One of the many challenges that the highly mobile people of the maritime industry face is that of accessibility to jurisdictions within Africa. This is particularly frustrating for Africans aiming to work on the African continent and may even hamper emergency response to potential maritime incidents.
Discussions at the recent World Economic Forum meetings in Kigali, Rwanda refocused attention on the idea of introducing an African passport by 2018 – a move that will surely be welcomed by proponents of the maritime industry who face delays when responding to clients’ emergency requirements in other African countries.
Leading a session, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Jeff Radebe, implored delegates to reflect on the continued need for visas in Africa and to meet the 2018 deadline of creating an African passport.
In February this year the African Development Bank released the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016, which highlights the fact that the continent remains largely closed off to African travellers. According to the report:
“On average Africans need visas to travel to 55 percent of other African countries, can get visas on arrival in only 25 percent of other countries and don’t need a visa to travel to just 20 percent of other countries on the continent.”
The clock is ticking on the African Union’s (AU) goal and vision for Africa as set out in Agenda 2063 which envisions the establishment of an African passport and an end to visa requirements for all Africa citizens in Africa by 2018. There are no clear indications from the AU as to the progress that has been made in this regard, but it is clear that it falls within the Union’s Flagship Projects in the First Ten Year Plan.
However, three years into the First Ten Year Plan, many of the goals remain largely aspirational and it is not clear where or what the stumbling blocks would be to the realisation of an African Passport. Common sense, however, suggests that without the reality of a peaceful and secure Africa as envisioned by Agenda 2063 – the likelihood of an agreement on free movement on the continent is more than 18 months away.
Chairperson of the AU, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma writes in her foreword to the report, however: “We believe that the free movement of people is possible, which is why Agenda 2063 calls for the abolition of all visa requirements within the period of the Ten Year Implementation Plan and the creation of an African passport.”
Perhaps regional visas are more realistic in the short term, but any move to finalise agreements in this regard will certainly be welcomed by the African maritime community.