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Lusaka, Friday, 29 July 2016: Zambia and Zimbabwe have set up National Monitoring Committees (NMC) to monitor the implementation of the COMESA Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Services, Labour and the Right of Establishment and Residence.

The establishment of the committee follows a decision made by the COMESA Council of Ministers aimed at expediting the implementation of the COMESA Free Movement and Visa Protocols.

Zimbabwe was the first to set up and launch the committee on 22 July 2016 in Harare while Zambia followed suit on Thursday 28 July 2016 in Lusaka. The Committees will oversee progress, identify challenges, and provide support for the improved implementation of all COMESA free-movement related programmes, directives and policies at national level.

So far four member States; Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe have signed the protocol on free movement. Only Burundi has fully ratified the protocol, while Rwanda is in the process of doing so. Although the Zambia and Zimbabwe have not yet ratified the protocol, they are the first to inaugurate the NMCs thus demonstrating their commitment to move the COMESA Free Movement Agenda forward.

Significant milestone

The establishment of the NMC represents a significant milestone for the COMESA free movement agenda, and for regional integration in general. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and COMESA are supporting the inauguration and building the capacity of these National Monitoring Committees to fulfill their objectives.

Stressing the needs for States to implement the free movement protocols, the IOM Zambia Programme Officer, Annie Lane said: “Migration holds considerable potential for economic, social growth and development for countries of origin and destination alike, as well as for individual migrants and their families.”

COMESA Migration Expert Houssein Guedi congratulated the two States for taking the lead in implementing one of the decisions of the Council of Ministers.

“COMESA recognizes that for regional integration to be fully realized, citizens of COMESA Member States must be allowed to move freely in order to provide and enhance services, tourism, labour, cultural activities, among other aspects of the COMESA integration agenda,” he said.

Deputy Director General of Immigration in Zambia Mr Denny Lungu, who represented the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs at the inauguration of the NMC meeting, said:

“The Government of Zambia shares with many other Africa countries the need for organized and well managed migration…so that the mobility of persons along Zambia’s borders is smoothened, while protecting the integrity and security of Member States.”

The meeting brought together representatives from a cross-section of government departments, such as Ministries of Home Affairs, Labour, Trade, Foreign Affairs, among others.

The IOM Development Fund supported the initiative through its project on building capacity and raising awareness for COMESA Member States to implement the COMESA Free Movement Agenda. This followed a request from the COMESA Secretary General, Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, as well as the Government of Zambia and Zimbabwe.