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Regional Migration Governance in Africa

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2. Regional Migration Governance in Africa

Africa houses multiple, overlapping regional arrangements. Hardly any engagement exists between or among the continent’s multiple regional integration schemes. The exception of late is the three Southern and Eastern African regional organisations currently seeking a tripartite FTA, as discussed below.

The African Union (AU), through the Abuja Treaty, envisages an African Economic Community (AEC) and recognises eight African regional economic communities (RECs)1 as building blocks for establishing the economic community (AU, 2012). This paper does not examine all these eight RECs but rather focuses on the SADC.
Many factors motivate migration in Africa. Armed conflicts, natural conditions such as droughts and floods, economic downturns and poverty, etc. influence people to move across or outside the continent. Migration is also an essential coping strategy and means of livelihood for communities in sending countries and for the migrants in destination countries (AU, 2006; de Haas, 2007). Two key policy frameworks, namely the Migration Policy Framework for Africa (MPFA), and the African Common Position on Migration and Development (ACPMD) define the AU’s approach to migration on the continent. Through the MPFA (adopted by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government, 2006), the AU indicates the critical role of migration in development and the need for Members and African RECs to formulate migration policies to manage and harness migration for continental development. However, the framework is not legally binding (AU, 2006a) but a reference document from which RECs and AU States can borrow issues useful and applicable to the migration situations in their respective regions and countries. The Framework takes cognizance of the efforts of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to promote development and the potential of such work to provide solutions to the probable root causes of migration (Williams and Carr, 2006). The MPFA covers nine key migration issues including labour migration, border management, irregular migration, forced displacement, the human rights of migrants, internal migration, migration data, migration and development, and inter-state cooperation and partnerships (AU, 2006a).
The ACPMD came out of an experts’ meeting in Algeria and the July 2006 AU Summit (AU, 2006b) and raises eleven priority migration-related policy issues and recommendations for national, continental and international action. The policy issues include Migration and Development, Human Resources and the Brain Drain, Remittances, Trade, Migration and Peace, Security and Stability, Migration and Human Rights, Gender, Regional Initiatives and Access to Social Services.
The Abuja Treaty encourages AU Members to adopt employment policies that allow free movement of people within the AEC. AU undertakes to ensure “[t]he gradual removal, among Member States, of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and the right of residence and establishment” (Paragraph 2(i) Article 4, Abuja Treaty). Article 6 outlines the modalities for establishing the AEC including activities to be completed in six stages, over a period of not exceeding 34 years. That is, Africa shall be an Economic Community in or by 2028. Article 6 aims for an African Common Market and common African policies, all of which should be completed within a 4-year period. Stage five of the modalities in Article 6(e) outlines four activities for establishing the Common Market. The third of these activities, 6(e)(iii), is the “application of the principle of free movement of persons as well as the provisions…regarding the rights of residence and establishment.” Article 71(e) further undertakes, with AU Members’ consent, to cooperate towards developing, planning and employing human resources to “[a]dopt employment policies that shall allow the free movement of persons within the Community by strengthening and establishing labour exchanges aimed at facilitating the employment of available skilled manpower of one Member State in other Member States where there are shortages of skilled manpower.”
The above goals and establishment of the AEC shall be achieved gradually. Policy and activity coordination and harmonization, coupled with progressive integration of the regions is critical to establishing the AEC. Hence the AU and RECs adopted a Protocol on Relations between the African Economic Community and the Regional Economic Communities in 1998. RECs can cooperate, coordinate and harmonize policies with other RECs on the continent within this framework. Member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and SADC met in this context at the 2008 COMESA-ECA-SADC Tripartite Summit in Uganda and agreed to expedite the establishment of a larger FTA comprising 26 States from the three RECs. The Summit reviewed and agreed on, among others, a programme to harmonise trading arrangements amongst the three RECs, free movement of people and institutional arrangements on the basis of which the RECs would foster cooperation (COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite, 2012). The first COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit in 2005 sought to strengthen and deepen eastern and southern African economic integration. Member States are yet to ratify the Tripartite FTA.
Clearly, however, countries in and these RECs have launched tripartite meetings and established a trade-negotiating forum. The Second Tripartite Summit in Johannesburg in June 2011 agreed on the principles, processes, scope and roadmap for establishing the Tripartite FTA, and also established the Tripartite Trade Negotiation Forum (TTNF), an institutional framework for negotiations (TradeMark Southern Africa, 2013). The December 2011 inaugural TTNF meeting in Kenya drew draft terms of reference for the TTNF and timetable, format and work plan for negotiations. Issues concerning cross-border movement of persons are evidently absent from tripartite discussions for now.
A tripartite arrangement that eventually leads into a Customs Union involving the three RECs in eastern and southern Africa is, nonetheless, welcome, especially given the overlap in membership and objectives among Members of COMESA, EAC and SADC. The January 2012 AU Summit themed ‘boosting intra-African trade’ endorsed the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA and identified it as a critical element in the AU’s roadmap to a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017. Until the AU roadmap is implemented and a continental or, indeed, the Tripartite FTA established, however, African RECs remain disparate and prompt the question, to what extent do African RECs contribute to the broader AU goal of continental integration? Have the RECs progressed towards free movement of persons and, therefore, Africa’s integration? The review of existing legislation and policy frameworks on migration and labour in the SADC –one of the eight RECs the AU has identified as building blocks for establishing the AEC – sheds light on and suggests the direction Africa is taking (based on the events in SADC) and Africa’s progress towards the continental economic community. The next section reveals African RECs’ standing regarding establishing regional free movement of person as one of four factors (capital, labour, goods and services) essential to regional-cum-continental integration.

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