#AfriTravel: Continental passport on the agenda as AU Summit kicks off in Ethiopia

2017-01-29 20:05
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Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has arrived in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, to attend the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

The summit will be conducted under the theme: "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in the Youth".

The AU Assembly will be preceded, on 29 January 2017, by a retreat of AU Heads of State and Government, where the leaders will consider a report to be presented by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, on institutional reforms of the AU aimed at enhancing the continental body's governance systems.

Amongst other things, the Assembly will consider and deliberate on reports focusing on the state of peace and security on the continent, the African Peer Review Mechanism and Climate Change.

The Assembly will also consider the 2016 Annual Report of the AU Commission, which is expected to focus on the implementation and domestication of Agenda 2063, economic integration, the continental passport as well as peace support and peace-keeping missions.

Integration on the African continent, through business and travel, is a major focus point for global and continental leaders at the moment. 

In November last year, new research released by the global travel technology provider indicated that African air travel spend is expected to rise 24% with the introduction of the pan-African passport in 2018. 

The new passport will enable African travellers to visit other countries on the continent without a visa, and will mean a seamless travel experience for especially business travellers on the continent. 

SEE: African Union passport will see #AfriTravel spend rise by 24%

A key obstacle to the much-anticipated passport is the access to biometric systems, needed to register the passports. Currently only 13 of the 54 AU members offer biometric passports. Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana and Tunisia, for example, do not have them. South Africa is currently on a mission to roll new biometric capturing system out with trials being piloted across SA's major international airports.

SEE: Ghana kicks off visa-on-arrival for all African Union travellers

The term of office of the incumbent Chair of the AU Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, came to an end in June 2016 and was extended by the AU leaders till the January 2017 Summit to enable the AU to elect her successor.

The Assembly is also expected to consider the application by the Kingdom of Morocco to become the AU's 55th Member State.

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