As Europe grapples with Brexit, the African Union seeks a more United States of Africa

The African Heads of States and Governments pose during African Union (AU) Summit for the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.

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(CNN)Since the United Kingdom voted for Brexit three years ago, the European Union has been struggling to work out a structure for its future relations with the country.

While debates about the unpredictability of economic and political relationships between the EU and Britain continue to linger, thousands of miles away, the African Union (AU) is creating a close-knit relationship among its own 55 member nations.
In 2013, the AU designed Agenda 2063, a framework with set objectives to aid the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.
    The vision is to maintain integration of Africans on the continent, according to Khabele Matlosa, the organization's Director of political affairs.
      "The goal is to realize the union of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens," he told CNN.
      One of the ways the union is doing this is through the proposed launch of a continental passport known as the AU passport.
      The passport will grant visa-free access to every member state so Africans can move freely across the continent.
        Presently, only Seychelles and the Republic of Benin have no visa restrictions for Africa travelers.

        The visa problem

        When Aliko Dangote, Africa's wealthiest man, announced in an interview with Sudanese billionaire, Mo Ibrahim, that he carries around seven passports to fit all of his Africa travel visas, the question on everyone's lips seemed to be: even Dangote?
        Despite being one of the largest investors on the continent, and owning an exclusive copy of the AU passport from its first launch in 2016, Dangote is not exempt from the bureaucracy of visa processes.
        "I was invited by the president of Angola to come and see him, and I had to go," he said in the video "When I went there, I had to be given visa on African Union passport. It is not about fees, when you say African Union passport, you should be able to go everywhere, free of charge."
        (The Dangote Group, owned by Aliko Dangote, sponsors CNN's Marketplace Africa series)
        The AU passport is not yet available to the public but is exclusive to heads of state, top diplomats and persons of interest in Africa.
        Rwandan President, Paul Kagame and former managing director of the World Bank group, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala all have copies.
        Dangote is not alone in his Africa travel travails, says Adedamola Idowu, who runs a travel agency on the continent.
        Even citizens of the same regional political and economic blocs find travel challenging.
        Only one regional union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), allows its passport holders to move around their region visa-free.
        "Until we get a passport like that of the EU, it will remain difficult to travel within Africa," Idowu said.
        When implemented, the passport is supposed to eventually substitute individual nation's passports and visas so anybody with a copy can travel to different regions unhindered.
        The passport is supposed to come into effect after ratification by the parliaments of at least 15 African countries. But according to Khabele Matlosa, AU director of political affairs, only Rwanda's parliament has ratified it.

        Economic growth

        But easy travel within the continent is not the passport's only objective, it is also about opening up borders for economic growth and Intra-Africa trade.
        Financial analyst, Bismarck Rewane, says free movement of people and goods across the continent is a recipe for economic growth as the EU example has shown.
        "The benefits are clear, Nigerians will be able to import and export more. There will be a bigger market and free flow of goods" he said.
        There's a substantial amount of evidence to show that free movement boosts the economies of countries. Residents of other countries are able to contribute skills for human capital development and to the labor market of the receiving countries.