African Passport: Free Movement of Persons In Africa

Friday September 28 2018

During the July 2016 AU Summit in Kigali, the

During the July 2016 AU Summit in Kigali, the Assembly officially launched the common, electronic, biometric African passport, that would facilitate free movement of persons across Africa. GRAPHIC | AU 

AFRICAN UNION
By AFRICAN UNION
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Agenda 2063, which is the blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future, is founded on the African Union (AU) Vision of “An Integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the International arena.”

The vision of an integrated Africa calls for not just economic integration, but the integration of Africa’s people by breaking down the invisible and physical barriers which have limited the movement of people and by result weakened the spirit of pan-Africanism.

In addition, these barriers have prevented the growth of a knowledge and skills sharing economy which is vital for the advancement of any society.

The reasons for these barriers are wide and varied and include security concerns, socio-economic disparities and fear of health epidemics.

However, Africa’s fast growing educated middle class along with a growing youth population is a reminder of the potential of the continent if these demographic changes are harnessed and opportunities created to enable nation states to tap into the human capital through the socio-economic integration required to harness the continent’s vast resources for the benefit of its people.

The African Union’s Agenda 2063 identifies free movement of persons as a key ingredient for achieving other development aspirations. Free movement of persons in Africa is expected to deliver several key benefits including:

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• Boosting intra-Africa trade, commerce and tourism;

• Facilitating labour mobility, intra-Africa knowledge and skills transfer;

• Promoting pan-African identity, social integration and tourism;

• Improving trans-border infrastructure and shared development;

• Fostering a comprehensive approach to border management;

• Promoting rule of law, human rights, and public health.

In addition, the infrastructure needed to support the mobility of Africans will also serve other economic, technological, security and health-related purposes within the overall integration and development plans for Africa.

Increased movement of people, goods and services across borders will inevitably incentivise better infrastructural linkages and connections among African countries.

To address the issue of the integration of Africa’s citizens, Agenda 2063 identified as one of its flagship initiatives, the African Passport and Free movement of People which aims to remove the restrictions on Africans ability to travel, work and live within their own continent.

The initiative aims at transforming Africa’s laws, which remain generally restrictive on movement of people despite political commitments to bring down borders with a view to promoting the issuance of visas by Member States to enhance free movement of all African citizens in all African countries.

The African Union Protocol on Free Movement of Persons The Protocol to the treaty establishing the African Economic Community relating to free movement of persons envisages three specific rights: Right of Entry; Right of Establishment and Right of Residence. (Visit www.au.int for the detailed protocol.)

A brief outline of these rights are summarised below.

Right of Entry: Nationals of AU Member States shall have the right to enter, stay, move freely and exit the territory of another Member State in accordance with the laws, regulations and procedures of the host Member State. African nationals will be granted entry without the requirement of a visa. Nationals will be permitted to move freely or stay for a maximum period of ninety (90) days from the date of entry or such further period determined by Member States or through bilateral or regional arrangements. A national of a Member State who wishes to stay beyond the period provided shall seek an extension of stay in accordance with the procedures established by the host Member State.

Right of Residence: Nationals of a Member State shall have the right of residence in the territory of any Member State in accordance with the laws of the host Member State.

Right of Establishment: Nationals of a Member State shall have the right of establishment within the territory of another Member State in accordance with the laws and policies of the host Member State.
The right of establishment shall include the right to set up in the territory of the host Member State: (i) a business, trade, profession, vocation; or (ii) an economic activity as a self-employed person.

During the Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) held in Kigali Rwanda in March 2018, 30 of the 55 member states of the African Union signed the Free Movement Protocol.

The African Passport

During the July 2016 AU Summit in Kigali, the Assembly officially launched the common, electronic, biometric African passport, that would facilitate free movement of persons across Africa.

In July 2018, Chiefs of Immigration from African Union Member States met in Nairobi, Kenya to review the draft guidelines for the design, production and issuance of the African Passport.

Find out more about Agenda 2063, the African Passport & Free Movement of People as well as view countries that have signed the Free Movement Protocol by visiting www.au.int