COMESA and the International Organization on Migration (IOM) have resolved to give fresh impetus towards the implementation of programmes on the free movement of people across the region.
The new IOM Regional Director for Southern Africa, Mr. Charles Kwenin and Secretary General of COMESA Sindiso Ngwenya agreed that the missing link in effective integration of the region was free movement in addition to non- tariff barriers.
The two were speaking in Lusaka, Thursday 2nd November 2017, at the accreditation of Mr. Kwenin as the IOM Special Representative to COMESA. Mr Kwenin said he will work closely with COMESA to promote One Stop Border Posts and facilitate the mobility of goods and services.
“Given the special mandate of COMESA, which is the promotion of cross border trade, the movement of capital and goods cannot happen without the free movement of people,” he said.
Further, the IOM will support capacity building to help balance the skills gap in the region by identifying countries that have excess and those that were deficient with a view of addressing them.
He regretted that the African region did not have migration data which is critical in informing migration policies. He emphasized the need to collect accurate data on migration and use the information to demystify the issue of migration.
“Having accurate and updated migration data will help the region provide empirical evidence on the reality on the ground. Migration is highest within our region and we must stop thinking that people are migrating to the developed world…. they are moving across these borders here,” Mr Kwenin added.
He cited the ECOWAS region as advanced in migration policies as citizens of the member States could move freely in that region.
Mr. Ngwenya said his organization will work with IOM to explore possibilities of exchange programmes that will enable COMESA member States to learn best practices on migration from ECOWAS.
“COMESA and IOM have over the years worked together advocating for the full implementation of various programmes which will eventually lead to a deepened economic integration,” Ngwenya said.
These programmes include the COMESA protocol on Gradual Relaxation and Eventual Elimination of Visas commonly known as the ‘Visa Protocol’. They have also collaborated in the acquisition of signatures and ratification for the entry into force of the COMESA protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services, Right of Establishment and Residence commonly known as the Free Movement Protocol.
The two organization have achieved this through the implementation of the Regional Consultative Process on Migration Issues (RCP), provision of technical assistance to COMESA member states aimed at enhanced implementation of the COMESA Visa protocol and the development of an awareness creation programme on COMESA Legal instruments on Free Movement of Persons which is currently being piloted at the Chirundu One Stop Border Post.
“As we move forward”, the Secretary General said, “we look forward to continue working with IOM on programmes such as the development of a regional data base and information sharing system on migration issues.”
He called for introduction of innovative, simple and practical ways of dealing with migration issues in the region. He described the free movement of people and removal of trade barriers as critical as these underpinned most African economies.