Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohamed has said abolishing travel visas in the continent will be among her top priorities in her latest bid to head the African Union Commission (AUC).
Ms Mohamed said she would also address the infrastructure gap, defend industrialisation and encourage intra-Africa trade if elected AUC chairperson.
“We need to remove bottlenecks such as visas,” she said, adding she would push for free movement of goods and services across states. The minister is competing with candidates from Botswana, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Senegal for the AUC job.
In July, the African Union’s 54 members unveiled a single continental visa intended to grant citizens easy access to all member states.
Some of the common electronic passports were issued to heads of state and senior officials at the AU summit in Kigali with bloc officials saying all citizens would get them by 2020.
Ms Mohamed has lined up expediting the common visa distribution, industrialisation and fixing infrastructure gap as key planks of her campaign.
“Industrialisation can reduce poverty and create jobs while trade is unifying factor, but we need to fill our infrastructure gaps and facilitate the mobility of people, capital and goods so that our young people can move across borders, exchange ideas, but also find jobs,” she said during a CNBC TV interview.
“The 13 per cent intra-African trade is unacceptable. We should at least reach 30 per cent and eventually aim at 60 per cent.
“Africa has to stop exporting raw products and jobs while our own young people are unemployed. We need to establish regional value chains. Diversification is crucial in reducing reliance on high oil and commodity prices.”
She cited her experience at the helm of regional bodies as a competitive edge she said fits the position.
The candidature of Mohamed received a major boost last year after a regional bloc supported her bid for the top job.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa said in October it had thrown its weight behind her for the top job and urged members to support Djibouti’s Yacin Elmi Bouh for deputy chair.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have been on a charm offensive in recent days, seeking support for Kenya’s candidate.