Kenya bets on AU passport to boost trade within Africa

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 00:00 |
Africa Union, Adis Ababa. Photo/Courtesy

Steve Umidha @UmidhaSteve

Kenya is betting big on the much-anticipated “visa-free” African Union (AU) passport to boost trade, tourism and the overall economy.

Holders of the passport expected to be introduced as part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement this year, would be exempted from having to obtain any visas for all 55 AU member-States.

Roll out of the “African passport” will see the country increase passenger travel and trade volumes across the continent.

The launch was originally slated for 2016 but has been plagued by delays and worsened by the coronavirus pandemic which impacted its intended roll out last year .

So far, only government leaders, diplomats, and AU officials are the only groups to have been issued with the new passport.

The passports represent a key plank of the African Union Agenda 2063 action plan, which envisions an “ integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance”.

In an analysis for residency firm Henley & Partners, analyst Justice Malala said the initiative is crucial for AfCFTA’s success as it will ease travel within the continent.

“Travel restrictions are mostly being lifted across the continent, and this combined with the first approval and planned deployment of Covid-19 vaccines bodes well for the implementation of AfCFTA in 2021,” he added.

AfCFTA aims to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, creating a single market for goods and services in addition to a customs union with free movement of both capital and business travellers.

Key benefits

Free movement of persons in Africa is also expected to deliver several key benefits for all participating countries, including Kenya, such as boosting intra-Africa trade, commerce and tourism, facilitating labour mobility, intra-Africa knowledge and skills transfer among others.

The African passport is the flagship project of AfCFTA and aims to remove restrictions on Africans ability to travel, work and live within their own continent.

Roll out of the all-Africa passport coincides with plans by Kenya’s private sector to come up with an aviation recovery plan in the first quarter of this year that will set out how they will get the sector back on track.

The recovery plan was mooted last month during a high-level stakeholder meeting held in Nairobi ahead of the National Aviation Conference slated for this year.

The meeting brought together representatives of Kenyan Senate, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Airways, Kenya Airline Pilots Association, and Kenya Association of Travel Agents.

Some of the proposals being put forward in the recovery plan include an urgent need for a proper legislation and policy framework, and guidelines on how to deal with a pandemic as well as restoring passenger confidence to spur the tourism sector among other critical factors.

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