African passport for African Heads of State | This is Africa

Politics and Society

African passport for African Heads of State

The Pan-African passport launched in July last year was created to facilitate the ease of movement between African countries. Unfortunately, the passport availed to Heads of States and diplomats has not been made accessible to the citizens who need it the most. For the majority of Africans, the African passport remains a pipe dream, still a preserve for a few.



The Pan-African passport that was launched at the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly, of the African Union in Kigali Rwanda in July 2016 was created to see to the ease of movement between African countries.

The passport is meant to increase free movement of people and goods and in the end foster economic growth in the continent and reduce immigration harassment at borders of various countries.

Unfortunately, the passport has not been made accessible to the masses who need it the most. And it is quite puzzling that Head of States and Ministers of Foreign Affairs would need this passport for ‘free movement’ despite their diplomatic passports, which give them entry to all African countries, with ease.

Read: The AU’s plans for an African passport a pie in the sky?


The passport, which the former chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, described as a ‘privilege’ was made available to Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Chadian President Idriss Debby who were among the first recipients of the passport.

According to President Kagame of Rwanda, ‘belief in the healing power of unity is the defining virtue of African political culture.’ (Photo: Herman Van Rompuy/Flickr)

Without any timeline as to when the African Passport would be made available to the public, the launch of the passport might end up being one of those good initiatives that linger in the pipeline, with promises of implementation for the majority, while a few continue using it.

With the tightening of borders against immigrants, especially in countries such as South Africa and increased xenophobic attacks in South Africa and Zambia, one wonders if this passport would really perform its function of integrating the continent. It is hoped that the passport would encourage Pan Africanism, free movement of citizens, unity and integration.

The continent is divided into various regional blocs. Some of the blocs have easier border access such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which allows member states 90 days free visa entry.

Replicating a similar system for the whole continent will come with peculiar challenges, especially if one looks at the security and economic instability in various parts of the continent; however, it will increase intercultural exchanges. More African countries are relaxing their entry requirements for other African countries. The latest country to relax its entry requirements is Benin Republic, which followed in the lead of Rwanda and Ghana.

With collaborative work, interrelated economic partnerships and  exchanges in the arts taking place within the continent, and more trade deals being signed, the ease of movement is a must. Projects such as Invisible Borders, which is made up of writers and photographers who travel different African countries depend heavily on easy intra-Africa movement.


The question then becomes, would an African passport guarantee ease of movement? If not why is it important to then have one? Why can’t various countries individually work to ease their borders like what Rwanda and Ghana have done? If countries relax their entry requirements what then becomes of the African passport if not just serving an ornamental function?

Read: African Union to introduce African passport for heads of state in July

The use of the African passport seems more dependent on other political and economic factors for its importance to be fully appreciated. Otherwise, the African Union is yet to face any immigration, security or economic challenge that would test the use and implementation of the passport by giving it to African Heads of States, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ambassadors, and African Union staff.

It therefore won’t be able to measure or know what steps it can take in the next few years to improve the use or function of the passport.


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