As world leaders gathered at the United Nations Monday to discuss the movement of refugees and migrants across the globe, Africans at home called for easier cross-border travel across their continent.
Nigerian Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest businessman said he needs 38 different visas to move across Africa and renewed his call to make navigating borders easier, in comments made during a recent CNBC Africa interview. Dangote appealed to African leaders to remove barriers to travel that hold back the continent’s economic growth and regional cooperation. The comment echoed Dangote’s remark, made during Davos 2014, that an American has more access to African nations and markets than he does.
The border controls, exacerbated by a lack of transportation infrastructure, continue to limit trade among African nations – which accounts for just 11 percent of all trade across the region. The African Union’s plan to introduce a pan-African passport, unveiled this summer in Rwanda, is expected to improve access based on Europe’s Schengen Agreement model but will not be available to all African citizens until 2020. The plan also needs to address the challenges faced by the 37 percent of citizens in sub-Saharan Africa without any legal identification.
The AU hopes to remove all visa requirements for African citizens by 2018, according to a new World Economic Forum report that looks at the Passport Index, a measure of the access power that a nation’s passport delivers to its citizens. South Africa’s passport, which offers access to 91 countries without a visa, is the highest-ranking passport in continental Africa.