The African Approach to Regional Integration and Migration

Currently, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa are at different levels of implementing the 1991 Abuja Treaty, which lays the foundation for the eventual establishment of an African Common Market and the removal of obstacles to the free movement of people (FMP). Where integration in the areas of trade, goods and services has since advanced, integration through FMP in Africa has not made much progress due to the lack of requisite policy and political will.

The work on free movement, as elaborated in the Abuja Treaty, was discussed at the conference of African Intellectuals held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2004 and at the Ministerial Conference of African Ministers in charge of migration held in Tripoli, Libya in 2005. Furthermore, the Agenda 2063, adopted by the African Union (AU) in 2015, offers a new road map towards ambitious continental aspirations such as the development of an African passport by 2018, a free movement of persons’ regime and a continental free trade area (CFTA). In this regard, the envisaged Protocol Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment seeks to facilitate free movement of persons on the continent through a progressive harmonisation of the different national and regional policies in the area of visa regimes, residence permits and right to establishment. Such progressive steps towards a more regional integration are positively seen by European governments; for example, the outcome of the 2015 Valetta Summit showed the readiness of European countries to support a free movement regime in Africa, as this would ease the movement of Africans in Africa, encourage legal migration and help curb irregular flows towards Europe.

This report aims to bring to the fore the extent of the migration patterns within four regional RECs in the Sub-Saharan region, namely the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Moreover, the study seeks to understand both positive and negative social impacts of regional integration agreements for the mobility of people in Africa. Finally, the report highlights the challenges and opportunities of freeing the movement of people in Africa, outlining the different constraints to the ratification and implementation of the various free movement protocols. Some policy recommendations for the governance of regional and continental migration in Africa are provided in the last section of the study.

Tags: mobility    regional integration    sub-saharan Africa