The free movement of Africans

Agenda 2063 is the blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future, and is founded on the African Union (AU) vision of “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena”.

The vision of an integrated Africa calls for not just economic integration, but the integration of Africa’s people by breaking down the invisible and physical barriers that have limited the movement of people and weakened the spirit of pan-Africanism. In addition, these barriers have prevented the growth of a knowledge- and skills-sharing economy, which is vital for the advancement of any society. The reasons for these barriers are many and varied and include security concerns, socioeconomic disparities and fear of health epidemics.

Africa’s fast-growing educated middle class, along with a growing youth population, is a reminder of the potential of the continent. These demographic changes must be harnessed and opportunities created to enable nation states to tap into this human capital to harness the continent’s vast resources for the benefit of all its people.

The AU’s Agenda 2063 identifies free movement of persons as a key ingredient for achieving other development aspirations. Free movement of persons in Africa is expected to deliver several key benefits, including:

  • boosting intra-Africa trade, commerce and tourism; 

  • facilitating labour mobility, intra-Africa knowledge and skills transfer; 

  • promoting pan-African identity, social integration and tourism; 

  • improving trans-border infrastructure and shared development; 

  • fostering a comprehensive approach to border management; 
  • promoting the rule of law, human rights, and public health.

In addition, the infrastructure needed to support the mobility of Africans will also serve other economic, technological, security and health-related purposes within the overall integration and development plans for Africa. Increased movement of people, goods and services across borders will inevitably create better infrastructural linkages and connections among African countries. 
To address the issue of the integration of Africa’s citizens, Agenda 2063 identified as one of its flagship initiatives the African passport and free movement of people, which aims to remove the restrictions on Africans’ ability to travel and work. 

The initiative aims to transform Africa’s laws, which remain generally restrictive on movement of people despite political commitments to bring down borders, with a view to promoting the issuing of visas by member states to enhance free movement of all African citizens in all African countries.

The AU protocol on free movement of persons

The protocol to the treaty establishing the African Economic Community relates to the free movement of people. It envisages three specific rights: right of entry, right of establishment and right of residence. A brief outline of these rights are summarised as:

Right of entry: Nationals of AU member states shall have the right to enter, stay, move freely and exit the territory of another member state in accordance with the laws, regulations and procedures of the host member state. African nationals will be granted entry without the requirement of a visa. Nationals will be permitted to move freely or stay for a maximum period of 90 days from the date of entry or such further period determined by member states, or through bilateral or regional arrangements. A national of a member state who wishes to stay beyond the period provided shall seek an extension of stay in accordance with the procedures established by the host member state.

Right of Residence: Nationals of a member state shall have the right of residence in the territory of any member state in accordance with the laws of the host member state.

Right of Establishment: Nationals of a member state shall have the right of establishment within the territory of another member state in accordance with the laws and policies of the host member state. The right of establishment shall include the right to set up in the territory of the host member state: (i) a business, trade, profession, vocation; or (ii) an economic activity as a self-employed person.

During the Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area held in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2018, 30 of the 55 member states of the African Union signed the Free Movement Protocol.

The African passport

During the July 2016 AU Summit in Kigali, the assembly officially launched the common, electronic, biometric African passport that will facilitate free movement of persons across Africa. In July 2018, chiefs of immigration from AU member states met in Nairobi, Kenya to review the draft guidelines for the design, production and issuance of the African passport.

To find out more about Agenda 2063, the African passport and free movement of people, as well as viewing countries that have signed the free movement protocol, visit 

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