BY SAMUEL MUNGADZE
JOHANNESBURG-The African Union (AU) has confirmed that it has no problem considering a request by African business actors for AU passports to be issued to them in order to ease their mobility on the continent.
Speaking to media on his recent visit to South Africa, African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey, said the passport is a key component of the continental bloc’s Agenda 2063 action plan.
He also said African business should be in the forefront of “everything African and must take a lead projects that seek to inch Africa towards the 2063 objective.”
His views have been seen as an emphasis on the need for a greater integration across the continent yet no business person has the passport.
“At present, only AU staff members and related people are being given passports yet business persons who have to make things happen have to use their national passports to negotiate visas for multiple countries,” said Mutumwa Mawere, the Chairman of the 1873 Network, a member-based association of business and professional actors who believe that Africa is stronger when borderless mindsets take root and inform choices and actions.
Mawere who was with H.E. Quartey at the African Women of Excellence Awards jointly hosted by the AU said: “It is my understanding that the decision to issue travel documents falls within the ambit of the AU Commission. In the premises, if former heads of states have been given passports by the AUC. I do not see why this discretion cannot be given wings to reach business actors who are also drivers of business activities on the continent.
This week, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, urged African leaders to seriously consider easing travelling across the continent.
The billionaire businessman advised African leaders to give incentives to investors and make intra-Africa travel easy.
In his case, Dangote, despite the size of his group and investments on the continent, he needs 38 visas to travel across Africa.
“Our leaders must give incentives. For example, little things like visa issuance. You go to a country that is looking for investment, that particular country will give you a run around just to get a visa,” he said in an interview with CNBC Africa.
This, Mawere said has to be addressed with urgency.
He said: “I do not believe that there is an impediment to the AU stepping up to the plate by extending the privilege of giving passports to persons that add value to the African experience. At present, only AU staff members and related people are being given passports yet business persons who have to make things happen to have to use their national passports to negotiate visas for multiple countries. I believe some of the former heads of states have been given passports by the AUC.”
Mawere who is part of a nonprofit business bloc, Banking on Africa, urged business actors to be more organized and borderless in order to engage the AU meaningfully and constructively on the passport issue.
“I strongly believe that it behoves on Africa’s business actors to be more organised and present a compelling case what it is in the interests of Africa’s inclusive growth to make the experience of visiting African states by Africans easy and convenient,” he said.
Another leading African businessman, Washington Kapapiro, Chairman of Global Africa Business Club believes that Africa needs to create her own tailor-made solutions if we are to ever realise our potential for economic development.
“This AU passport must not become a glorified diplomatic passport. It must be a tool to allow African businesses to think beyond their borders and take Africa to the world’s stage – Pan-Africa Globalisation,” he said.
Kapapiro continued: “If we can see more freedom of movement this will lead to trade free zones and lower tariffs for the movement of goods across the continent. The USA is, in essence, a large trade block without barriers to movement. And so is the EU. China also benefits from people moving freely across the large landmass. This allows broader thinking and more attractive and lucrative opportunities for Africa.”
He said the first significant step towards this can be the AU Passport.
“The AU needs to understand that business is conducted by the business sector and not by elected politicians,” Kapapiro said.