KAMPALA, UGANDA- For many years, African leaders have toyed with the idea of free movement by citizens across the continent, even raising the possibility of a single African passport. Some African countries are taking bold steps to encourage borderless travel that could spur trade and economic growth on a continent in desperate need of both.
The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta announced during his inauguration that the East African commercial hub will now give visas on arrival to all Africans. Similar measures have been taken by Benin and Rwanda before.
“The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become,” said Kenyatta.
These steps were cheered by the African Union, calling it the direction the 54 nation continent needs to take. “I urge all African states that have not yet done so to take similar measures” said AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat on Twitter after Kenya’s announcement.
Mahamat told AU trade ministers that trade among African countries is at just 16%, while trade among European Union states is at 70%.
Free migration of people across the continent would assist in talent exchange as well as trade, said the Ugandan Chief of mission for Migratio, Ali Abdi, at the International Organization for Migration. Countries may have to invest in border patrols but the benefits far outweigh the costs.