Era of the African Passport: A mixed bag of opportunities?

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The African passport is a common passport document that is set to replace the existing nationally issued AU member states’ passport, and exempt bearers from having to obtain any visas for all 55 states in Africa. The three types of AU passports that are to be issued include the Ordinary Passport which is 32 pages and valid for five years, that will be issued to citizens and is intended for occasional travel such as business trips and vacations. The Official or Service passport will be issued to officials attached to government institutions, who have to travel on official business.

Finally, the diplomatic passport will be issued to diplomats and consuls for work-related travel and to their accompanying dependents. The passport has inscriptions in English, Swahili, Arabic, French and Portuguese.

The initiative aims at transforming Africa’s laws, which remain generally restrictive on the movement of people. This, despite political commitments, to bring down borders, with the view to promote the issuance of visas by member states, thereby enhancing the free movement of all African citizens within the continent. The passport will be biometric or an e-passport that meets international standards and will be modelled akin to the EU’s Schengen Zone one; to prevent fraud and illegal issuances, therefore, ensuring accountability. Leveraging on technology, the electronic system could be used to track movements, and hence aid in monitoring illegal travel and improve safe travel conditions.

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