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African Union summit aims for regional unity

Among its goals, the summit will be debuting an electronic AU passport.

As the European Union risks splintering in the wake of Brexit, regional unity in Africa is moving forward.

The 27th annual African Union (AU) Summit openedSunday in Kigali, Rwanda, where regional leaders, heads of stateand dignitariesreiterated calls for a unified continent without borders.

Though a daunting task, aunified pan-African state isn't a foreign concept to the world's second-largest continent, home to 54 nations and nearly 2,000 languages.

His legacy is one of chaos and brutality, but former Libyan dictatorMoammar Gadhafihad also pushed for this modernvision. In 1999,Gadhafi called for political and economic integration,looking to form the United States of Africa under a single government that could rival the United States and the EU. Nine years later, at a summit in Benghazi, Libya, Gadhafi told rulers,"We want an African military to defend Africa, a single African currency, one African passport to travel within Africa.”

A single African currency–once proposedin the early 1990s –was laid out as a goal to be achieved around 2020, but was tabled since. It's now part of the 2063 Agenda.

But an electronicpassport – which would allow Africans to visit countries on the continent without a visa – is being piloted this year.

"The issue of unity and cooperation remains critical for all the programsand initiatives of Agenda 2063," Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said in her opening remarks. "It would be difficult for us to move forward on the transport corridors that connect our countries; on the regional energy pools that must power industries and homes; on free movement of people; on regional value chains in beneficiation and manufacturing, without cooperation amongst countries."

In addition to developing a pan-African passport, the AU summit has also set its sights on women's rights. Declaring 2016 the African Year of Human Rights, several panels will address gender equality, women's empowerment, and ending AIDS and malaria.


 

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