What is the change? A common passport for all African Union members would ease continental travel and boost spending by travelers by more than 20 percent, according to a new study.

What does the change mean? The African passport is scheduled to launch in the next two to four years and would greatly expand visa-free travel among African nationals. All African countries except Morocco are members of the African Union.

  • Implementation time frame: 2018 -2020.
  • Visas/permits affected: Visitor visas.
  • Who is affected: Nationals of all African countries except Morocco.
  • Impact on processing times: A common passport would eliminate the need for visitor visas for short-term trips by African Union nationals traveling within Africa.
  • Business impact: The passport would ease business travel and increase visitor spending, as well as trade and investment.

Background: The pan-African passport was first proposed in 2014 and a prototype for diplomats was unveiled earlier this year at the African Union summit in Kigali. The African passport for regular-passport holders is expected to be available in the coming years. A survey of Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa conducted by travel technology company Sabre found that a common passport would increase intracontinental annual air travel spending by 24 percent. In addition the report indicated that annual spending on ancillary air travel services (such as travel insurance, onboard wi-fi access and extra checked luggage) would increase from the current average of US$90 per traveler to an average of US$104 per traveler should the African passport be introduced.

BAL Analysis: A common passport would allow nationals of 54 African countries to travel without visas within Africa and is consistent with a trend toward visa liberalization. Earlier this year, BeninGhana and Namibia all announced they would remove visas for all African Union business travelers. Currently, 13 African countries have eased or removed visa requirements for African travelers.

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

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