As African leaders sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) this Wednesday 21, the Afrochampions Initiative is pressing on with their call for governments to speed up the African passport, which will enable free movement of people on the continent and also complement the trade agenda.
Analysts say unless the leaders open up the borders for people to move freely as promised, it will be difficult to realise the objectives of the trade liberalization agenda brought fourth by AfCFTA.
Although it was high on the AU agenda, the move to roll out the one passport has since gone cold and overtaken by other projects yet many people think it should have been given priority.
“Today our continent remains fragmented and weakened by prejudices and ideologies resulting from our mutual misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, this African passport will allow us to get closer to each other and become aware of our resources,” reads a statement from Afrochampions initiative.
They say once this passport is in place greater unity will be enjoyed by Africans and will be a tool for overcoming political and economic obstacles that have kept many countries underdeveloped.
“Governments need to work together on this urgently, the one passport is a tool that every African needs, it should be implemented as soon as possible” said Samba Bathily, the CEO of the African Development Solutions Group and co founder of Afrochampions initiative.
The initiative has underscored that young and established companies will need this passport to traverse the continent looking for opportunities and closing deals.
“It’s about giving a young company the nerve to think bigger and quickly, visit potential markets to speed up expansion, it’s about giving our elderly people the opportunity to visit their loved ones elsewhere or to heal, where doctors and good infrastructure are available” the initiative underscored.
They say the gains of the passport will spread as broad as facilitating setting up foundations for exchange policies between schools and higher education institutions, development of cross-borders and multimodal infrastructures, as well as boosting industries such as tourism, hotels, road transport, air, services and agro-processing.
“The African passport is the strategic tool that makes economic development tangible for everyone” noted the initiative.
They say the African passport will also be a message to other regions especially those that still regard Africans as a threat.
Many are looking forward to a time when this passport will eventually be recognised at all airports in the world, but before this it has to first materialize.
For decades the Africa has helplessly witnessed its our young people risk their lives to settle outside Africa, and that this passport is looked at an instrument through which the youth will discover the opportunities that exist on the continent.
The African passport is critical to support on-going pan-African economic policies.
The Afrochampions initiative says that contrary to common insecurity concerns, which could be the reason for delaying the African passport, it can actually help in addressing these issues especially if governments put in place clear road maps and traceability of people through the biometric passport.
“Rwanda should serve as a good example, it opened up its doors to all Africans before anyone else and nothing bad happened, and now more people are coming to Rwanda which is benefiting the economy through tourism and other sectors” observed Samba.
He said at the beginning it was Africa not countries and before colonialism Africans travelled and traded without borders.
“We should go back to that, we should think Africa before we think Mali, before Rwanda, before any country” he said.
The Afrochampions initiative started a petition to African leaders which is circulated digitally such that as many people as possible sign it to push until the African passport materializes.