Intra-African travel and the perils at land borders
Africa has some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. This has in turn enabled infrastructure development across the continent easing, for the most part, road transport. This has created a population that has some disposable income allowing domestic and intra-African travel. Whilst some border entry procedures happen without an issue, traveling across Africa has exposed Africans traveling within Africa to corruption, passport privilege, and colonial practices carried over to modern times despite the existence of regional and continental treaties allowing for ease of movement for people and goods. This article focuses on land border points because most movement in Africa is done by road even when traveling to other countries.
On 28th January, Ghanaian YouTuber, Wode Maya posted this on his YouTube Channel ‘Fighting Immigration at Togo Border because I refused to pay a bribe’[i]. Mya explains in the video that most people avoid the Ghana- Togo land border post because of the passport-stamp-bribe regime present there.. Later on, Namibia and Botswana entered into a bilateral agreement allowing citizens from both countries to cross each other’s border points using their national identity cards[ii]. On 10th March 2023 Kenya and Egypt agreed to work towards visa-free processes between the two nations by October 2023 to promote the flow of goods, people, and other economic activities[iii].
Interestingly, 25th February 2023 marked 150 years since the 1st Berlin conference that divided Africa as per the spheres of influence in Europe at the time. The Berlin Conferences laid out much of the national boundaries in Africa today, some of the unresolved boundary disputes, and divided communities along state lines. The harshness of colonial law enforcement procedures still lingers across security forces in Africa today, reflected in the border police and migration officials manning them. Indeed, the first port of call regarding a border dispute involves migration officers threatening to call law enforcement officers and not resolving disputes civilly as would be expected. ‘I will call the police on you’ is a threat used at the port of entry when a misunderstanding occurs.
How do we decolonize intra- African borders?
Decolonization of law enforcement training and decolonizing border entry points is important if the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) Treaty that calls for the elimination of barriers to trade in Africa and boosts intra-Africa trade[iv] and its flagship project Agenda 2063 is to be implemented. Checks on travel documents are standard practice in all parts of the world. However, the threat to use force may scare away African tourists (who find it harder to travel out of Africa) affecting tourism and business economic activities.
Use of technology and language
Technology including CCTV cameras, easier pre-entry e-visa processes and updated immigration department websites will enable the ease of travel in Africa. This will allow for the availability of travel information, fees to be paid if any as well as custom requirements. Such information should be available in all the official languages of the African Union (French, Arabic, English, Portuguese, Spanish and KiSwahili)
Eliminate corruption in the immigration recruitment processes
Demand for bribes is a show of a lack of integrity and ethics in the recruitment processes. Immigration officers are the nation’s first point of human contact with new arrivals. Their conduct and treatment of visitors reflect a nation’s soul and international image. In the age of vloggers and other social media, information is dispensed globally, in real-time. African countries should ensure that recruitment and hiring processes are devoid of corruption that bedevil the continent. Cash-free immigration processes should be implemented and reporting processes made easier.
Actualize the AfCFTA in full
Full implementation of the AfCFTA Treaty will enable the state parties to ensure the movement of people, goods and capital across the continent. This serves two important goals of the AfCFTA Treaty ensuring intra-African growth and improving the economic and social lives of the state parties.
Implement ICAO ePassport requirements
Admission of entry into a sovereign state is a preserve of that particular state. While some may allow entry using national identity cards and temporary passes, others may require the possession of an ePassport. ePassports contain electronic chips to enhance security. This includes conformation that the ePassport was issued by a bonafide authority, contains biometrics of the holder and be authenticated[v]. According to ICAO, Africa has the lowest implementation of the ePassport. This could be a reason why travelling on some African passports is problematic as their authenticity cannot be validated under ICAO procedures.
In conclusion, the spirit of Ubuntu needs to be practiced on African border points. Charity begins at home, doesn’t it?
[ii] Khumalo Khayelihle. 2023. ‘Identity cards to be used as travel documents between Botswana and Namibia’ SABC News, February 22nd, 2023. Accessed March 3rd, 2023 https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/namibians-to-use-identity-cards-as-travel-documents-in-botswana/
[iii] Kamunde Muraya. 2023. ‘Kenya, Egypt working towards visa free regime by October 2023’.KBC News, March 10th 2023. Accessed March 10th, 2023 https://kbc.co.ke/top-story/article/36605/kenya-egypt-working-towards-visa-free-regime-by-october-2023
[v] ICAO. n.d. ‘ePassports Basics’ Accessed March 10th, 2023. https://www.icao.int/Security/FAL/PKD/Pages/ePassport-Basics.aspx
 Maya Wode. 2023. ‘Fighting immigration at Togo border because I refused to pay a bribe’ YouTube. January 28th, 2023 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBip0enddzc
 Khumalo Khayelihle. 2023. ‘Identity cards to be used as travel documents between Botswana and Namibia’ SABC News, February 22nd, 2023. Accessed March 3rd, 2023 https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/namibians-to-use-identity-cards-as-travel-documents-in-botswana/
 Kamunde Muraya. 2023. ‘Kenya, Egypt working towards visa free regime by October 2023’.KBC News, March 10th 2023. Accessed March 10th, 2023 https://kbc.co.ke/top-story/article/36605/kenya-egypt-working-towards-visa-free-regime-by-october-2023
 AfCFTA. 2023. ‘Creating one African market’ Accessed March, 10th 2023. https://au-afcfta.org/
 ICAO. n.d. ‘ePassports Basics’ Accessed March 10th, 2023. https://www.icao.int/Security/FAL/PKD/Pages/ePassport-Basics.aspx