COMESA Protocol on the Gradual Relaxation and Eventual Elimination of Visa Requirements
The Protocol relating to the Gradual Relaxation and Eventual Elimination of Visa Requirements within COMESA (the Visa Protocol) was adopted and signed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government as far back as 1984.
The liberalization of the movement of persons is intended to facilitate particularly the movement of business persons within COMESA. The protocol is premised on two key elements; a ninety-day visa free regime and access to visa on arrival. Countries like Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Eswatini, , Seychelles, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are to a large extent implementing the Protocol; providing ninety-day visa access and access to visa on arrival to at least half of the COMESA Member states. Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles have totally waived visa requirements to all COMESA citizens. In 2013, Zambia being the seat of the COMESA Secretariat, issued a circular waiving visas and visa fees for all COMESA citizens on official business.
The Visa Protocol recognizes that two or more Member States can maintain existing bilateral or multilateral arrangements (or enter into new ones) among themselves in respect of free movement of persons which provide for more favourable treatment for their nationals than are provided for in the protocol. These measures are encouraged, and this is already the case for the East African Community and various bilateral agreements.
COMESA Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services, the Right of Establishment and Residence
The COMESA Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services, the Right of Establishment and Residence was adopted in 2001 by the COMESA Authority of Heads and States and is in the process of being signed and ratified. The Free Movement Protocol was developed with the vision towards the operationalization of the COMESA Common Market and its objective is to remove all restrictions to the free movement of persons, labour, and services and provide for the right of establishment and right of residence.
The implementation of the Protocol is in the following five stages:
Stage I: Part II – Articles 3 to 8
Objective: Gradual removal of visa requirements and co- operation in the prevention and the fight against crime.
Period: Being implemented.
Stage II: Part III – Article 9
Objective: Enhancing movement of skilled labour. Period: Progressively implemented since 2004.
Stage III: Part IV – Article 10 Objective: Movement of services. Stage IV: Part V – Article 11
Objective: Right of Establishment.
Stage V: Part VI – Article 12
Objective: Right of Residence.
Period: 2014 (20 years from date of entry of COMESA Treaty).