Honorable Ministers and other Senior Officials of the Ethiopian Government,
Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here today on the occasion of the official launching, by Ethiopia, of a visa-on-arrival and E-visa regime for all African citizens.
This is a truly historic moment. By taking this decision, Ethiopia is, once again, demonstrating its commitment to the ideals of our Union and the principles which inform pan-Africanism.
I commend Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian Government for this landmark step. There is no doubt that the institution of a visa-on-arrival and E-visa arrangement for all African citizens will greatly enhance the status of Addis Ababa as the political capital of our continent. This measure will also boost tourism.
I remember that, when I first met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, he requested me to help increase the number of African visitors to Ethiopia. I challenged him, by responding that he should first ease the travel of all Africans to the country. He committed himself to do so and has, today, fulfilled his promise.
It is now my turn to pledge to redouble my efforts to promote Ethiopia not only as a destination for conferences, but also for leisure. I have no doubt that my task will not be that difficult given that Addis Ababa is one of the key air transport hubs on the continent, thanks to Ethiopian Airlines, a truly pan-African carrier, and that Ethiopia’s beautiful landscape and rich history are outstanding assets.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend all Member States that have already taken measures to ease the travel of African citizens on the continent. I urge those that have not yet done so to follow suit.
Free movement of African people in their own continent is a long-held dream for all Pan-Africanists.
One of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063 is the free movement of people in Africa. In January this year, in Addis Ababa, the Heads of States and Government of our Union adopted the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the Right of Residence and the Right of Establishment, as well as its Implementation Roadmap.
To date, 32 Member States have signed the Protocol, while only one Member State - Rwanda - has ratified it. It is critical that all Member States become parties to this instrument, as soon as possible.
The Protocol on Free Movement is one of the pillars of the integration process of the continent, along with the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market.
As we gather here, I dream of the day when all Africans can freely circulate in their own continent.
This will be the day when Pan-Africanism will assume its full meaning for our citizens.
This will be the day when Africans will no longer experience the indignities and impediments that, more often than not, mark their travels on the continent.
This will be the day when our forefathers – Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah and many others – will rejoice in the progress made towards integration.
I know that the full implementation of free movement of people requires overcoming numerous challenges. But these cannot and should not stand in the way of our dream. What is required is renewed political will.
More than any other group in the world, Africans suffer from the scourge of xenophobia and racism. While we cannot ensure that these injustices will be eliminated anytime soon, it is within our power to make Africans feel at home everywhere on the continent.
I thank you all.