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AU to roll out visa-free travel for all member states in two years

COUNTIES
By Rawlings Otieno | July 19th 2016

Africa is a step closer to becoming a continent with "seamless borders" after its leaders endorsed the introduction of a single passport to allow free movement of people.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the African Union will first allow Heads of State and Government to have the visa to move freely in all the 54 African member states before being rolled out to the rest of the population by 2018.

"The Africa Union has now adopted the resolution to give visas allowing citizens from member states to move freely. We will first start with government officials before being rolled to other population," said Mohamed.

She explained that the idea was modelled on the controversial European Union (EU) Schengen visa that has facilitated free movement across the bloc.

Speaking to the Press after the World Leaders Summit that was attended by presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and Hage Geingob (Namibia), Ms Amina said the process was under way for other citizens to have the passport without being subjected to visa application.

This will now allow Kenyans and other African citizens to only have a passport and travel freely to any of the 54 African countries.

Currently, only 13 African countries have reciprocal visa-free deals in place. These allow citizens to visit another country without a visa, or offer them visas on arrival.

According to the CS, the Africa Union which represents 54 states, has now crossed the first hurdle to abolish the need for Africans visiting African counties to require a visa by 2018.

AU is also seeking ways to establish a free trade deal across the continent by 2017, as intra-African trade costs more than any other region.

The proposal to implement a single passport for Africa is part of the AU's 2063 Agenda.

The project, which was agreed upon in 2014, also aims to improve intra-African trade and to ease the movement of goods between member States.

Heads of State from across Africa will be the first to pilot the new electronic African Union passport, ahead of the African Union Summit in Rwanda.

However, skeptics feel that a borderless Africa would be challenging due to militant groups like Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, ISIS and public health crises, including Ebola.

In March, Ghana was the most recent country to relax its rules, announced during a speech on the country's 59th independence celebrations in Accra.

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