OH, HAIL! THE UNITED STATES OF AFRICA
“Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be”…
In light of Africa month this May, I have shared the opening sequence of a poem by the great Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political leader, publisher and journalist – amongst other things – who was an advocate of the Pan-Africanism movement.
In one of the many pieces he inscribed, he wrote: “Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country…”
“A more united Africa, which knows no boundaries” is the newly developed mantra of the African Union (AU) which hopes to lead to a more integrated and sovereign Africa. Some of the AU’s objectives are to achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent- An Africa where all its citizens are one and embrace each other’s cultures and share each other’s economic growth.
If you’re up to date with current affairs, you’ll be aware that the AU has decided to launch the “All Africa Passport” for African citizens. This means that the passport will grant Africans visa-free travel to all 54 states within the African continent. The aim is to encourage integration with free movement across Africa.
This is exciting news as currently only 13 African countries are open to African citizens without visas. As a travel enthusiast, my aim is to visit as many African countries as possible. This new visa-free implementation plan will make life so much easier for me and open up so much opportunities for me to travel hassle free.
Imagine a world where fellow Africans are free to go anywhere within the African continent to learn about the various, colourful cultures of our fellow brothers and sisters. Personally, I believe that we shouldn’t be restricted as Africans to travels to other African states due to a piece of paper that grants us access. As Africans, we should be encouraged to travel more within the African continent to learn and to embrace our “Africanism”.
Not only will the visa-free travel grant us access to all African states, it will also form a pedestal for economic growth and it opens up opportunities of new work and study.
However, there has been some negativity from nay-sayers. It is feared that closer integration could mean that big states override the development of the smaller states. And critics have expressed that open borders could grant terrorists and organised crime groups easy access into other “safer” African states. Michelle DeFreese wrote in The World Post: “As the plan moves from policy to implementation, the African common visa policy has the potential to impart substantial economic incentives through the removal of trade barriers, increased tourism and investment opportunities, and job creation”.
She further expressed that, “Challenges of implementing the plan include associated risks of widespread economic migration, the movement of illegal goods, cross-border terrorism, and the issue of stateless individuals”.
However, the AU argues that increased cooperation will, in fact, do the opposite. Significant progress has been made – regionally and nationally – with benefits that demonstrate the effectiveness of the policy in terms of stimulating economic growth.
Having recently had a front-row experience of the limitations and hassles that non-visa free travel can cause and the headache that comes with it, I am extremely happy for the visa-free implementation. My boyfriend was scheduled to travel to Mauritius for work a couple of weeks back. Due to Home Affairs complications, he holds a Swazi travel document as opposed to a regular passport. When he got to the airport to check in for his flight, the poor guy was told that his travel document could make him forfeit his trip to the island. He was then advised to rather go to the Mauritian Embassy to get permission to get into the country…. To cut a long story short, he actually did forfeit his trip.
I say to the nay-sayers who are only concerned about the terrorist groups and the crime this may come with, how about we look at the glass as half full and celebrate the fact that this will bring about positive change for African citizens? Should we not be happy that we can finally go anywhere in Africa hassle free? We finally have the chance to hop across African borders without having to worry about a piece of paper that grants one access. Finally, we can go get soaked by the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We can go experience the beautiful tropical islands of the Seychelles and Mauritius. We can go view the majestic pyramids of Egypt and experience the taste of Malian food. Finally, we can be one. Hassle free. Visa free.
Viva The United States of Africa!
By: Lasi Mashaba
Account Executive at Africommunications Group Ltd. (ACG).