The rest of Africa might follow Rwanda and Mauritius’s lead of free entry into their respective borders soon. An ‘African passport’ is the AU’s 2063 agenda, and according to AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Dr. Aisha Abdullah, it will ensure that “our people will not have to carry a visa to gain access to other African states.”
In 2013, at the 50th anniversary and the 21st summit of the African Union (AU) that held in partnership with the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development(NEPAD) in Ethiopia, stakeholders in attendance advocated for the revival of unity by all the inhabitants of the African continent.
At the 2013 summit which was themed “Pan Africanism and African renaissance”, the Agenda 2063 was born. The agenda, which is both a vision and an action plan, “represents a collective effort and an opportunity for Africa to regain its power to determine its own destiny, and is underpinned by the AU Vision to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, an Africa driven and managed by its own citizen and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”
According to the AU, the goal of the Agenda 2063, which will promote self reliance, is to enable Africa to finance its own development. These are the 7 key aspirations that this program aims to achieve:
- A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
- An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance
- An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
- A peaceful and secure Africa
- An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics
- An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth
- Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner.
As such, an African passport fulfills goal two- an integrated continent. Ventures Africa had a chat with Acha Leke, the Director, Mckinsey & Company, who has been working closely with African policy makers in order to ensure that a visa-free continent is realized.
Ventures Africa (VA): What could this passport mean for Africa?
Acha Leke (AL): The simple thing is that at the moment it is too difficult for Africans to travel across the continent because of visa requirements, except for countries like Rwanda and Mauritius. The arrival of Africans into these countries has exponentially increased and it has also significantly increased tourism revenue, which is going to cause an increase intra-Africa trade.
VA: Will the border less policy encourage the infiltration of terrorism into other countries?
AL: No, there are three reasons why African leaders may be worried about this. First is security, and making sure that the wrong people don’t get into your country. Paul Kagame (the President of Rwanda) always says “terrorists will always come into your country, but the terrorists don’t come to your embassy to get visas to fly into your country.” Then jobs- especially in the smaller countries. If the borders are open, how do you make sure that non-nationals don’t come in to take all the jobs? However, for the countries who have implemented open borders, this has not been the case at all. The third reason is that for many embassies, the revenue from visas is the only income they have to maintain the embassies because the government does not allocate a large enough budget. Against that I would argue that these governments are trying to provide the embassies with the budget they need and in the worst cases, let visitors pay for the visas on arrival, so that all that money goes back to the embassies. However, all of these reasons are not significant enough to impose visas.
VA: Why has it taken so long to implement the African passport policy?
AL: I heard about it last year when Madam Zuma from the AU said that it was something to think about. But I am not sure of why it has taken so long. Over the last three years we have given them the big push concerning this initiative to open up Africa to Africans. Myself amongst others are pushing it big time through panels and advocacy, making a strong case for why this has to change.