Uncertainty remains whether the African Union can deliver on its promise to institute a continental passport by year’s end, which would grant visa-free travel for residents of all fifty-five member countries. Africa has historically lagged far behind the rest of the world in terms of intracontinental travel, with only four Africans out of every one hundred making a trip to a different country.
Research on intra- and intercontinental travel was conducted by Ettore Recchi of the European Union Migration Policy Center, which took into account international travel via land, water, and air transport. Recchi described three factors that make intracontinental travel easy, those being geographic proximity, economic prosperity, and political integration. Europe is densely packed with numerous small countries, and EU citizens enjoy a higher GDP per capita standard than Africa. African countries are generally much larger and struggle greatly to alleviate poverty. Regional integration is much more developed through the EU’s Schengen Zone, but Africa has been making strides in this area.
Nigeria most recently announced that Africans traveling to the country need not apply for a visa prior to their arrival, which brings the total number of African countries offering visa-free travel for African citizens to thirty, up from twenty-five just four years ago.
In January 2018, the African Union signed a protocol to establish an African Economic Community, a big step toward a continent-wide free movement of people, with thirty-three African nations ratifying the protocol as of August 2019. Several prominent Africans, including a few heads of state, have been issued an African Union passport.