The Team Africa: Launch of AU passport noteworthy but symbolic
The Pan African Travel Association The Team Africa (TTA) has commended the efforts of the AU leadership to bring about seamless travels within Africa for Africans.
The AU leaders launched a new African Passport at its Annual General Assembly in Kigali for Diplomats as a way of bringing to the fore the issue of free and easy movement within the continent.
For members of Team Africa, who discussed the issue exhaustively, it was agreed that the launch of the AU document is noteworthy but symbolic as it has no real value as at now. They pointed out the difficulty of implementing the Yammousokro Decision to open African skies for Aviation which has not been implemented since 1999.
According to the AU chairperson Dlamini Zuma, this delay in implementing an AU decision since 2003 has cost Africa 40% market share in Aviation on the continent. So the implementation of the African Passport may face similar difficulties. TTA argues that immediate implementation of Visa on Arrival (VOA) for all Africans is easier to Implement and adopt.
Ghana recently joined Rwanda and Seychelles in Implementing VOA for all Africans and it has taken off successfully. The Team recommends this route as a faster way of integrating Africa while discussions on the modality of how implementation of the AU Passport is being worked out between Nations. ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) region was the first to launch free movement protocol among the 15 countries with little or no negative impact despite the huge population within the region.
Recently regional blocs in the East and South of Africa have all implemented free movement protocol for regional citizens with no negative fallout. Some regions have even implemented Joint visa for the regions like the EAC tourism Visa for 3 countries in East Africa.
The next linkage may be free movement protocol between the regions.
ECOWAS and the EAC group can sign an MOU and bring this about long before the targeted date of 2018 for AU Passport launch for citizens.
Visa fees is another issue of interest in Africa. As Uganda drops visa fees from $100 to $50 which is commendable some Africans still pay close to $200 for visas within Africa and TTA believes that the AU should assist members to establish a uniform fee for visas for African Travelers.
The Team Africa is an association for players in Travel and Tourism business in Africa. Its major role is to encourage Travel within Africa for Africans as most Africans do not travel much within Africa. TTA aims to grow travel within Africa by jointly promoting events within Africa and pressure Governments to adopt policies that encourage intra African Travels. It was formed in Kigali Rwanda last year and has since grown to include practitioners from over 15 countries. Its landmark project is the expected Launch of the search for the 21 wonders of Africa.