Dr. Gerishon Ikiara, a diplomacy scholar at the University of Nairobi, described the e-passport that will be launched during the AU summit in Rwanda this week as significant for the continent that has tough restrictions for intra-Africa travel.
“The e-passport will promote African unity by permitting visa free travel throughout the continent for citizens of the 54 African states,” Ikiara, who is a senior lecturer of international economics, told Xinhua on Saturday.
“The e-passport when fully operational will be a game changer for the region,” he added.
A number of African countries such as Rwanda and Ghana have relaxed travel restrictions for Africans.
Ikiara said that when the European Union first mooted the idea of visa travel for its citizens, many people thought it was unworkable. “Many years down the line, the EU single passport is a model for the rest of the world,” he said.
According to the scholar, a number of East African states including Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have signed an agreement to allow citizens to travel among the countries by using national identity cards.
The lecturer said that if the African passport would have come earlier, it would have helped the continent to achieve the dream of greater pan African unity.
“Unfortunately, the continent has the lowest intra-Africa trade of any region due to stringent travel restrictions across the borders,” he said.
Ikiara said that one of the biggest challenges to the full implementation of the e-passport is potential security threats.
“The AU as well as African governments should be very careful to ensure that terrorists don’t take advantage of easier intra-Africa travel,” he said. Enditem