Policies that govern movement of persons and services on the continent must be tailored to the current needs of Africans, experts have urged.
The call was made yesterday in Kigali at the opening of a weeklong meeting on the adoption of an African Union procedure on Migration, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, seen as a critical forum to advance the continent’s goal on free movement of persons and their goods.
The gathering kicked off yesterday with a meeting of the AU’s Specialised Technical Committee (STC) on Migration, Refugees and Internally Displaced persons, who have a duty to deliberate on and draft several critical documents that will be adopted by African Ministers in charge of migration matters during their meetings on Friday and Saturday.
The documents include the protocol to the treaty establishing the African economic community relating to free movement of persons, right of residence and right of establishment and its implementation plan, the revised AU Migration folicy framework for Africa, as well as the Common African position on global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
Experts at AU say more than 80 per cent of African migrants remain in the continent, hence the need for sound policies and measures to better organise movement of people.
The International Labour Organisation has estimated that one-in-ten Africans will live and work outside their countries of origin in 2025.
At the launch of the STC meeting yesterday, which brought together experts in charge of migration, refugees and forced displacement matters in AU member states as well as the AU Commission, officials made it clear that handling migration is a burning issue on the continent.
“Given that the number of migrants is increasing and that this trend is likely to persist in the foreseeable future, the management of migration has necessarily become one of the critical challenges for AU member states,” said Amb. Olawale Maiyegun, the director of AU’s social affairs.
He said Africa is at a historic moment since it is set to establish a Continental Free Trade Area at the beginning of 2018 and put in place free movement of persons, essentially urging fellow delegates in Kigali to get down to business.
The AU Director of Political Affairs, Dr Khabele Matlosa, agreed with the need for urgency in fast-tracking the adoption of key policy and legal frameworks to facilitate migration on the continent.
He told The New Times that the meeting in Kigali is “historically significant” because next year has to be a “special year” for Africa.
“In 2018, we expect to launch the implementation of the protocol on free movement of persons, right of residence, and right of establishment. We will also launch a continental free trade area,” he said.
He said the protocol will enable African passport, visa-free Africa, free trade area, and other arrangements that will facilitate further integration.
The weeklong meeting attracted over 200 participants, including ministers and experts in migration, refugees and forced displacement matters.