What is the change? A pan-Africa passport was unveiled Sunday at the African Union summit in Kigali. The electronic passport will eventually allow African nationals to travel visa-free within the continent.

What does the change mean? The African Union passport will first be available to diplomats and is expected to be issued to regular travelers by 2020.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongiong.
  • Visas/permits affected: African Union passport.
  • Who is affected: Nationals of all African countries except Morocco (the only African country that is not a member of the African Union).
  • Impact on processing times:The passport will eliminate visa processing for nationals of the 54 countries in the African Union traveling within the continent.
  • Business impact: The common passport will remove barriers to business travel and increase trade and investment within Africa.
  • Next steps: Member countries will need to adopt necessary legislative changes, procedures and systems before they can implement and issue the passports.

Background: The African Union passport, an idea first proposed in 2014, aims to foster intra-African trade, integration and social development by facilitating the free movement of people, goods and services.

In a symbolic act during an assembly of African Union heads of state on Sunday, the first passports were handed to the current chair of the African Union, President H.E. Idriss Déby Itno of Chad and to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, which is hosting the summit. It is expected to take two to four years for the 54 member countries to issue the passports to regular travelers with the aim of making visa-free African travel a reality by 2020.

BAL Analysis: The move toward a common passport is consistent with efforts to ease or eliminate visa requirements by individual African countries and regional blocs on the continent, including Ghana’s new policy of allowing all African Union nationals to obtain visas upon arrival. An African Union passport will significantly reduce bureaucratic hurdles for African citizens traveling and conducting business throughout Africa.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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