The African Union Passport is a common passport document that is set to replace existing nationally issued African Union member state passports and exempt bearers from having to obtain any visas for all 55 states in Africa. It was launched on July 17, 2016, at the 27th Ordinary Session of the African Union that was held in Kigali in Rwanda by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Chadian President Idriss Déby. As of June 2018, the passport was planned to be rolled out and ready for use at borders worldwide by 2020.

Types

There are three types of African Union passport that will be issued:Ordinary passportThese passports are issued to citizens and are intended for occasional travel, such as vacations and business trips. They contain 32 pages, and are valid for 5 years.Official/Service passportThese passports are issued to officials attached to government institutions who have to travel on official business.Diplomatic passportIssued to diplomats and consuls for work-related travel, and to their accompanying dependents.

Design

The passport has inscriptions in ArabicEnglishFrenchPortuguese, and Swahili. The African Union anthem’s lyrics are printed on the page immediately after the picture page.

The African Union (AU) is set to reveal the design of a passport for all countries, bringing the continent one step closer to completely free movement.

The union’s Commission will present details concerning the design, production, and issue of the passport at the 32nd African Union Summit in February, said the body’s chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The passport will aim to facilitate the free movement of people, spur economic growth, and promote trade within the African continent, according to a 2016 statement.

Trade integration has long been a goal in Africa, however, the continent’s markets remain fragmented due to high tariffs and barriers, the statement read.

Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo `said a common passport could be a solution in disbanding all barriers halting intra-African trade.

Mushikiwabo added that passports would first be given to the heads of state and African diplomats but the objective was for them to be distributed to all African citizens.

Once the passports have been launched, each country will reserve the right to issue them according to their national regulations, said the minister.

Specific details on any exceptions and possible qualifications to get a passport are not yet available.

What other steps have been taken to ease movement?

On January 2018, the AU launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in an effort to ease the free movement of people. The direct benefits of the agreement were that it reinforced connectivity between African countries and reduced prices for airfare. So far, the agreement has been signed by 23 countries.

The continent also got closer to establishing a free trade agreement that would establish a common market for goods and services.

Could insecurity on the continent hinder the passport plans?

“The fear of insecurity should not stop people from moving. It shouldn’t be an impediment for free movement of our people, we must be prepared to deal with all sorts of insecurity,” said Mushikiwabo, adding that East African countries had started to gather intelligence so that insecurity did not pose a problem.