The African Union (AU) will launch the electronic passport (e-Passport) at the AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2016.
The move is meant to facilitate free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent – in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), said the issuance of the AU e-Passport was both symbolic and significant.
She described it as a “steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens and capable of taking its rightful place on the world stage.”
The first group of people to be issued the AU e-Passports will include: AU Heads of State and Government; Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Representatives of AU Member States based at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Some African countries such as Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Ghana have already taken the lead in ensuring easier intra-Africa travel by relaxing visa restrictions and in some cases lifting visa requirements altogether. The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020, the AU said.
The launch of the AU e-Passport is expected encourage the Member States to adopt and ratify the necessary Protocols and Legislation in order to begin issuing the much expected African passport.