HIGH FLYERS

The new African Union passport comes with two requirements: be rich and powerful

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Quartz africa
Obsession
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Quartz africa

The recently launched African Union passport is finally being put to use, to celebrate the re-election of the president of Chad, who has already been in power for 26 years.

On his way to celebrate the swearing in of Chadian president Idriss Deby today (Aug 8), Rwandan president Paul Kagame tweeted a photo of his first travel stamp in the red passport with translations in English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, and Swahili.

Deby, who has been in power since 1990, is being sworn in today for his fifth term, despite protests over the weekend. Few have gotten to see inside the AU passport, introduced last month to make travel easier among the 54 members states of the union.

Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian businessman and Africa’s wealthiest man, is one of the lucky few in line for the passport, according to a representative of Dangote Group.

Travel within Africa is notoriously difficult for Africans because of strict visa restrictions and border controls. At the time of its launch at an AU summit in Kigali, only Kagame and Deby had been granted the passport. The AU has said it is still processing requests.

The AU’s goal is to distribute the passport to all African citizens by 2018, a far-fetched goal given some possibly unsurmountable obstacles, including a lack of needed technology (only 13 of 54 AU states have biometric passports) and visa barriers in countries worried about an influx of migrants or refugees seeking jobs.

AU officials understand that the process will be slow. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, African Union Commission chairperson, has said the AU is working on ways “to create the conditions for member states to issue the passport to their citizens, within their national policies, as and when they are ready.”

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