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One passport for all SADC countries?

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As many as fifteen Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries could potentially share one common passport, which would allow for easy passage between bordering countries and might even provide a single African travel document for international travel. But it could be many years before this materialises.

The plan for one passport is being mooted following initial successes when an African Union (AU) passport was introduced for dignitaries and officials during the African Union conference held in July last year (2016). At the time it was said that the ultimate – yet extremely ambitious – plan would be to create one travel document to all Africans.

Now Traveller24 reports that a SADC passport could be introduced as soon as certain regional laws have been introduced to facilitate this. The website quotes the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation, Ambassador Ramadhani Mwinyi as saying his department was working towards ensuring that SADC member state citizens only use one passport as an international travel document across the globe.

“The current work between member states was to integrate systems to ensure an East African national who is also a member of SADC carries only one travel document,” said Mwinyi.

The SADC countries include:

  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Lesotho
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Seychelles
  • Tanzania
  • South Africa
  • Swaziland
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Despite these plans BusinessTech.co.za reports the practicalities of creating one passport is not as straightforward as it seems. The website quotes South Africa’s Ministry of home affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete who acknowledged the proposed plans but also said that at this stage his department did not think the new document was feasible.

This is primarily because one of the main preconditions of the new document included the need for all of the participating countries to keep an up to date national population registry. “There are many preconditions that need to be met first. If we use the EU as an example there are clear considerations of infrastructure, growth of the economy and record-keeping that would need to be met first.”

He noted that the document was still very much on the cards, in-line with the AU conference in July 2016 and the target of borderless travel across the AU by 2063.