Africa Unveils All-Africa Passport — But So Far Only 2 People Have One

By Gregory Warner

More than half of Africa's countries require a visa for outsiders to enter.

More than half of Africa’s countries require a visa for outsiders to enter. Hugo van Tilborg/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Hugo van Tilborg/Flickr

What’s red and gold and hailed by most economists?

The new African Union passport, unveiled this week at the African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, promises a solution to a major drag on African trade: the red tape that makes it harder for African businesspeople, tourists and workers to travel around their own continent.

More than half of the 54 African countries require entry visas for other Africans, according to the Africa Visa Openness Report.

Those visas can take days or weeks to apply for, and they make everything more difficult — from hiring foreign staff to traveling on a weekend safari to selling goods across borders.

Currently, intra-African trade is at 11 percent — the lowest level of intra-continental trading in the world. (Asia is way above 40 percent.) And the future of African economies depends more on increasing trade among Africans than making deals with China. (Indeed, the rise of the Asian tiger economies in the 1990s was largely spurred by intra-Asian trade.)

Across Twitter, people have been sharing their thoughts of the new passport with the hashtag #AUPassport.

The reactions ranged from joyous…

The beginning of new things in #africa #AUPASSPORT #EBAFOSA #AFRICA we can.@RichardMunang @AbbasRafiu @DolapoJohn

— James Oyesola (@1oye) July 18, 2016

Can’t wait to have mine !!! ??
Finies les tracasseries, qui n’auraient jamais dû exister au départ #AUPassport

— Gnagna Mariann K. (@gmkonate) July 18, 2016

Its about time we unite, creation of AU passport its a first step to bigger thing. #AfricaMustWakeUp #AUpassport #AU

— Lebohang khanye (@Supreme_Frank) July 18, 2016

To skeptical…

Looking foward to my AU passport in 2020 🙂 #Umojawaafrica #AUKigali2016 #AUSummit2016 #AUpassport

— Beth Mamicha (@Mamichons1) July 18, 2016

Sounds good in theory but a) implementation b) benefits restricted to a minority c) xenophobia #AUPassport

— Yemisi Adegoke (@briticoyemo) July 20, 2016

To snarky…

I proudly carry a South African passport and I don’t give a fiddler’s fart about that AU passport. #AuPassport

— George Makubalo (@GeorgeMakubalo) July 19, 2016

Others noted that in a time when nativist rhetoric is gathering steam around the world, from Brexit to Donald Trump’s Mexican Wall, it was refreshing to see the African Union take the opposite step — to make borders more porous.

But here’s the catch: Unless you are Rwandan President Paul Kagame or Chadian President Idriss Deby (the sole holders of the two existing passports), ordinary Africans can’t yet get the all-Africa passport. It’s unclear when the red-and-gold booklets will be distributed. For now, citizens will still be standing in those long embassy lines.

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