The continental African passport promised to roll out in 2020 can only improve mobility in Africa


By Youyou Zhou,

It’s still up in the air whether the African Union can keep its promise to deliver a continental passport by the end of the year. 

The travel document would allow visa-free travel between the Union’s 55-member countries.

The potential economic impact is huge. Recently-released data show that intra-African travel continues to lag the world. The continent’s 1.2 billion people made far fewer intra-continental trips — in total, and per person — than Europeans, Asians and Americans.

In addition, as Europeans and Asians increasingly travelled to nearby countries, in recent years, African figures remained mostly the same.

Africa has been making improvements on political integration within the continent in recent years while Nigeria just announced that Africans traveling to the country do not need to apply for a visa beforehand. 

That means all Africans can now travel without a pre-trip visa to, at least, 53% of Africa’s countries. That’s up from 45% four years ago. US nationals can travel to 65% of African countries visa-free.

In 2016, the African Union promised to deliver a continental passport to “help realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020.” 

A number of prominent Africans, including some heads of state and diplomats, have been issued the passport. 

Throughout August 2019, 33 member states have signed the protocol to establish a pan-African economic body, the first step toward the free movement of people.

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