its long-awaited Pan-African passport at the opening ceremony of the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU on Sunday July 17.
The new African Passport was announced and launched by the outgoing African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who managed to complete at least two big items on the union’s to-do list she had in her term at the helm of the continental body.
The move to launch the African Passport was reached during the Summit in January this year, with the AU deciding that the passport would be launched in Kigali, starting with Heads of State and Government, with Foreign Ministers, the leadership of the Representatives of the AU Executive Councils and Organs.
In respect to that, Dlamini-Zuma handed two representational African Passports to President Paul Kagame, and to the Chairperson of the African Union, President Idriss Deby of Chad.
Giving her last opening speech at the AU’s heads of state on Sunday, Dlamini-Zuma said she was glad one item the AU managed to tick off its “email list” was the issue of the body funding itself and the other was the free movement of people and trade on the continent, which came a step closer to being realized with the launching of the concept of the African passport at the summit.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by requests and inquiries of other ministers, officials, and African citizens to share in this privilege of holding an African Passport,” said Dlamini-Zuma
Upon receiving the new African passport, AU chairperson, Chadian President Idriss Déby kissed the passport as a giggling Dlamini-Zuma looking on.
The new passport was introduced as a means of increasing trade relations between African nations, where there are vast resources, but very little trade between countries. It also aims at facilitating the free movement of Africans, who the AU believes are still being separated by colonial-era borders.
Trade relations among African countries still stands at 13% compared to an intra-Europe trade ranging between 43% and 83% according to the AU.
Through the new passport also, the 54 members of the AU will have a free access to member nations which includes South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and many others.
When To Get The passport
The policy guiding the passport’s release – Agenda 2063 – targets a full roll-out to be complete by 2018 – however, analysts have pointed out that the deadline is extremely optimistic, considering the lack of infrastructure and technical skills in many member nations.
Hence, even though the passport is officially launched, it will be quite some time before ordinary citizens will be able to get their hands on one.
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However, the launch of the passport was mostly symbolic, and member states were tasked to go back and work out the logistics of producing these.
As the policy and its execution is one of the feathers in Dlamini-Zuma’s cap, and as a South African chair, the AU will be looking at the country to lead on the project.