AU passport to ease intra-Africa trade
African leaders have adopted plans to trial a new passport that is expected to ease trade and movement of people across the continent.
This follows the launch of an African Union passport by the African Union (AU) that is set to replace the need for Africans to acquire visas to travel within the continent.
According to Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amb Amina, business leaders have found it cumbersome to promote intra African trade due to the numerous barriers that limit cordial engagement.
“The people who really need it are the business people so that they are able to move around the continent without that visa requirement so that they can invest,” Amb. Amina said.
Intra-African trade stands at a paltry 12 percent, with African nations choosing instead to business with Europe, Asia or the Americas. Less than 15 countries also have reciprocal visa regulations that don’t require citizens to acquire visas when travelling.
The AU expects to eliminate the need for African citizens to have visas to travel by 2018.
Amb Amina said during the trial period, the African passport will only be available to presidents and senior government officials over a two year period.
“We want to experiment with it ourselves so that any challenges are addressed before we roll it out to the rest of the population of the continent,” she said.
The African Union passport is in line with plans by the AU to create a continental free trade area to promote intra-African trade.
Regional trade has in the past suffered from hurdles such as trading blocs that make it difficult for countries to negotiate trade deals. There are six trading blocs in Africa including the East Africa Community, the southern African Development Community (SADAC) as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Higher rate of intra Africa trade is expected to diversify African economies with quick access to resources and reduced price gaps.
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