Time for an African ‘Business Green Card’


“I have the AU passport which allows people to move around in the continent, but until now there are about three countries who still do not agree to the usage of those passports.

“We go with a British guy or maybe a Nigerian holding a British passport (and) he is allowed in that country, but we are still arguing and debating about my visa and I am the one with the money. If you are making life difficult for me, there is no way I will go and invest in your country.” — DANGOTE

In today’s globalised world, mobility and accessibility are crucial principles that enhance worldwide economic growth and social development. However, obtaining visa permits to different countries has always been a limiting factor in promoting travel and tourism. The African continent is no exception to this issue of limited mobility, whereby visa restrictions and other bureaucratic requirements hinder intra-regional trade and tourism.

In this regard, a universal passport for Africa can be the answer to this challenge. A universal passport is a document that allows an individual to travel anywhere in the world without having to apply for separate permits issued by the respective country’s authorities. Likewise, a universal passport for Africa can streamline the cumbersome visa application process and promote intra-African economic development.

To comprehend the significance of a universal passport for Africa, we can benchmark it to the Black credit card. The Black credit card is personal finance’s Holy Grail, dubbed the world’s most exclusive credit card. The card offers limitless spending capabilities, exclusive benefits and privileges that extend beyond ordinary credit cards. Similarly, a universal passport for Africa would provide holders with efficient and hassle-free travel with exclusive benefits that would significantly streamline business, culture and leisure travels within the continent.

Currently, only a handful of countries in Africa offer a visa-free travel policy for Africans. Regrettably, this only illustrates the continent’s division and further corroborates the need for a universal passport. The African Union through its African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), has carved out this vision by promoting intra-African trade by 53 African countries. Yet, the visa bureaucracies and stringent travel policies hamper this vision.

Moreover, a universal African passport would undoubtedly improve Africa’s tourism sector. Tourism is an essential sector in any economy, and it has the potential to transform Africa’s economies through increased foreign exchange earnings and job creation. A universal passport would make travelling inside the continent more comfortable and more efficient. It would enable Africans to explore the cultural, historical and natural heritage of their homeland, thus promoting domestic tourism.

Furthermore, private sector participation in developing this universal passport could bring about more benefits. Travel insurance companies could partner with AfCFTA to ensure that travellers have comprehensive coverage since the universal passport would open up employers, school trips, pilgrimages, conferences and sporting events within Africa. Subsequently, mobile banking services providers could collaborate with African banks to issue the passports and develop new products like currency cards to enable users transfer money quickly and efficiently.

In conclusion, a universal African passport is a necessary step toward enhancing continent-wide mobility and promoting economic growth and development. The credit card model provides a convenient illustration of potential benefits the passport might offer if implemented. The African Union and other stakeholders should push for the development of a common passport to enable intra-African travel and tourism, thus opening up the continent’s economies to the world market.

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