End Passportism

In America it used to be that the color of your skin determined how successful you could become. It determined what job you could or could not have. Where you could or could not travel. Although still not perfect, the likes of Martin Luther King have made America a place where a black man like Obama can even become president.

In the 21st century the color of a person’s passport determines how far they can go in life. Bill Gates couldn’t have come from Afghanistan as while the actual Bill Gates traveled the world to tell people how great Microsoft was – the Afghani version would have been waiting in embassies awaiting his visa to be approved.

Some passports are better to have than others at the moment – e.g. American/European passports allow you to travel globally better.

If I was from one of the countries that “loses” out on the passport battle (Afghanistan, Rawanda, Pakistan) I would open up my borders so that ANY nationality can come visit and trade with my country. Yes, this means swallowing the political pride in Pakistan for instance and letting Israelis and Indians even enter the country. I would set a $1 a day tax that any visitor needs to pay. This amount is hopefully not enough to scare off anyone from entering while ensuring that you have someone that is contributing to the economy and not a pure “economic refugee”.

The fact is that you want as many people to come visit your country as possible. Every visitor not only brings in tourist dollars (spending in hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops) but they also bring exposure for new ideas to your local population. They are also likely to become good “brand ambassadors” for your countries’ brand when they return to there home country. If you have visited Zimbabwe you are more likely to buy products that come from Zimbabwe when you go back to your home country. You are more likely to speak favorably about the place than what the media says about it and you will probably hold a “soft spot” for the brands/products that come from that country.

Citizens of certain countries (typically “developing” world) suffer worse from “Passportism” than do countries of the “developed” world. Their citizens are less likely to have exposure to the world and global ideas and have less of an opportunity to travel and establish a global business. These countries also typically reverse the mistreatment of passportism. They make it harder for people to come visit their countries. You still need to get a visa from the Pakistani embassy if you are British for instance. This puts up further barriers to the few people that were considering visiting the country. When you go to a supermarket to buy a can of coke and you see a long line – you probably think its not worth buying from that supermarket and go to some other shop.

These countries would be better off to let anyone through. To turn their disadvantage to an advantage. They might find for instance that Pakistan ends up doing a lot more trade with a random country like Rawanda. This is fine – the world does not have to revolve around the “developed” world. Making it easier for entrepreneurs from these countries to work together will benefit the countries that suffer the most from passportism and would force the others to eventually open up their borders as well.

Passports are such an old fashioned concept – who carries paper anymore with stamps? They can update the global systems so that your mobile phone simply becomes your passport. Automatic algorithms will track where your phone has been and the people you speak to and figure out your likelihood of being a terrorist or an economic refugee. Those that are willing to sacrifice their privacy will find it easier to travel as the governments will have more assurance of their intentions. Moving the paper passport to the mobile phone will not only make the world a safer place but will also give a better chance to genuine entrepreneurs in developing countries to travel, get new ideas and sell their ideas and products to the world.

About the Author

Amir Anzur


  1. Usman Hameed

    Excellent. Europe is moving in this direction. If only India and Pakistan can move in this direction, it will make a major difference for a common man.

    Commen Wealth countries should work in this direction and open their gates for member countries citizens.

  2. Great point Usman. I bet America would have been A LOT poorer if they had passport controls for each state. Any country that opens up borders gets richer….

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